Movie Review: No Time To Die (Spoiler-free)

As the trailer says, the wait is over. After multiple delays due to a director change and covid, NO TIME TO DIE is finally here. The 25th film in the Bond franchise sees Daniel Craig in his final outing as 007 and brings back more than a few familiar characters – both good and evil. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’re might asking yourself if it was worth the long wait.

I’m going to be really careful about what I write here so that I don’t give anything away.

After a brief flashback showing a young Madeleine Swann, NTTD picks up where SPECTRE left off. Bond and Swann (Léa Seydoux, SPECTRE; THE LOBSTER) are in sundrenched Italy but their hopes for a quiet life following the capture of Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz, RIFKIN’S FESTIVAL; DOWNSIZING; THE LEGEND OF TARZAN) are short-lived when they are ambushed by some SPECTRE assassins. Fast forward five years and Bond is alone and living in retirement in Jamaica. After Valdo Obruchev (David Dencik, TV’s CHERNOBYL), a Russian scientist working for MI6, is kidnapped from a lab where he has developed a bioweapon, both M (Ralph Fiennes) and Bond’s old friend, CIA field officer Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright, QUANTUM OF SOLACE; CASINO ROYALE; TV’s WESTWORLD), ask Bond to find the scientist. Bond eventually agrees and his mission takes him to Cuba where he witnesses the effect the weapon has. It seems that someone is out to clean up the world and the trail leads from Blofeld to a new criminal mastermind named Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek, THE LITTLE THINGS; BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY; SHORT TERM 12).

Bond fans and most critics are falling over themselves heaping praise on this film, with many of the latter giving the film five stars out of five. Not me. Although the film is reasonably entertaining, it’s definitely not the best Craig-as-Bond film. My favourite is CASINO ROYALE, though SPECTRE has a kicking cold open. Speaking of which, the cold open in NO TIME TO DIE is positively underwhelming. For a franchise that has continually upped the ante on spectacular opening stunts, this one is a complete yawner. Oh look, Bond’s Aston Martin has retractable headlights that reveal machine guns. You’d think the car would be equipped with lasers by now. Turn it on, slice a few cars in half lengthwise and watch the bad guys scurry away like rats on a sinking ship.

Although the opening lacks surprise, the rest of the film provides audiences with a couple of real eye-openers as we learn a few things about the characters that we didn’t know before. One is a nice but completely unnecessary addition unless the Broccolis plan to make it canon; the other is a ridiculous plot device used to show us how human and caring this incarnation of Bond has become. People who are licensed to kill aren’t usually caring people, or so I’m led to believe. It’s the third surprise that’s the biggest though, and it looks like we’re going to have to wait until the next film to find out how that one plays out. What weren’t surprises were Bond’s gadgets, which were rather uninspired. Word has it that the scenes that featured them had to be reshot (a) because the flagship models had changed during covid and (b) so did MGM’s owner and he clearly wanted a piece of the product placement action.

Performances are mixed in this film. Considering Craig wasn’t all that keen to return to the role (but money talks and big money talks louder), he gives it his all once again. The real bright spot, though, is Ana de Armas (KNIVES OUT; BLADE RUNNER 2049; WAR DOGS), who plays Paloma, a recent CIA recruit who is allied with Leiter. Unfortunately, some of previous films’ sparks, like Naomie Harris (Moneypenny), Ben Whishaw (Q) and Rory Kinnear (Bill Tanner), are mostly relegated to the sidelines. Lashana Lynch (CAPTAIN MARVEL), who plays Nomi, a new “00” agent, is also given scant little to do except look awesome in her Adam Selman x Le Specs The Flex sunglasses. As for Malek, he’s quickly confirming to audiences that his Oscar win was a fluke. Perhaps it was his character’s motivation though. Safin is a Thanos-wannabe whose Infinity Gauntlet is the bioweapon.

So what’s next for the Bond franchise? I’m guessing that just as they did when Daniel Craig took on the role back in 2006, we’re going to see a complete reboot, perhaps even going back as far as his days at Eton College and the University of Geneva.

NO TIME TO DIE is screening now in Hong Kong. It hits North American screens next weekend. Although I can’t see this film making my Top 10 list for the year, I thought it was enjoyable enough. Certainly, if you’ve been looking for a reason to go back to the cinema, this is a good one.

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