Car chases, shootouts, finely-tailored suits, intrigue, espionage, globetrotting adventure, fast-paced action, expensive liquor, femme fatales, a diabolical mastermind, and a third act finale that felt bittersweet, but fulfilling.
Walking out of that Exton movie theater on an October afternoon with some family and friends, these were the words floating around in my mind regarding the newest entry into the world-renowned spy movie franchise: “No Time to Die.”
“No Time To Die” is directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga and stars Daniel Criag, back for one last time as the famous spy, James Bond (aka. “007.”) Picking up after “Spectre,” Bond is enjoying his honeymoon in the south of Italy with his paramore, Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), but also taking the time to come to terms with his grief over the death of his lost lover, Vesper Lynd. This vacation is suddenly cut short when Bond is almost killed by Spectre agents. Bond breaks up with Madeleine, as he believes she betrayed him. After the opening credits, Bond is pulled out of retirement by Felix Lighter (Jeffery Wright), who hires him to do a job in Cuba. Soon, Bond learns that something sinister is afoot when a scientist poisons some Spectre agents at a party with a bioweapon, and 007 comes back one last time to stop the plans of Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek) from unleashing death upon the world.
Starting off with the narrative, which I think caused the most controversy, “No Time to Die” is the last time that Daniel Criag is playing Bond. That this movie wraps up the Criag era of the Bond Franchise will cause a lot of heated debate among audiences and critics alike. This is going to be tricky to dance around, since I don’t want to spoil the effect of the picture, but it is in my opinion that the ending works from a purely critical, narrative perspective. From this point of view, the ending is justified as it produces a satisfying and conclusive pay off for the Daniel Craig Bond character arc that began with 2006’s “Casino Royale.” For the first time, this incarnation of Bond felt like he had depth and development that wasn’t really explored with Connery or Moore, and only hinted at with Dalton and Brosnan’s incarnations.
On cinematography, editing, mise-en-scène and sound, I believe that “No Time to Die” accomplishes what it set out to do and more. There are two scenes that stand out, but I’ll be focusing on the stairwell shootout even though that scene of Bond in the misty forest is dazzling.
In the final act, Bond must fight his way through a mob of Safin’s henchmen up a stairwell. The sequence starts off slow. The music and handheld camera build up tension as Bond works his way up the stairs, checking around every corner. Then the action explodes as gunmen ambush Bond, which involves good choreography, white knuckle sound design, minimal editing and lighting, and small amounts of shaky-cam that feel gripping instead of disorienting.
In terms of acting and other aspects of the narrative, while there was a sizable amount I enjoyed, they were also the source of my problems with the film. Although the film does try to make the romance between Bond and Madeleine seem more believable this time, it still falls short as it did with “Spectre.” Craig and Seydoux don’t have good chemistry. Aside from that, it feels like some of the actors could have done with more screen time, such as with Rami Malek, Ana De Armas and Lashana Lynch. This is especially true with Malek, as while he certainly can play a good villain and does give a great performance, he isn’t given nearly enough time on screen to truly be memorable.