Sunday, October 3, 2021

No Time to Die - Movie Review

The Movie: No Time to Die

The Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga

The Cast: Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes

The Story: James Bond has left active service. His peace is short-lived when Felix Leiter, an old friend from the CIA, turns up asking for help, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.

The Review:
Daniel Craig has been playing the iconic James Bond character since his debut in Casino Royale in 2006, a movie which most believe to be one of the best in the decades long running franchise. Craig brought a completely new look, style, personality, and darker edge to the international spy and, maybe more importantly, a decidedly less sexist and misogynistic take on a man who has been typically known for enjoying the excesses of his naturally inherited entitlement. For me, this overall makeover has created a more realistic version of the character, at least as realistic as a globe spanning super spy story can be, and has provided a more nuanced and emotionally engaging storyline that carries over from film to film.

Craig's run as Bond has been the only one that carries over plot and story from film to film in a meaningful way and I feel like that has been one of its biggest strengths and yet, as the franchise attempts to wrap things up, it has become on of the biggest weaknesses. Creating so many plot threads over the course of five films has proven to be no easy task for the creators and even Spectre, the penultimate entry in the series, suffered a bit from this so it's no surprise No Time To Die would have a hard time finishing things off and wrapping things up in a satisfying way.

To be honest, the story in this movie is easily it's weakest point and no amount of high flying action could do anything to save it. The overall plot is about as simple as can possibly be with Bond bouncing between cities around the globe while trying to put a stop to worldwide chaos and destruction which would have been better if we had been given a better villain for him to go up against. Rami Malek brings nothing to the table as a Bond villain. I mean. Nothing. Combine that with the writing team needing to wrap up every little thing that's ever happened to Craig's Bond along with every character thread that's been brought up at some point which really makes the whole thing a convoluted mess.

That being said, my biggest gripe with the movie is how every female character in the movie is rendered helpless, irrelevant, and/or simplified eye candy. Léa Seydoux, returning as Madeleine, is nothing more than a damsel in distress when so much more could have been done with her especially since she is the love of Bond's life and a major driving force for who he ultimately becomes. Naomie Harris continues to be sidelined as Moneypenny, former spy turned secretary. I would have loved to see her make a return to field duty but nope. She gets nothing.

Ana de Armas enters the franchise as a throwback to Bond girls of old. She's sexy, she's dressed in a revealing manner, and her brief appearance really means nothing and adds nothing to the story. This is the type of classic Bond that I thought we were done with and really didn't care to see. That being said, the biggest crime is the underutilization and absolute waste of Lashana Lynch who is supposed to be the future of the franchise. While her character Nomi does make a significant contribution to the story, she is never given a chance to show why she has earned a Double 0 designation and nothing she does got me excited to see her move to the forefront.

So, here's the high point of the movie and really the one reason why it should be required viewing on the biggest theater screen you can find. Every frame of the movie looks absolutely beautiful which is primarily thanks to Linus Sandgren, the director of photography. Sandgren previous efforts as a cinematographer include La La Land, American Hustle, and First Man. The common thread of his work is that they all look amazing on screen and No Time to Die might be the best of anything he has done to this point. If you're just showing up for the epic action sequences and beautiful vistas then you are going to be very happy with this movie.

In classic Bond fashion, the creators have enlisted a trending musical act to provide the song that plays over the legendary opening credits sequence and this time around we get the one and only Billie Eilish. The song she provides is exactly what you would expect both from her and from the franchise and the opening sequence is also about what you would expect. Neither stand out in any majorly significant way but they both do pretty much exactly what you want them to do.

The Verdict:
No Time to Die says it's time for Daniel Craig to pack it in while the franchise stumbles it's way to an action packed yet disappointing finale. The movie looks amazing and is definitely dressed to kill but none of that really matters as the story crashes and burns into mediocrity and does nothing to elevate the future of the franchise.

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