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No Time To Die


After a very long 18-month delay, Daniel Craig’s final film as James Bond OO7 has finally hit theatres. A great group of friends gathered last night to see it on the big screen at an AMC Dolby Cinema.

NO TIME TO DIE sounds great, looks fantastic and the first two hours are a thrilling adventure, loaded with enough Bondian references to satisfy even the most rabid fan, a group with which I’d happily identify. But at 163 minutes, that leaves a very troublesome final act that I’m still trying to wrap my head around.

The film starts out perfectly. We meet a young girl and her mother, relaxing in a secluded, snow covered home. A strange, masked figure appears in the distance and then looms closer in a menacing, violent and suspenseful sequence that immediately tells us that Director Cary Joji Fukunaga (True Detective) is going to take this Bond into new territory.

We then flash forward to James Bond and Madeleine (Lea Seydoux) living a life far removed from Bond’s days as OO7. This is a laid-back Bond, enjoying their life together with one eye always glancing behind him for adversaries.

A visit to Vesper’s grave in the stunning Italian city of Madera kickstarts the film when a bomb explodes and the forces of Spectre surround Bond. What ensues is one of the best pre-title sequences in the entire series, an all-out foot, motorcycle and car chase as Bond and Madeleine attempt to escape. Convinced that Madeleine knew Spectre was coming, OO7 puts her on a train and walks out of her life.

Transition to another great Daniel Kleinman visual title sequence and a superb title song from Billie Eilish. Perfection.

Flash forward five years and our bad buy emerges, stealing a lethal virus that can be engineered to target specific people. While M (an excellent Ralph Fiennes) and Moneypenny (the underused Naomie Harris) deal with that madness, we globe trot to Bond, relaxing in his Jamaican home living a life of solitude.

Life-long friend and CIA agent Felix Leiter (the always great Jeffrey Wright) drops in asking Bond to help him with a mission in Cuba for old time’s sake. It seems that mission might have ties to Spectre, Blofeld (who’s still locked up Hannibal Lecter style in prison) and Dr Obruchev, the scientist behind the theft of the virus. At the same time, Bond meets the new agent that replaced him as OO7 when he left five years earlier, Nomi, played in true kick-ass form by Lashana Lynch.

What follows is by far the best sequence of the film. With Nomi on his trail, Bond arrives in Cuba to meet Leiter and the beautiful agent that will help him, Paloma. Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, Knives Out) is stunning and a sheer fun as Paloma. This 20-minute sequence is everything you want in a Bond movie. It’s violent, action-packed, funny, sexy and exciting as hell.

At this point, the plot starts to get more complicated and to say much more would be to spoil surprises. So instead, let’s talk about the great, the good and the bad.

Daniel Craig is excellent. He approaches the entire film knowing its his last time up to bat and he swings hard and nails it.

The fight sequences are great. There is one gun & hand-to-hand fight up a spiral staircase in the villain’s lair that’s done in one seamless take and its fantastic. It must have taken Fukunaga, Craig and the stunt team weeks to rehearse. It’s a jaw dropper.

A chase scene that continues into a foggy forest is brilliantly staged and shot, ending in a tribute to a famous Roger Moore scene in “For Your Eyes Only” that gets your blood going.

Hans Zimmer’s music score is the best Bond score in years. He’s got a leg up in that department because he samples John Barry’s all-time best movie soundtrack from “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. Savvy Bond viewers will recognize many other references to OHMSS.

The production design is excellent, paying obvious and jaw dropping tribute to some of Ken Adam’s greatest sets from “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “You Only Live Twice”.

Ben Whishaw is back and better than ever as Q, delivering some of the biggest laughs in the film. Bond’s return to headquarters and the scene in Q’s apartment are standouts.

David Dencik is hilariously great as Dr. Obruchev. He nails every throwaway line and is the funniest, strangest secondary villain since Alan Cumming as Boris in “Goldeneye”.

But about that two-hour mark, a pivotal secondary character is introduced that feels forced and manipulative. Things start to get more muddled.

Some of Bond and Madeleine’s scenes feel more like a Hallmark Christmas movie than a Bond flick. Bond declaring his love one time is okay. Multiple times feels light years away from Ian Fleming’s creation.

Rami Malek’s villain Lyutsifer Safin becomes a major plot point and as much as I like Malek, he feels like a watered-down Dr.No/ Blofeld / Johnny Depp/Phantom of the Opera whose entire motivation is built on a house of cards/sins-of-the fathers trigger point that never rings true. He’s also so small you feel like someone could break him in half at any point. Malek’s occasionally menacing, but he’s never scary.

All the plot mechanics grind together into a conclusion that feels more hollow, manipulative, and frustrating than emotionally powerful. I sat there stunned and trying to wrap my head around it.

Today, I’m left with the disparaging feeling that the filmmakers were torn between the desire to make OO7 more “woke” while still trying to appeal to the aging, five-decade fans of the legendary film series.

Craig’s fantastic in the movie from start to finish, but James Bond doesn’t nearly cry two or three times in one adventure. Bond kicks ass, Bond’s a loner and a hard drinking killing machine.

By the end of the film, James Bond isn’t James Bond anymore, he’s Jimmy Bond at the PTA meeting or down the block building a treehouse.

But he’s not James Bond.

The very final shot of the movie, the car, the photography, the music used, which I won’t detail here as it could be a spoiler for loyal fans, nearly saved the ending for me, it’s pretty flawless.

When the next reboot comes, will they move the series back to an earlier Cold War era, when everything about James Bond was okay to enjoy? Or has political correctness forced us to a time where we must swallow a woke OO7? I hope not, because the final third of NO TIME TO DIE nearly buries the excellent first 2/3 of the film.

Continuing down this path could bury the series.

I’ll give NO TIME TO DIE a C- (A+ for the first two hours and an F for the finale). It’s no Skyfall.

After the credits, the final words on screen (as always) are JAMES BOND WILL RETURN.

Will he….will he???

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