Hendersonville – The nearly 60-year-old James Bond film series sends off its longest-tenured star Daniel Craig in the enticing action thriller No Time to Die — a world-saving adventure soufflé baked with crucial Bond ingredients.
Agent 007 as usual must foil a demented megalomaniac from destroying much of the world with a scary high-tech weapon, destroy the bad guy’s massive lair, pull off death-defying stunts, and trek across the globe (Italy, Cuba, Norway). He once again seeks to figure out a luscious yet mysterious woman who gets fatefully close to him.
There are plot twists, explosives, rapid gunfire, dents in the Aston Martin’s bulletproof glass, compact spy gadgets, clever escapes from doom, double-crossing between bad guys, and in-fighting within the spy world. There is even a corny 007 one-liner.
The two-hour, 43-minute PG-13 film bogs down such as with the villain’s dialogue. The plot is disjointed. But the film perks up with action more frenetic and intense than in most Bond films. Director Cary Joji Fukunaga also brings out a wider emotional range in Bond.
Stuntman deluxe Craig is the steely killer Bond. He is distrustful, distant. Yet in his fifth and reportedly final portrayal of 007 Craig shows a more vulnerable, remorseful, emotionally varying and paternal nature. More noble feelings put him into immense danger.
Also new is killing off three longtime characters – two from throughout the Bond series.
Craig, 53, surpassed Roger Moore (1973-85) as longest-tenured Bond when No Time to Die wrapped in 2019. That was 13 years after Craig’s Bond debut in masterful, suspenseful Casino Royale in 2006. No Time to Die is by far Craig’s next-best Bond film. It finally hit cinemas after a two-year delay mostly due to COVID-triggered cinema shutdowns.
‘Prime Time for Tears’
This is Craig’s “Swann swan song” as Bond. The “Bond Woman” is vivacious psychiatrist Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux). Bond met her a film earlier. Her on-and-off relationships with Bond and (unknown to Bond) to arch-villain Safin are quite complicated. She defended herself well as a child, as we see in the opening scene.
Commander Bond typically loses his love interest to violent attacks. That happened with Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) in Casino Royale and with Bond’s bride Tracy Draco Bond (Diana Rigg) at the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (OHMSS) in 1969. There are tear-inducing scenes in the new Bond film, too.
Lynd and Draco epitomized “Bond Women” mystery and conflicting loyalties that spur Bonds’ distrust in people. “We Have All the Time in the World” foreshadows romantic connection and heartbreak. Its instrumental version has stirring strings and some horns. It set the mood in OHMSS and the new Bond film.
Some long-term relationships are more intense than ever. “M” (Ralph Fiennes) clashes with Bond. CIA agent Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) is more allied this time. Comic relief comes from Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris).
Bond is drawn out of retirement to again save the world. He gets new sidekicks. Paloma (Ana de Armas) is a vibrant CIA newbie. Bond’s 007 number was not retired – a clue the next film may star an agent not named Bond as 007. Lashana Lynch plays Nomi, the brash new 007.
Bond seems to have no more fight left by the movie’s end. In that case, the series might continue with 007 but with an agent not named Bond. Perhaps Nomi? Or will we get playful Chris “Thor” Hemsworth or dapper Henry “Superman” Cavill?
Bland vs. Bond
Now for the arch-villain and his WMD. Rami Malek plays solemn Safin. This is not Marat Safin the retired pro tennis player. Evil Safin’s first name “Lyutsifer” is devilishly similar to Lucifer. Sickly-looking Malek won an Emmy for playing depressed but adept cybersecurity engineer/hacker Elliot Alderson in Mr. Robot. He won an Oscar in 2019 for portraying mercurial rock star Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody.
Safin like Alderson is tech-savvy. He seizes from MI6 the “Heracles” programmable bio-weaponry his murdered father helped initially develop for the British. Scientist Valdo Obruchev (David Dencik) programs it.
The weapon is a unique topical poison. Each vile has a customized composition. It is engineered to kill only people with a specific DNA — the main target and his/her blood relatives — but not the carrier. The poison cannot be cleansed away. Thus people can become unsuspecting, deadly carriers of the poison once it gets on them. As soon as they eventually touch the target, it kills that person. This causes much grief for various characters and provides Safin with a “last laugh.”
It is eerily similar to COVID-19 how this “nanobot” poison easily spreads from casual contact and attacks many people. Indications that COVID-19 came out of the Wuhan lab in China are becoming more accepted publicly by U.S. government officials. Thus the Bond plot is extra timely. Global health and safety are in danger.
“We both eradicate people — to make the world a better place,” Safin tells Bond. They are both serious, cold-hearted task-masters spurred by vengeance. Malek succeeds in his aim to make disfigured Safin menacing and, as the actor puts it, “unsettling” to watch.
Safin is livelier than Joseph Wiseman’s robotic Dr. Julius No (Personality) in 1962. Safin lacks the panache of brooding poker ace Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) in Casino Royale.
Safin’s bland insanity is thankfully less aggravating than the mania of the three prissy Bond villains between Le Chiffre and himself. They are temperamental Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) in Quantum of Solice in 2008, histrionic Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) who hunts down “M” (Judi Dench) in Skyfall in 2012, then SPECTRE in 2015 with Christoph Waltz as pretentious Franz Oberhauser/Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Blofeld is the most frequent villain among the 27 Bond films.
Waltz’ giggly Blofeld grins and coos coos “cuckoo” when prevailing.
Bond zaps Safin’s henchman Cyclops with fists, gadgets and one-liners. Cyclops’ artificial eye pops out after Bond smacks him. Bond calls their meeting an “eye-opening experience.” Later 007’s gadget literally “blew his mind.”
Will Bond permanently silence chatty blow-hard Blofeld? Will Bond stop Safin to yet again save the world? If so, at what cost? Find out in a theater near you.