No Time to Die Movie Review
Remember who you are, Mr. Bond.
After a year and a half delay, Daniel Craig’s send off as James Bond ends on a dour note, a nearly three hour-long wannabe epic that thinks itself more of a dramatic conclusion to Craig’s five-film stint than the shaken-not-stirred action film it should have been.
Thankfully not nearly as boring as the previous film, Spectre—the only Bond film I’ve only watched once because the very thought of revisiting it makes me want to slip into a coma—No Time to Die looks and acts the part of a solid Bond film, with high-budget spectacle, beautiful women, and some unexpected craftiness. Director Cary Fukunaga (True Detective Season 1) has made a polished piece of film here, with plenty to like.
Just little to love.
No Time to Die is engrossing for a while, as Fukunaga and team lay the groundwork for what is to come. What’s happening, and where the film is going, is a bit mysterious—not exactly an adjective I’d typically use for Bond—courtesy of alluded to secrets and dark pasts, primarily revolving around returning love interest Madeleine Swain (Léa Seydoux). Seydoux is an absolute scene stealer here as she swings with an emotional heft never before seen in a Bond film, and Craig, though carrying the cold demeanor of a trained killer throughout, largely keeps up, delivering what could be his best performance as the British secret agent.
Though you don’t really have to remember what happened in Spectre—thank the Lord Jesus—it’s odd that those involved decided to make No Time to Die more of a direct sequel to that critically panned and painfully blah film than any previous Bond film has ever been, despite the franchise largely delivering one-offs throughout its 50-year existence. While Fukunaga does amp up the action and suspense, No Time to Die is still saddled with an unusual amount of emotion and drama for a Bond film.
And by unusual I mean unnecessary.
I’m a diehard James Bond fan, and while I have liked how the character and his films have been adapted for modern times—Casino Royale is easily one of the best of the franchise—the last couple of films have seemingly lost sight of the essentials. Or at least inserted a lot of bloat.
Casino Royale, which actually was only 20 minutes shorter than the beast that is No Time to Die, was lean, mean, and brutal. It was more emotionally powerful than any previous Bond flick, but it kept its eye on the prize: giving the audience incredible action sequences and other memorable moments—such as the lengthy poker scene. Oh, and a terrific villain.
With No Time to Die, there is some good, well-made action throughout, but in hindsight not a single sequence stands out as particularly memorable. What’s worse is that despite all the mystery and caginess early on—you know, the stuff that has you leaning in for the first hour and a half—the plot ends up being shockingly straightforward and kind of lame. The villain, played by Rami Malek, is absolutely terrible; perhaps one of the least interesting and terrifying antagonists in recent memory, unless you recall that they somehow made Christoph Waltz incredibly dull as Blofeld in Spectre.
The movie also makes poor use of its new female 007 (Lashana Lynch); not once does she really get to flex her muscles in a way that shows she is in the same league as her predecessor.
No Time to Die wants to be an emotional powerhouse, but it forgets what makes great James Bond movies great. I wanted to walk out of the theater pumped, having seen Bond defy the odds while his theme music crescendoes all around (on that note, while I sort of like the Billie Eilish intro song, the visuals that accompany it are pretty damn boring), but instead I walked out depressed.
No Time to Die has plenty to like, but at a half an hour too long, boasting a bad villain and a cliché third act, and ending in the way it does, it’s hard to see me revisiting this one very often. The theme of this final Daniel Craig-era Bond saga should have been to remember what makes 007 great, but it doesn’t remember. Nor does it remind.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.