I’ve noticed a trend in the titles of the James Bond movies that relate to the actors’ final entry as 007 of Her Majesty’s Secret Service. They all have something to do with living and dying. For Pierce Brosnan, it was Die Another Day. Timothy Dalton’s second and final Bond role was in License to Kill. Roger Moore bowed out following A View to a Kill. And Sean Connery first farewell to Bond was in You Only Live Twice.
And now, Daniel Craig, after five movies, is turning in his license to kill with No Time to Die, an overly long espionage action movie that works in a lot of great scenes but falls flat in others. I’m going to cut to the chase. It’s too damn long at two hours and 46 minutes with credits. And Rami Malek as Lyutsifer Safin, a terrorist with a scarred face, a bloodlust, and a personality like a spoiled grapefruit.
There’s also the unbelievability of Malek being at least 10-15 years older than Lea Seydoux, who plays Bond’s current love interest, Dr. Madeleine Swann. In real life, the actors are less than four years apart. But in a prologue when Madeleine was still a kid, Safin, an adult, murdered her mother at their Norweigan house. But Madeleine shot Safin and drug his body outside only to discover he was actually alive and chased the young girl on a frozen lake but feel through the ice. Safin, then rescued her.
Then the movie switches to modern-day Matera, Italy where Bond and Madeleine are on a vacation and for Bond to pay his respect for his former love interest Vesper Lynd, who was killed at the end of Casino Royale. However, terrorists from Spectre are there leading to a thrilling if not exagerrated and unbelievable action sequence. Even though Bond is retired, he still has enemies.
This leads him back to working with his CIA colleague and friend, Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) into finding Dr. Valdo Obruchev (David Dencik), a rogue scientist who invented a bioweapon of nanobites that can deliver a lethal virus. This leads them to Cuba where Bond works with CIA agent Paloma (Ana de Armas in a great small role). Of course, things don’t work out as well as we think.
Not to give much away to the plot, but you know there’s going to be a lot of fighting, some double-crossing, and a lot of gunfire with unlimited ammo. But the movie works best at its non-action scenes. I like how Bond seems a little upset that his 007 identification to a younger agent, Nomi (Lashanda Lynn). There’s some much needed comic relief in these scenes as well as with Q (Ben Whishaw) and Eve Monneypenny (Naomie Harris) who assist Bond to arrange a meeting betwen Bond and mastermind Ernesto Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz).
But the movie meanders the more it focuses on Bond and his relationship with Madeleine who has a secret that takes the franchise in a different way. Also, the scenes with Malek toward the third part are very long. And since Malek brings nothing to the role, it seems to drag on. Even the action scenes at this part turn repetitive.
I’m not going to spoil the ending but this is definitely Craig’s last outing as Bond. At 54, he’s one year older than Connery when he made Never Say Never Again. And like that movie, it focuses some on Bond’s aging and his own mortality. I didn’t care much for Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace even though I’ve seen it twice and can’t remember anything. The previous two movies (Skyfall and even Spectre) seemed to showcase that Bond working with a good director could make a great movie that just wasn’t popcorn far.
There was some controversy surrounding this as Danny Boyle was set to direct with Thomasz Kot as Safin. Creative differences led to Boyle and John Hodge, a screenwriter who he often works with, leaving production and thus Kot being cast. Cary Joji Fukunaga brings a nice tough to the Bond franchise. I especially liked seeing Craig and de Armas together again after appearing together in Knives Out. But I think Malek was hired solely for his 2019 Oscar win as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. Waltz, himself, had won two Oscars.
If the movie had a better villain, I think it would’ve worked better in the second half. I could take or leave Craig as Bond in previous movies, but here he does some good work that will make him memorable. But still I think many fans and nonfans of Bond movies will find this enjoyable enough to sit through.
What do you think? Please comment.