Some of the recent James Bond, 007 movies have been so strong that the movie-going public looked forward with enthusiasm to the release of “No Time to Die.” Some of that anticipation is attributable to the virus lock-down related postponements of the film’s release.
Experience has taught us that movies we yearn to see always disappoint us. And “No Time to Die” is no “Skyfall.” But the new movie has a larger purpose, and viewers have to credit its writers and producers and director Cary Joji Fukunaga for having made this movie imaginative and dutiful.
The last Daniel Craig Bond movie will entertain most moviegoers and will round off this package of five, increasingly dark and realistic films.
This is not to say the movie doesn’t have faults. In passages—are you sitting down?--this Bond movie is talky. It is not perfectly clear about which character is responsible for which actions or dangers. And it ends as if we had followed the larger series without recognizing the films’ altered, often comic tone.
“No Time to Die” begins with Bond in retirement, vacationing in Italy with Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux, who appeared in this part in 2015’s “Spectre”). J.B. drives alone up the coast to visit the grave of old flame Vesper Lynd. He is ambushed, grabs Madeleine and fights off the assassins by spinning the Aston Martin, the Gatling guns behind its headlights blazing, in an ancient city square.
Bond believes Madeleine has set him up, so he pushes her on a passenger train and bids her a sober farewell. Five years later Bond lives in Jamaica.
He is approached by CIA agent Felix (Jeffrey Wright) and his unattractive handler, Ash. They want Bond’s help in stopping the use of a d.n.a.-keyed bio-weapon. Secret Services chief M (Ralph Fiennes) commissioned the making of the weapon, but it was stolen.
Criminal overlord Blofeld has has arranged things so that Bond will be in Cuba, at a Spectre party where our hero will be killed by a fog of poison addressed to attack his d.n.a.
But the scientist managing the project has, at Ash’s behest, substituted the biologic signatures of important Spectre figures for Bond’s.
It turns out Spectre has been attacked at the behest of egomaniacal villain Safin (Rami Malik).
From there the plot makes decent Bond sense. Viewers, though, may not understand why our hero is so sure Madeleine has sold him out, or who is killing off the Spectre party and why. Even later on, all Safin’s motivations may not be clear.
This won’t matter much if “No Time to Die” is just a Bond movie to you. If you’ve come to love and accept the Craig series as realistic, though, you’ll want realistic motivations and you’ll want them to be clear to you. Realizing the story has these problems, the film’s makers have allowed the characters to explain.
Otherwise the film succeeds at nearly everything it undertakes. Too bad about Craig’s and Seydoux’s costumes, which aren’t up to standard. And the Billy Eilish theme song is pretty stock Bond stuff.
But “No Time to Die” isn’t a stock Bond movie, not even a stock member of the Daniel Craig series of films. It manages to avoid the famous errors of so many series climaxes. Viewers will be reminded that 007 has never been just another action hero.