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Movie Review: No Time to Die

  • 2h 43min
by Jason Koenigsberg

Finally, after a six year absence, Daniel Craig returns as James Bond for his fifth and final outing as 007 in No Time to Die. This movie was plagued with production problems for a while and then was set to be released in April 2020. Obviously the pandemic forced the producers to push back its release but now a year and a half later James Bond has returned to movie theaters. Was it worth the wait? Yes and No. Bond fans will undoubtedly seek out this latest installment and enjoy the big budget spectacle. With the knowledge that this is the ultimate Bond for Daniel Craig making this a special and bittersweet event. Non-Bond fans may want to sit this one out, or at least wait to stream it at home simply because the nearly three hour runtime is enough to deter casual moviegoers from such a long commitment. However, there are enough positives in No Time to Die to warrant a recommendation for anyone curious enough to venture to cinemas for James Bond’s 25th official motion picture.

The film opens up with the famous James Bond theme and gun barrel logo although this time no blood falls from the screen after Daniel Craig turns and shoots his gun. Instead we get a fade to white and an overheard shot of a snowy forest and then showing a man in a white coat slowly walking in the woods. It is revealed that this man is Rami Malek in his first major role since winning the Academy Award for Best Actor in Bohemian Rhapsody back in 2018, that feels like forever ago. He is the main villain of No Time to Die and he sort of sleep walks through this role whispering all of his lines in a very slow and controlled manner. He never comes across as eerie, just giving off a sort of a ‘been there, done that’ vibe. Actually, when his plot is finally revealed he is more like a male version of the Batman villain Poison Ivy than a James Bond nemesis although his lair is blatantly designed to resemble the one used by Dr. No. The movie has homages to other Bond films as well the most obvious being On her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969).

The opening scene with Rami Malek turns out to be a violent flashback involving a devastating memory from Lea Seydoux’s characters childhood. She is back as James Bond’s love interest returning from Spectre (2015) the last time we saw her walking away holding hands with Daniel Craig’s Bond. She is on holiday in Italy with James Bond who is now retired from MI6. Kudos should go to the cinematographer for making the parts of Italy shown here one of the most gorgeous places on Earth. Bond movies are usually filled with outstanding cinematography but they really do a great job in particular with a lot of the wide shots in No Time to Die. This is all where the callbacks to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service come into play. James Bond tells his girlfriend Madeline “We have all the time in the world” and the score echoes both the Louis Armstrong song from that film as well as John Barry’s theme from OHMSS later on. This is a big clue for Bond fans who know that movie and novel that something very tragic is going to happen.

Soon enough the audience is treated to some astonishing action sequences that the 007 series is known for and the stunt work is seamlessly blended with any CGI effects. These go on for a while because the opening credits accompanied by Billie Eilish’s title song does not occur until over twenty minutes into the movie. At one point it felt as if perhaps No Time to Die would abandon that franchise staple as the Daniel Craig era has previously ignored many of the other staples fans have become accustomed to with Bond movies. But the song does play over an elaborate opening credit sequence with less scantily clad ladies since it is 2021 and not the old days when Maurice Binder was designing Bond titles for the Sean Connery and Roger Moore films. But that does make it worth mentioning the biggest problem with No Time to Die, the runtime. This movie is too long for its own good, and despite all of the action, and deep dramatic moments between characters we have gotten to know over the last fifteen years since Daniel Craig first donned the tux as James Bond, No Time to Die felt longer than it needed to be and some scenes just dragged on when they should have packed more of an emotional wallop. Make sure to use of the restroom before getting comfortable in your seat for this one.

Also, for better or for worse, No Time to Die does get the most out of its PG-13 rating. The violence early on felt penetrable, more than most previous Bond outings and it never really lets up. I know the Daniel Craig era went for grittiness and realism in a way not usually seen in 007 movies, especially the previous era Pierce Brosnan ones, but in this one the violence seemed more relentless and jarring than usual with very loud gunfire sound effects, more blood than most movies from the series, and at one point they even drop the F-bomb.

After the opening credits we jump to five years later. Bond is still retired but is called back into action when his past, and his most recent love interests past comes back to the forefront. A lot of the dialogue early on is about remembering the past and always looking over your shoulder. No Time to Die tries by repeatedly reminding the audience in not so subtle ways that time can be fleeting and we need to make the most out of our time on this Earth with the ones with love. It also touches on friendship as well as romantic love. Jeffrey Wright makes his return as CIA agent Felix Leiter with scenes that are clearly reminiscent of the James Bond movie License to Kill (1989), one of the darker and more serious entries of its time period. This movie makes good use of Ben Whishaw as Q and the gadgets he gives 007 come in very handy at all the right moments. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Christoph Waltz as Blofeld who survived the events of the last movie and has some unremarkable moments. A waste of a talented actor and Bond’s most vicious adversary. Also, for anybody worried about James Bond evolving in our overly PC culture. The screenplay finds a clever way to be ‘woke’ and have two agent 007’s that it actually should not bother even the most ardent Bond fans.

A lot of this review has made note of how No Time to Die references other Bond movies and has been vague going into details of how but the biggest influence on No Time to Die, and possibly the entire Daniel Craig era has been *Major Spoiler Alert so stop reading now* Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, and No Time to Die summed up in one sentence is basically James Bond’s version of The Dark Knight Rises, which also had an excessive run time. If that sounds appealing to you, then by all means make an effort to see the latest Bond adventure on the biggest screen possible, if not, then stay home and wait for it to eventually stream on Amazon Prime since Jeff Bezos owns the rights to the entire MGM library now.

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