Review: No Time to Die (2021)

No Time to Die (2021)

Directed by: Cary Joji Fukunaga | 163 minutes | action, adventure | Actors: Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Léa Saydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ralph Fiennes, Christoph Waltz, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Billy Magnussen, Ana de Armas, David Dencik, Rory Kinnear, Dali Benssalah

The latest James Bond was once slated to be released in late 2019. However, there was a director change, with Cary Joji Fukunaga replacing Danny ‘Trainspotting’ Boyle as the latter didn’t quite agree with the creative direction for ‘No Time to Die’. And then the corona pandemic came down on us. Nearly two years after the first official release date was postponed, Daniel Craig will really make his last appearance as 007. Just about every James Bond aficionado is holding their breath: has ‘No Time to Die’ been worth all the wait?

Unlike previous incarnations, Craigs Bond has a backstory, he is orphaned young like Harry Potter. In addition, events from the previous four films receive their apotheosis in ‘No Time to Die’. In ‘Casino Royale’, from 2006 again, the secret agent loses his great love Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) at the hands of the murderous Mr. White, a member of the criminal organization Specter. In ‘Quantum of Solace’ (2008) and ‘Skyfall’ (2012), Bond is confronted with new horrific forms of espionage and warfare, and he finds it increasingly difficult to deal with the betrayal and mistrust within the spy world. In the fourth film ‘Spectre’ (2015) he falls head over heels for Madeleine Swann (is this a reference to Marcel Proust’s ‘À la recherche du temps perdu’?) and she also turns out to be the daughter of Mr. white. More than ever, Bond questions his calling as a secret agent in ‘No Time to Die’. Nevertheless, globally operating Specter still sees Bond as a major obstacle to its nefarious plans.

While the new Bond is quite a long sit, ‘No Time to Die’ clocks in at 163 minutes, this episode is an entertaining addition to the James Bond canon and a logical conclusion to the Bond films with Craig as the lead character. Director Fukunaga already has the excellent first season of “True Detective” (2014) and the film ‘Beasts of No Nation’ (2015) to his name and with this Bond film Fukunaga proves that he can make action scenes pop. Certainly in ‘the chapters’ Italy and Cuba, these are full of visual feats and unpredictable stunts with a few sharp one-twos between Bond and fellow players. Moreover, the actors visibly enjoy the physical excesses that no opponent, car or local architecture can leave intact. In Cuba, the actress Ana de Armas plays the eager CIA agent Paloma in such a disarming way that you simply forget that these are also ruthless fighting machines. The same goes for British special agent Nomi, played by Lashana Lynch. And does Rami Malek trump Javier Bardem and Christopher Waltz here, as Marvel villain Thanos (Josh Brolin) crushes all the bad guys from individual movies with ease?

Everything can break in ‘No Time to Die’, except love (with Phoebe Wallis Bridge from “Fleabag” among others as one of the co-screenwriters). Never before has a Bond gone so deep emotionally for a partner. Sometimes that tends towards the sentimental, because then the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer comes crashing in. Other times it works… for a while, as the editing sometimes cuts off the scene uncomfortably fast. No endless Frodo and Sam finals from ‘Return of the King’ (2003) here. Bond, after all, remains a reserved Brit. In fact, the drama only really gets interesting when the bad guys, including Specter boss Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christopher Waltz), really come into the picture. As Blofeld, also Bond’s stepbrother and probably Hannibal Lecter’s, suggested earlier in ‘Spectre’, he and Bond are eternally condemned to each other. However, no matter how hard ‘No Time to Die’ tries, the film is woefully unbalanced on a dramatic level.

Since ‘Casino Royale’, the last five Bond films try to give more emotional weight to the characters. This storytelling strategy is now widely accepted in Hollywood. This is also reflected in the superhero franchise of Marvel Disney and the Warner Bros DC. These franchises attempt to spread continuity across multiple films, somewhat like TV series with season-long storylines.

Yet you can easily view ‘No Time to Die’ on its own, as is the custom with American colleagues like ‘Mission: Impossible’. So, Bond’s core values ​​are still very recognizable in this episode. He is pre-eminently the British secret agent who, with a sense of irony, manages to save the world from destruction again.

You can therefore ask yourself how much sense the emotional build-up in the previous four films had, because this James Bond still doesn’t quite come out emotionally even with a born actor like Craig and a fairly carefully constructed background story from four films. It should be noted that all the other actors who previously played Bond were only minor variations on Sean Connery’s original version. Looking at the genre in which ‘No Time to Die’ creeps forward, there’s no shame in emotional flatness, as long as you keep delivering on action, evil plotting (this time it’s some kind of virus again!) and kitschy bad guys. Despite the experiment with more pathos, it is mainly the old Bond formula that keeps ‘No Time to Die’ going.

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