The last James Bond film starring Daniel Craig will probably best be remembered as simply his last Bond film. As a film, it’s way too long, and has too many featured characters, especially when it comes to “Bond girls” and “Bond villains”. The film is gorgeous to look at, and the action sequences, while sharing about the same level of believability as Marvel sequences, are exciting even when they defy every law of gravity and physics.
As Bond, Craig (admittedly my favorite Bond) has recalibrated the famous British agent, and has reminded us that he is supposed to be “a blunt instrument.” He reformulated the character so much, and yet dominated the scene for so long (five films) that the Broccoli family can now pretty much go in any direction they want to for the next phase. Also—spoiler alert, bigtime—his death at the end obviously opens things up for new directions.
This is a film that seeks to tie up every loose end possible. The Bond that loved and lost Vesper (Eva Green) now finishes up his romantic connections with Léa Seydoux’s Madeleine. The film uses the relationship not only to broaden our Bond emotionally, but also to motivate Bond to make the final decisions he selflessly makes to wrap up the plot. The film also gives Craig the gift of several emotional scenes, many done in close-up, to remind viewers and producers that he is more than just an action hero and has plenty of years left of his career. (Note: Knives Out 2 and 3 are currently in various stages of production.) Other than these scenes, there isn’t much new to Bond here, and as much as I admire Craig, he seems to be hitting the age ceiling for Bond in the film, and he isn’t used to his best as he is rushed from scene to scene to scene. Bond’s humor, a key element in the series’ success, was almost nowhere in sight; there was a quick “one-liner” in the middle of a fight that half the audience could see coming and was too sophomoric for a film like this; I felt bad for Craig having to say it.
Seydoux is an accomplished French actress with a respectable lists of film credits, and she brings a steely strength combined with a personal warmth that is needed for Bond’s love interest and (another spoiler alert) possibly the mother of his child. She also makes a good action heroine…which only make Ana de Armas’s presence as the slinky Paloma all the more confusing. Paloma is the sexy Bond girl the film apparently thinks it needs, but she appears and then disappears out of nowhere, and any promise she brings to the film is frustrated by her quick exit.
Equally as frustrating and head-scratching are the two villains. Oscar-winning actors Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody) and Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained) play the two bad guys, but the latter has almost no screen time. That’s regrettable, as he has much more screen presence even in his short scene than Malek, and makes a stronger villain. Malik’s Safin is underexplained, undermotivated, and underplayed…and not very interesting.
Fortunately, the overstuffed film brings back some old favorites that each could have/should have had more time: Ben Whishaw’s Q, Naomie Harris’s Moneypenny, Jeffrey Wrights’ Felix Leiter, and Ralph Fiennes’ M. Getting rid of one sexy female and one villain, and giving us more time with these four, would have combined to make a stronger film.
Craig, even with less to do here, still makes for a compelling agent, and in some ways the film is a good send-off for him and his version of 007. There is (spoiler) another 007 in the mix here, but the less said about her the better, and we can only hope that this is not the future 007 that the franchise will present. The Scarlett O-Hara-like search and discussions for the new “Bond” are currently underway, but if the franchise sticks to history, we’ll all be surprised.
No Time to Die should be seen in theaters to fully appreciate its stunning locations and action sequences. It’s far too long and something of an overpacked and confusing mess, but it’s the last in an important phase of the series, and for that reason, is a must-see for Bond and action fans alike.