No Time to Die: Bond 25–Review Entertaining but Too Conventional (and Too Long) to be Great

Daniel Craig, the best James Bond, says farewell to the storied franchise

Daniel Craig says farewell to the franchise
Nicola Dove—© 2020 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM.
First comes first: No Time to Die is vastly entertaining and well acted, but it’s not a great film.
Grade: B (**** out of *****)

Here is What you Need to Know:

25 ideas for the 25th Bond picture

See my ranking of the six actors who had played Bond
See my ranking of the five Bond films starring Daniel Craig.
1. No Time to Die is the fifth and last Bond movie starring the estimable Daniel Craig.
Craig’s five Bond pictures have spanned 15 years, beginning in 2006 with Casino Royale.

2. The movie is a suitable send-off to the sixth actor who had played 007 since the birth of the series, with Dr. No, in 1962.

3. For me, next to Sean Connery, Craig is the best James Bond, the most grounded and human as far as multi-nuanced characterization is concerned.

4, No Time to Die is the 25th film in the series (27th if you count the two films not made by EON).

5. No Time to Die is the first Bond to be directed by an American filmmaker, Cary Joji Fukunaga, who was born in California and is a grad of NYU Film School. Of Asian descent, Fukunaga has previous helmed Sin Nombre, Jane Eyre, and Beasts of No Nation.

Marc Forster, who directed Quantum of Solace (the weakest of Craig’s Bond pictures), is based in the U.S. but is German born.

6. It was a clever–and necessary–idea to bring a female voice into the writing team. The script was co-written by Fukunaga, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and regular late-era Bond screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade).

7. No Time to Die is the longest picture in the series: running time is 163 minutes. (yes, it’s excessive).

8. At this length, the movie is too concerned with details of plot that is overstuffed, and occasionally convoluted; there are some flat stretches of time.

9. The heroic qualities of James Bond were often defined by those of his opponents, adversaries, and villains. In this picture, the villain is played by recent Oscar winner Rami Malek, and he is not particularly interesting; in fact, he is an underwritten character, and rather dull.

10. Despite major flaws in the writing, No Time to Die is a most suitable farewell for Craig, with attributes perfectly tailored for him as James Bond and for him as an actor. Clearly, the writers took that fact into an account.

11. It’s impossible to describe the plot, which, as noted, is too overwrought. Perhaps there is no need to; you can enjoy the picture, without working too hard on making sense of what unfolds on screen.
12. The main premise: The evil scheme by Malek’s villain, named, Lyutsifer Safin, concerns bio-engineered weapons made to an individual’s DNA. He threatens to infect the world, but it’s never made really clear what the motivations and goals care (evil for evil’s sake?).
13. Bond’s love interest is MI6 shrink Madeleine Swann (played by the prolific French actress Léa Seydoux), who, you may recall, was first introduced in Spectre.
As in all of Bond picture, James is separated (at least for a while) from Madeleine.

 

B25_08653_RC2 Nomi (Lashana Lynch) is ready for action in Cuba in 'No Time to Die'

B25_08653_RC2 Nomi (Lashana Lynch) in Cuba in ‘No Time to Die’ Nicola Dove—© 2020 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM.

14. Miss Moneypenny is played by the very good actress, Oscar nominee Naomi Harris (Moonlight).

15. Out gay actor Ben Whishaw (also good) plays Q, often seen with a hairless cat for a pet. This is his third appearance in the Bond universe.

There has always been speculation about Q’s sexual orientation. Here, when Bond and Moneypenny interrupt Whishaw at home, he’s setting up an intimate dinner for two, saying he’s waiting for a male guest to arrive.

16. When the tale begins, Bond is retired, replaced by a smart new agent, Nomi (Lashana Lynch). His old CIA mate, Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) is tasked with luring him back to work for a one-off.

(Yes, it’s a cliche, there’s always one more last job to be done, before withdrawal)

17. The action sequences are largely thrilling, with the requisite

quota of chases and explosions.  There’s one particularly exciting chase in an Italian village, but those elements are not among the director’s strengths.

18. The new addition, Ana de Armas as the Bond Girl, is stunning to look at, but her appearance is all too brief and she is not given much to do or say.

19. A healthy dosage of humor is inserted throughout the proceeding.  Craig has always played Bond in a self-reflexive mode.

Take, for example, a man with a computerized fake eyeball that pops out and rolls around.

James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Paloma (Ana de Armas)

James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Paloma (Ana de Armas)
Nicola Dove—© 2020 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM.

20. The early scenes of No Time to Die are seductively romantic, pulling us as into the Bond’s personal love life.

Early on, when Madeleine urges Bond to drive faster, he coolly says: “We have all the time in the world.”

21. Never forget the past: Bond plans to visit the grave of his lost love, Vesper Lynd (who was played by Eva Green), perhaps his way of putting some closure to his past, which will free him to begin a new future.

Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux)

Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux)
Nicola Dove—© 2020 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM.

22. Craig’s Bond looks good whatever wardrobe he’s asked to wear,  tight bathing suit (emerging out of the water), tiny shorts, “regular” clothes, but it’s a must that he also sports a tuxedo, which he does quite elegantly when he goes to Cuba.

Safin (Rami Malek) in 'No Time to Die'

Safin (Rami Malek) in ‘No Time to Die’
Nicola Dove—© 2020 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM.

Overall, No Time to Die could have been sleeker visually, more engaging thematically, less convoluted narratively–and much shorter!

The series will continue, with a new Bond (search will not begin for the part until 2022, we are told by the producers).  But regardless of who that actor might be (Idris Elba?), it would be a tough act to follow Craig.

Craig should be given credit for ushering 007 into the 21st century, re-envisioning him in ways that even the producers admitted they had not anticipated or expected.  He has played Bond as a man of action, but also one with heart and soul.

His Bond is forceful, skillful, but also vulnerable, never afraid to show his wounds, anxieties, and troubles, a combination of seemingly contradictory feelings, but a set that proved to be appealing to both male and female viewers.

We’ve all had our favorite Bonds over the years, and mine has always been Sean Connery, perhaps because I first saw him as a young boy, growing in austerity, and fantasizing of what being cool, glamorous, and masculine could be.

A year after I saw Dr. No, I was impressed by The Great Escape, in which Steve McQueen emerged as the American King of Cool.

End Note:

You can read my lengthy reviews of all of  the James Bond movies.