No Time to Die – 1 star

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There seemed to be some concern that the new Bond movie would be overly feminized, what with the introduction of screenplay writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag) and two female agents, one of whom actually replaced 007 after his retirement, which is where we find Daniel Craig at the beginning of the film. Bond is in a doomed committed relationship again and this time, he’s ready to share his feelings about the love of his life Vesper and let go for his next chapter. Oh James, to open up and trust.

He’s the most feminine thing in the movie, which should have been titled “Eat Pray Blofeld.”  The female agents (Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas) kick ass and take names and manage to be adept, vibrant and sexy in the process. But Bond has become introspective, gooey and even uncomfortably corny, throwing off a few puns that would make both Roger Moore and Mike Myers wince.

Worse, Bond’s love, Lea Seydoux, is dull as dishwater. There is not an ounce of chemistry between her and Craig, and when he stands at the crypt of Vesper to say his final goodbye, you conclude that poor Bond has settled. So vacant and unmemorable is Seydoux, I forgot she was in the last Bond flick.

To the extent Waller-Bridge has made the franchise more women-centric, it is not necessarily feminist in approach. Lynch is essentially window-dressing, her entire persona more catty neighbor than licensed to kill.

Nor am I stuck in the past. One expects Bond to undergo updating. Hell, Craig’s entry mercifully ended the silly Vidal Sassoon era of Pierce Brosnan and the merciless lampooning of Austin Powers in one fell swoop. But the feel here is much more sitcomish, which is not an easy fit. Am I supposed to take Lynch seriously when she kvetches over the loss of her 007 identification? Where is the female equivalent of:

The picture is also interminably and unforgivably long, almost 3 hours, and the primary villain, Rami Malek, is underdeveloped to the point where his grand design of destruction is an afterthought. He doesn’t seem that into it. As you are watching Malek and Bond verbally joust, you will juxtapose the wonderful back-and-forth between Craig and Javier Bardem in Skyfall with the philosophical exchange here and pine for the days of sharp, malicious repartee. Malek and Craig are in a titanic struggle to out-bore each other, and sadly, it’s a draw.

Speaking of boring, the title song by Billie Eilish is the most forgettable in the series. It sounds as if someone is trying to get you sexually aroused with a Gregorian chant.

There is also a Russian Larry, Moe or Curly, I can’t decide, a dastardly genetic engineer who bumbles through the entire picture unintelligibly. When you can understand him, you realize that he is aping the comic stylings of Yaakov Smirnov.

Finally, the end is laughably self important and schmaltzy, Bond as Christ.

On the plus side of the ledger, Craig is still winning in moments, the locales are fresh and lush, and a few of the action sequences (two car chases) are expertly filmed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (True Detective).  But even in the shoot ups, the film falters. No Time to Die continues the mistake of the last installment, Spectre, where there is no bullet fired from Bond at the furthest vantage point that will not immediately hit his target, Bond as John Wick.

A sad end to the Craig era.

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5 comments
  1. Pincher Martin said:

    Some great laugh-out-loud lines in this review.

    …which should have been titled “Eat Pray Blofeld.”

    *****

    It sounds as if someone is trying to get you sexually aroused with a Gregorian chant.

    *****

    When you can understand him, you realize that he is aping the comic stylings of Yaakov Smirnov.

    Hilarious. And perfect.

    *****

    For me, the Daniel Craig era of James Bond was one which started out with such promise in Casino Royale, the best Bond film ever in my opinion, but ultimately regressed to a late-Sean Connery Never Say Never Again-level of excitement and anticipation which just didn’t come close to the early promise set by the first film.

    Casino Royale got so many small things right. The fun mockery of Bond traditions (“Shaken or stirred?” “Does it look like I give a damn?”) The torture scene with the rope. The witty banter between Bond and Vesper Lynd, the best Bond girl ever. The gritty and more realistic fights.

    But then the producers started taking the franchise far too seriously. For example, the arc of the Spectre storyline in the Bond films began to resemble the coming of Thanos in the Avengers’ storyline in the Marvel films. But did anybody care about Spectre? I know I didn’t. Just give me a good action film.

  2. Agreed. Casino Royale is my favorite Bond and I liked the follow-ups (Quantum and Skyfall), I think a bit better than you They still hit the action mark, they allowed Craig to settle in, they matched the physicality and muscularity of Royale, and they had top notch villains.

    And then . . . Spectre, an absolute calamity – and you nail it. Who gives a hoot about Spectre? You care about what one of its members may do, but as an entity? Total snooze. Worse, Skyfall opened the door to Bond’s psyche and then the next films put it front and center.

    Okay, moving on. Next Bond? (assuming the producers don’t screw the pooch with RuPaul)

    I am of the mindset that Bond needs to have some tread on the tires, and move from charming to deadly in an instant. So … Michael Fassbender. He’s 44, so right in the sweet spot. I say you get a guy with proven presence that has some oomph. And then you let a guy mature in the bullpen, maybe a Dan Stevens or a Richard Madden, so you’re not toying with gimmick or cologne model.

    • Pincher Martin said:

      Fassbender would be an excellent Bond but for his age.

      One of the worst turns the Daniel Craig producers took with their Bond was when they began exploring his mortality. “Bond gets old” could’ve been the subtitle of the franchise from “Skyfall” on. He’s a relic. He can’t shoot straight. He fails his physical and medical examinations. He’s haunted by his youth. More women make fun of him than are seduced by him.

      By this last movie, I began to believe the producers were going to start exploring Bond’s prostate health and whether Q could come up with a high-tech wheelchair he could take into battle against Spectre.

      Bond should be a fun action movie for our generation, not something to remind you that adult diapers are in your near future.

      At 44, Fassbender would be in his late forties by the time his first Bond film came out. That’s not much younger than Daniel Craig’s current age of 53. Richard Madden at 35 strikes me as a better candidate since any new Bond should probably have a good ten-year-run in him by the time he starts making his first Bond movie.

      But if it’a one-offer, like George Lazenby’s Bond, I certainly would enjoy seeing Fassbender in the role. His look and screen presence certainly fits the character.

  3. Ironically, the fascination with Craig’s aging was accompanied by the fact that his aim got better and his lethality boringly routine. I don’t think I’ve seen dumber henchmen in any Bond film than the ones in the last two, but it really didn’t matter, because Bond can hit a squirrel’s ass on the run, under fire, from 75 yards away.

    Fassbender for a twofer, ala’ Dalton.

  4. “I began to believe the producers were going to start exploring Bond’s prostate health and whether Q could come up with a high-tech wheelchair he could take into battle against Spectre”

    Ha! Could still happen. The next Bond could be a gender fluid Eskimo, the franchise could lose $200 million and then they wheel Craig back in with a massive payday as he struggles with early dementia.

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