No Time To Die (dir. Fukunaga)

Image: Daniel Craig as James Bond [Source: ScreenRant]

★★★☆☆

It’s Daniel Craig’s final outing as James Bond. For real this time. Following the events of the last film, we are delighted to meet a now (again) retired James Bond. Soaking up the sun before a series a mysterious happenings and some aid needed from old friend Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), lead Bond towards uncovering a new world threat.

Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga. Starring: Daniel Craig, Ana De Armas, Rami Malek, Jeffrey Wright, Ralph Fiennes, Lea Seydoux, Lashana Lynch [12A]

When Daniel Craig first became James Bond, it was all seemingly a lot different. The narrative was more personal, the villain was more real and Bond was blonde. Daniel Craig thus far has made it part of his Bond to explore James as a character and the many human details of it. Which is why it is no less of a surprise that the main narrative here is delving into Bond’s personal life once again.

I was not quite sure what to make of the main narrative, being James Bond the person taking second fiddle while the secondary narrative of big bad evil genius took centre stage. I say the background narrative of Bond’s personal life is the main one here because that is what throughout the entire film is by far the most intriguing, entertaining and rich segments of the film. All backed up by an absolutely sensational Lea Seydoux, who brings a truly remarkable performance to rival Craigs here. Every scene between Bond and Madeline, we find them deeply intwined in the complexities of their relationship, its by far one of the most believable Bond relationships we’ve seen on screen to date. As Madeline has ties to Spectre as well as our new villain, Bond finds himself blindsided, as she also struggles to merge into his life of thrills. I almost could envision this film being somewhat better by ditching all the “gotta save the world” antics that lets be real, it wouldn’t be Bond without.

That’s a real dilemma for the film here however. On one hand we all know this is Bond. The evil schemes and arch nemeses of James who he needs all the gadgets and cool outfits to stop. But amidst Craig’s more real and more personal Bond. The franchise is starting to show its sell by date.

One of the biggest problems with No Time To Die is sadly Rami Malek’s villain. Who may as well be nameless because he was as interesting as a cardboard box. Someone killed his family, so now he wants revenge, but he let one person live who has ties to Bond and now he wants to kill everyone on the planet because….he can. It’s no fault of Malek’s, he plays the role respectfully, it is a two dimensional villain, we all know it and we all expect it. But thinking over Craig’s Bond villains we have seen far more real and complexity to them. Sure Blofeld’s integration was ham fisted but how else do you get some world ending super villain amongst the more genuine cast of characters in Craigs line up, than to create a story of sibling rivalry. The rest of Craigs villains have been extremely real and intriguing, from the top of my head; La Chiffre was out for money to pay back debtors who backed his arms dealing and Silva was trying to dismantle M because of what she did to him.

But it seems to be a reoccurring element across No Time To Die. Instead of continuing trend with challenging traditional Bond stories and characters with the far more rich and diverse characters like Bond girls such as Vesper or villains like La Chiffre. Here we’re returning to ‘old Bond’ for lack of a better term. In the films from the day it fits in and suits the part but here No Time To Die’s attempt at playing as purely homage. Reveals its weaknesses and its laziness, as the integral antagonist plot line is dated and shameful at best, with little to no reasoning for anything the villain is doing. We hear the cheesy one liners of old played to great emphasis and the action scenes seem as though they are for nothing more than for the sake of having some cool gun fights. Which granted, the action scenes and set pieces they are often contained in are brilliantly executed, often daring and fresh in their own right with imaginative positioning. They all feel extravagant and worldly which just adds to the feel and atmosphere of the film. It’s very JAMES BOND! Some even emphasise some of the themes of the greater narrative going on. We even get a little bit of every kind of Bond-element, gadgets, fast cars, cool outfits and girls, like Ana De Armas who is worth mentioning purely for the fact she steals every scene she is a part of.

It’s a film that knows this is the final outing for Craig’s story. It does it’s best to incorporate references or whole additions to the story to bring in Craig’s Bond’s past. Sadly a lot is forgotten and some make appearances just to disappear just as quickly as though they did not matter at all. It feels very much like a curtain call of characters, in which they either faded to black or kick the bucket. Ultimately its got a little for every kind of Bond fan, but the sweeping generalisation of it through its main antagonist, its recollection of Craig’s Bond’s story so far and the way in which it tells this story. Proves ultimately its a Bond film afraid to take any risk or push the boat out and more evidently is lacking any real motivation for itself. I do believe it probably believes it is taking risks in some ways. But at the end of the day this is traditional Bond with a little bit of what made Craig’s Bond so fresh and is a far shout from what we saw from his first outing in Casino Royale.

It’s a soft feature and in many respects I can certainly understand that many of you who may read this and completely disagree with me and all my issues are exactly what you and millions go to see James Bond for. Which yes I can understand and I do think this film works, its touching, its got great actions scenes, gorgeous set pieces, rich character dynamic and some weird wacky villain to add to the pantheon of weird wacky villains Bond has had to take down in his time. It all makes for a touching and fair outing for Daniel Craig and the end of this era. I just couldn’t help but wish for more of what he came to the role with in Casino Royale. But perhaps we will have to wait for the next 007 to see the character, the story and the deep intriguing narratives we desperately want more of from this character. As for now its farewell to Craig as Bond and he leaves behind some true gems for the Bond franchise’s crown.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s