In the 50-so-years of the James Bond movies, there hasn’t been a single 007 who needed a goodbye. When it was time, actors simply stepped down and let someone else take over. However, when Daniel Craig took up the task of playing this invincible British MI6 agent, things started looking up. He didn’t just inhabit the skin of this Godly hero, but he downright humanized him.
007 was no more just a ruthless mercenary with a liking for sexy women and vodka martini that was shaken not stirred. He was someone who was personally involved in the game of saving the world. In the 5 films that Daniel Craig has been a part of, Bond has had a massive heartbreak, had his balls riled up, and was often beaten to an absolute pulp by the bad guys. Basically saying that, in spite of the invincibility that Ian Fleming’s 007 was imbibed with, Craig made us sit up and take notice.
Now, after numerous delays, first, after Danny Boyle’s exit from the director’s chair due to creative differences, and then due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is finally time to say goodbye. Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (True Detective fame), No Time to Die is also about saving the world. But the stakes here are as high as they could ever be.
The plot kicks in post the happenings in Spectre (2015). After infiltrating the operation run by Ernst Stavro Blofeld – Bond’s nemesis who also turned out to be his half-brother, Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) and Bond are living off the grid in Matera, Italy. As they are trying to set up a life that stays far away from all the violence they have been through, Bond is ambushed by Blofeld’s assassin, and the couple is forced to depart from each other for good.
5 years pass by and Bond is now retired and living in Jamaica. On the other side of the world, things get out of hand when M’s (Ralph Fiennes) Bioware plan ‘Heracles’ is stolen from a secret facility along with its scientist Obruchev (David Dencik). This upsets both the MI6 and CIA who both approach this in different ways.
While M has all intentions to get his newly appointed 007 – Nomi (Lashana Lynch) on the case, Bond is forced to join in on the party when personal ties float up to the surface. This results in a lot of cross-locking; Bond meets his now-imprisoned half-brother overseen by a psychiatrist who is the last person he wants to meet (you guessed it right, it’s Madeline Swann).
However, all of this has more to do with the shadowy, masked figure that we were first introduced to in the dreamy prologue to the film. Played by Rami Malek with a monk-like grace coupled with a strong personal vendetta, secrets hold the key to the mystery at the center of No Time to Die.
At a running time of 2 hours 43 minutes – making it the longest Bond film ever, everything about the movie screams big screen extravaganza. There’s always something happening in the film (unlike Spectre or Quantum of Solace that couldn’t hold itself up to the task) and with every passing minute, you can feel that director Fukunaga is eager to go big or go broke. The set pieces are spectacular. They are an amalgamation of what makes Bond films exciting – the over-the-top campy action, carefully followed by the more realistic and exhilarating stuff.
There’s not a second wasted on expositions that will clue the audience in on where they are or where they are coming from. The film, for better or worse, assumes that if you are watching it, you are pretty up to date with Bond’s world. There are also some genuinely heartwarming and emotionally moving scenes towards the end that will make every Bond fan feel satiated after waiting for more than 5 years.
The downside here has to do with an underdeveloped villain who, not for once, feels menacing. As mentioned earlier, the stakes are pretty high here but as soon as Safin’s (the character played by Malek) motivations are revealed, the mystery surrounding him evaporates.
The same can be said about Lashana Lynch’s 007. I mean, let’s be honest, there’s no way she matches up to the charisma of Fleming’s Bond. While co-writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge was specially brought in to shape the female characters, making them more than just damsels in distress, their overall arc feels pretty slippery. The absurd way in which Ana de Armas’s character is sidelined after what could possibly be the most inventive and bizarrely exciting sequence in the entire film, really sticks out like a sore thumb. Those flaws aside, No Time to Die is gorgeously shot by Linus Sandgren. While the score by Hans Zimmer is really impressive in parts, it can feel a bit unnecessary in others.
But does any of that matter? This is a swan song that warrants every second of its runtime. No Time to Die is a moving celebration of a star who deserved this role. Not many people remember how the internet was enraged when he was first cast as James Bond. But, I suppose everyone will remember him as the absolute best. I would raise my toast to him. Shaken, not stirred!
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