Friday, October 8, 2021

No Time to Die - Review


From the beginning, this film has been surrounded by question marks. When will it finally be released? Who gets to direct this outing? Will the star of the franchise even be back for a fifth time? Eventually, we got answers to all of those, and many more (except who gets to pick up the mantle next), and get a final result that’s an emotional, albeit flawed, conclusion to the story of Daniel Craig’s version of James Bond.

James Bond (Daniel Craig) is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica after leaving active service. However, his peace is short-lived as his old CIA friend, Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), shows up and asks for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond on the trail of a mysterious villain (Rami Malek) who's armed with a dangerous new technology.

By the fifth go-around, Craig has fully disappeared into the role of James Bond. He could probably sleep walk his way through a performance as the infamous MI6 agent, and yet, No Time to Die sees Craig turn in arguably his best performance as Bond. The actor seems looser here, like he’s okay with having fun in these movies now that he knows its the last one. Add some emotional depth to a character that very rarely those moments, and Craig’s final performance is definitely one of note.

Surrounding Craig is a plethora of other good performances, and characters that desperately needed more screen time. The returning players are all solid, also likely delivering their last performances in the franchise, but the two other noteworthy performances come from newcomers. 

On one hand is Ana de Armas, as an agent with just “three weeks’ training” who fights well beyond that. In her nervousness of a mission being sent her way, she comes off as one of the more charming and funny additions in some time. The other hand gives us Lashana Lynch as the new 007 named Nomi. Her brash and confident demeanor make her a pretty solid reflection of Bond, just younger and not falling apart at the seams. It’s only a shame that these two solid character introductions feel very wasted in what amounts to the final film in this continuity, but here’s hoping they pull a Judi Dench and come back with the next Bond somehow. 

For most of the runtime, the action is noticeably subdued. There are still chase scenes and guns blazing, but Craig is not always in the middle of fist fights or taking the big hits, he plays it much more clever it seems and it works for the aging character. However, once the third act roles around, the set pieces get bigger, the action louder and the stakes much higher, fitting the grand, epic finale this is supposed to be. And outside of some questionable acting choices from Malek, it’s a solid setup from a villain that’s formidable enough to warrant this bombastic conclusion. 

If Skyfall wasn’t going to be the final Bond film, it’s arguable that this should be. While it’s messy in its structure and slightly long, it gives more emotional weight to a character that’s so often been one note since 1962. It’s hard to imagine that the next Bond will just go back to being the clever, charming agent with a license to kill after this film’s ending, even with the swapping out of actors at the center. In the end, flaws and all, this a much better send off for Daniel Craig than it had any right to be. 

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