No Time to Die

Warning: This review contains spoilers for all of the Craig Bond movies, Avengers: Infinity War, Harry Potter, and possibly a few more movies. This also a longer review.

Tl;dr: Daniel Craig’s No Time to Die doesn’t have the balls to be the best Bond movie it could be. 

Tropes, Clichés, and Bond

The opening sequence is so good. It’s a bit blocky and forced, but only slightly. Then a bomb explodes in Bond’s face for the first of four times in the movie, he demonstrates just how much of a badass he really is, and boom. Title card. A perfect set up to a film which should have been the crescendo of a film series featuring Daniel Craig, a tower of spies and lies, deceptions and guns.

Instead, we get a daisy chain of villains, each connected to the other, each purporting to be the worst enemy Bond has faced. They should have been a reflection of an element to James Bond’s character, building him up and breaking him down. It should have been big, but instead we got recycle.

No Time to Die uses a ton of tropes from earlier in the series, cobbled together around action sequences and a shoehorned family thingy with his love interest, Madeline. The villain, Egyptian Phantom of the Opera is a direct reflection of Bond, but more in a ‘we’re very much alike, you and I’ way, and not in a ‘the protagonist realizes the only differences between himself and the antagonist are the choices they make’. It’s weak, it’s annoying and I don’t buy it.

The film also borrows the ‘Bond is on vacation and is reluctantly brought back into service’ trope from Skyfall, the ‘Bond, Q and Moneypenny have to operate under the radar’ AND the ‘This villain was behind everything all along!’ cliché from Spectre, and the ‘Bond is betrayed by the woman he loves… or is he!?’ cliché from Casino Royale. No one can remember what happened in Quantum of Solace, so let’s pretend it never happened.

The point is, No Time to Die redresses plot points and ideas from the previous movies, slings them together for the first two thirds of the movie, and then tells us that this is the biggest Bond movie. It’s stupid and the climax suffers because of this. Not only is the climactic action scene a muddled, circular, illogical mess, it also completely devalues the big bad as just a minor annoyance while Bond deals with his girlfriend and his shitty boss.

And when I say circular, I literally mean Bond runs in circles like three fucking times around a single location at different parts of the sequence. The villain stalks off with 4 bodyguards down a circular sewer thingy only to reappear all alone, with a gun, for some contrived reason (I think it’s because they wanted a fight in a zen garden, but that’s so poor. So poor.) And that’s how Daniel Craig’s last James Bond movie ends. Running in circles, in a circle.

Oh, Hi Mark!’ and other zingers

The villain is bad just to be bad, and this is verbally acknowledged by Bond and M with a little smirk. Now, there is credence to the theory that this gesture is a way for the Bond film runners to tell us, the audience, that ‘Hey. Don’t worry about it. Why he’s bad doesn’t matter, just enjoy the spectacle!’ This would have been an acceptable character motivation if they hadn’t already tried a weird, completely contrived origin story between him and Madeleine, but also an ancient enmity with the grand, secretive criminal organization, Spectre. I mean it works well when it gives the villain a clever way to manipulate Madeleine into trying to kill Blofeld, but that’s the only clever thing about the villain.

Oh also, this is how Blofeld fucking dies:

Boo = Blofeld. Monster’s Inc is a Bond prequel, you heard it here first, folks!

Blofeld is murdered by accident when Bond picks up a deadly nanobot designed to kill Blofeld and only Blofeld. In order to raise this tension, however, the director chooses to force Craig into overacting the tension of the secret that only the audience knows. Want to know what other scene that Christopher Waltz has been in where there’s tension because there’s a secret that only the audience knows?

This scene is nothing like that. Craig is an extremely capable actor, and unfortunately, I know that someone must have fought to make this a less contrived, idiotic set of dialogue and movement. It’s high school play-level of acting and blocking, and holy fuck did I lose all respect for this movie and its director from this one, stupid, single scene of shit acting.

The idiocy continues, unfortunately. The dialogue remains poor and forced. At one point, the new 007 says, “Do you know what time it is? It’s time to die.” Then kills the annoying Russian scientist. Neither the scientist, nor 007, nor the moment in the scene, or any of the preceding or following dialogue have any mentions of time. Some idiot wanted 007 to kill someone after saying that line, and this was where they decided to execute. No rhyme, no reason.

(Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

I’m a Hans Zimmer junkie, so I jumped on this album as soon as it was released way back when, and the score is pretty damn good. There are quite a few ditsy, slow parts, and the song titles contain a fair number of spoilers for the actual film if you take a liberty or two.

However, Zimmer pulls quite a few cool tricks with the traditional strings and horns, giving parts of the the score an oomph reminiscent of his score for X-Men: Dark Phoenix, which, coincidentally, suffers from a poor, ambiguous, underdeveloped villain of the week, and resolves in the sacrifice of the titular character in a fiery, stupid climax… or does it!?

The score actually feels extremely comfortable in the movie. It fits, it elevates, it’s exciting, it’s sad, it’s sexy. Again, I had a bit of the film spoiled to me because of the title tracks, but it also made the experience all that much more memorable as I anticipated each scene to unfold, in excitement.

Bond is an Avenger

As a result of the extremely poor construction of the narrative, the film does not feel definitive. The character does not reach some cathartic realization or decision. Bond embarks on the final mission because the woman he loves needs rescuing and the bad guy needs to be beaten. This isn’t some new thing for Bond, the guy spends half his screen time chasing punani and punching people with unresolved childhood trauma. His grand return to MI6 occurs at some random fucking river walk, and half the people in the movie barely even realize. Then he gets the 007 title back at the end, which is cool. But… this isn’t final.

Don’t get me wrong, I wanted it to be final. I wanted this movie to be so good, and I thought it had the legs to be that good until the two thirds point. Again, it suffers from not having a proper arch, from not having a proper build up and sequential construction that connects each movie logically and thematically with the next. They neglect to lay the foundations of the construct, and instead build the saga episodically. 

There’s nothing wrong with being episodic, because traditionally the Bond movies have been episodic. The problem lies in the presumed, intended finality of the film. Bond is in love, but for real this time. He’s got a kid. M died, his buddy died, he’s old and hurt, his arch nemesis is asleep, the rival criminal organization has been gas chambered, and there’s a new 007. Time to bow out, right? If fucking only

Killing Bond is a new concept, and visually, his death is hard to refute. Even if you overlook how unearned the moment really is, killing James fucking Bond is a big fucking deal. Then, they go full MCU. Do you know what the final visual is of the entire runtime, credits included?

No Time to Die isn’t a bad movie. It’s a good, ambitious Bond film. It’s sexy, suave, elegant, exotic, rich, adventurous and sleek. Bond only beds one sexy woman, but he’s still charming, he’s still a badass killing machine, the sets are unique, the visuals are stunning, the action is incredible. The movie is classic, cinematic James Bond, and if you like that kind of thing, that’s what you’ll get. If you want more, then I suggest you lower your expectations. 5/10. Oh my fucking god Ana de Armas is so gorgeous and she’s so cool in this movie and her titties and she’s so cute but she’s also basically that idiot ditsy girl that Nina Dobrev plays in Vin Diesel’s xXx: Return of Xander Cage and ugh here I go again, talking about my #MCM again ugh.

No Time to Die is in theaters as of publishing this review.

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