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.