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Is It Time to Die, Mr. Bond?

No Time To Die has had a lot to live up to—and has been tasked with accomplishing multiple thankless tasks. As the definitive conclusion of Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond (now the longest of any actor who has played 007), it tries to provide a narrative conclusion to this iteration of the character. The film also has the unfortunate task of satisfying critical and fan anticipation and making up for all the lost revenue of the film’s pandemic induced delays. Is the film successful in fulfilling the aforementioned tasks? No, it is not. The financial reality of COVID is no fault of the movie, but even with theaters starting to get more people back into auditoriums, the movie most certainly won’t make the money it would’ve in a normal circumstance.

When it comes to the film itself, it suffers from a lot of the same problems of its 2015 predecessor Spectre, which suffered from a mediocre villain performance, an awkward lack of chemistry between Bond and his romantic foil Madeleine Swan (Lea Seydoux), and an annoying combination of self-importance and a convoluted plot. Serving as the finale for this era of Bond, No Time to Die unfortunately builds from a foundation of its predecessor’s flaws. The biggest problem with Spectre and No Time To Die is the way in which they conventionally follow the most profound and transgressive (certainly by action blockbuster standards) entry of the series, Skyfall. Most Bond movies exist simply to be Bond movies—action-adventure movies that seek to entertain while abiding by a checklist of features and iconography: thrilling action, colorful villains, martinis, suits, gadgets, cars, convoluted plots, and plenty of female objectification.

Even in this millennium’s “gritty” reboot of the franchise with Craig’s first two outings with Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace (2008), themes and thoughtful characterization were still largely subservient to convention. Skyfall (arriving at the 50th anniversary of the franchise and that year’s Olympics in London) flipped this paradigm and took the opportunity to deconstruct the character of Bond and his relationships with MI6 and Great Britain. As it is very concerned with ideas of waning relevancy and the death of empire, Skyfall really should have served as the conclusion for who and what the character of 007 meant from 1962 to 2012. Instead of that, two more sequels were made and they feel hollow as a result.

That isn’t to say that No Time to Die is a bad or unenjoyable film. Director Cary Joji Fukunaga (the first American to direct a Bond film) brings a lot of visual style and creativity, providing some of the most wonderfully staged and visually striking set pieces the franchise has ever seen. Two segments that particularly stand out are a Rambo-esque sequence in a foggy Norwegian forest and a stunning stairwell shootout in the third act that makes exhilarating use of hand-held filmmaking. A refreshing aspect of the film is its lighter tone and embracing of some of the more playful aspects of films from the Sean Connery or Roger Moore eras. Phoebe Waller-Bridge had also been brought onto the film in order to punch up the script, and her contributions heighten its entertainment.

While the film is regressive when compared to Skyfall, it is a pretty good Bond movie by the standards of the franchise. Even within those standards though, one flaw of the film that drags it down is its convoluted and under-explained plot and the lackluster performance of its villain Lyutsifer Safin, played by Rami Malek. Many points in the film leave the audience baffled by both Safin’s motivations and Malek’s acting decisions. The performance really hampers the enjoyment of the film’s third act.

I grew up watching all the Bond movies and momentarily putting aside some of the film’s highly problematic representations of women and race, it's a monumental franchise in pop culture and one that I have a great affinity for. Especially having been born in 2000, I have great affection for Daniel Craig’s tenure as 007. Each generation since the 1960s usually identifies most with the actor who portrayed the character during their formative years, and I think my generation is quite fortunate to have witnessed what Craig brought to the table. So while No Time to Die might not reach the bar set by Skyfall, it is a pretty entertaining Bond film and at least provides a capstone for Craig’s time in Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Rating: I N D Y

Photo courtesy of MGM


Oross is a Senior in the College studying English and Film Studies


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