The new Bond movie is actually worth seeing. It’s a pretty good movie and hits some really good notes and even manages to strike a chord or two with help from good performances, good action and an especially strong, nostalgic score.
I’m going to strive for objectivity but this is mostly a review of how it felt seeing this movie in a real theater and not one of my in depth analysis. I recommend this movie in that context. Like pretty much everyone else I needed to see a movie in a theater with people again- and I just didn’t want to see any more MARVEL or Disney Star Wars stuff.
Is it perfect? No. Are Bond elements like womanizing and drinking in this movie? Minimally. We see more of Daniel Craig’s physique than anyone elses. So no hot women in bikinis or anything like that. We do have some gadgets and some really good action in a well filmed movie though.
No Time to Die is not perfect; but it’s simply an enormous cut above something like the recent Black Widow as far as Spy-Action movies. For one thing the action scenes worked in the moment and there wasn’t anything tearing you out of this movie. At no point does it stop dead or just stall. It mostly balances action and plot well on first view.
The early signs this movie was headed in a bad direction didn’t really show up. Maybe the fans mostly horrified reactions changed the story for the better. The worst case predictions did not happen. He’s not a dismissable loser like Picard. He’s NOT training his replacement. It’s A LOT better than the trailers – which now can be called misleading. James Bond is still a bad ass and no ones fool.
Bond can still be cold and at times he’s vengeful and mean. Daniel Craig’s Bond has always gone with mean over glib in his overall approach to the role. This extends to fighting as well. He has no issues just beating someone up pretty bad. He’s sparser with the chippy wise- cracking. He’s always been a pretty brutal Bond. That said he also doesn’t use unconvincing judo chops and the fight scenes were fun and seem well crafted for the most part.
No Time to Die is very much a personal movie for Bond and he has a very personal agenda – at first. Then as the stakes are raised he’s back on the team.
He’s also in it because he can’t stand idly by while innocent people get hurt- James Bond just can’t do that. This aspect was pretty satisfying. Then the stakes reach a point where literally anyone would try to stop it, but most Bond movies present an Unambiguous threat anyone would try to stop.
What matters is we mostly get the Bond we know as played by Daniel Craig. They didn’t make him any more different than he already was. He’s constantly showing selfless bravery.
They avoided (or got off) the low road. The Bond character doesn’t really take movie-killing hits over and over for a joke or to facilitate a scene. This is not to say that some actions and moments aren’t pretty convenient and outright in contradiction to things we know from the real world. Like his use of EMP blasts. This part did have implications I needed to sort of actively ignore.
Nothing jumped out as so immersion destroying that I disengaged in confusion or really broke this movie outright -unless you have real issues with a new, very different Bond ending (No spoilers yet). There was no blatant illogic (outside his watch and creative physics for car chases and the like) and things mostly happen for a reason. A throw away line or two would have smoothed out the issues with his watch, but we don’t get anything like that. So sometimes, even with the time we had its a bit sloppy.
This multi-movie story continuity during Daniel Craig’s tenure has been hit or miss the whole time. Some of the movies just don’f really feel like Bond and are actually bad. This ones not really a miss. It isn’t truly bad. Its somewhere in the middle. Certainly it never bottomed out the way Quantum of Solace does.
The story is fairly straightforward and seems to have decent cause and effect. It didn’t feel like it was a bunch of endless shortcuts in the plot or two dueling movies edited together. Some dialogue was sort of weirdly out of place though. When Bond’s “Team” banters the humor is not so much forced as one dimensionally British. I wasn’t a huge fan of the interactions between the members of Bond’s Team. They weren’t horrible or overly long though. You just wouldn’t really want to hang out with these people outside of work. They are shown to be dedicated and essentially good people at heart though.
No Time to Die has some moments of amazing cinematography as well. The movie is easily more than 51% good. Rotten Tomatoes agrees. The fans liked it even more than the critics with both scores well into the 80’s and certitified fresh. So I’m not the only one saying ‘it was worth a trip to the movies.’
My return to communal viewing in a theater was in itself emotional. Maybe it’s part of why I was so immersed. I was so glad my first Post Pandemic trip to the movies was fun, and I’m kind of grateful to Bond for that much.
If all you wanted to know is “Was this a fun, worthwhile trip to the movies?” My answer is “Pretty much.” I’m not going back to see it again, but I look forward to seeing it again as a rental. Consider this a Thumbnail Reaction. Of Note -while we had a few contrivances and some level of predictability there were also times the movie was good for long stretches too.
So, SPOILERS from here on in!
The one character to stand out to me as really getting beat on in this movie is the New M, Mallory. It may not be character assassination. It sure didnt bother me. After showing up as a semi-antagonist in SKYFALL, Mallory is a largely Unproven M. Between movies he’s been at the helm at MI-6 and it’s apparent he’s just not good at this job. This only makes sense since he was never a huge believer in the MI-6 approach to espionage anyway.
In No Time to Die M’s actions drive the story. In the role of M Mallory has been aggressive and inept. In the time since SKYFALL he’s apparently lost any ability or competence he may have had. Bond’s problems in this movie are all due to M’s bad decisions.
At some point after the events of SKYFALL M greenlighted development of a weapon that was simply too powerful and too hard to control.
The unnamed Nano-Bot Virus can, theoretically, be genetically programmed to a specific person. Apparently Mallory never realizes or doesn’t care that it can also be released in a generalized manner to wipe out an entire ethnicity. Or everyone with red hair. Or the entire human race.
If you’re the target and get exposed it’s an inescapable Insta-Kill. You’re immediately in your death throes. I haven’t played HALO but people are saying the Nanobot Virus was more or less lifted from this video game franchise. When exposed your flesh is visibly affected, you convulse and suffer for like 15 seconds and then just die. We see it passed by touch as well as dispersed using gas or some kind of aerosolizer.
We’re told once you’re exposed you have it forever- which is weird because the virus is actually more like a cyborg Nanite– which is pretty intense but also sounds pretty complicated and pretty detectable. These microscopic weapons are either perpetual or can reproduce. This part of the movie is another reason I think the throw away lines about the technical aspect of the virus came after COVID made a natural virus seem too creepy. It’s a Hollywood move but an understandable one. No one needed to be more scared about going out for the first time to theaters. I’m was willing to let this go. It wasn’t good – it beat the HELL out of any kind of moral messaging though. I was mostly happy the line made me less uncomfortable to be there for me. I recognized it as such and accepted it. It might really be a plot-hole too far and is part of why the movie is a bit flawed. For instance; they jam Blofeld into the movie in a bizarre way and just kill him in about one scene. It’s just to show off the nano-bot virus. There were a couple of jammed in moments that were weird.
At any rate; Mallory’s been completely myopic in pursuit of a ‘perfect’ assassination weapon. Why he didn’t consider the implications of his actions seems to be either “he’s overconfident in MI-6 security, not that smart or both.” Maybe the inconsistency here is Mallory is now way too “All In” developing assassination weapons.
In SKYFALL Mallory seemed inclined to start winding down the more aggressive espionage projects. He’s gone way beyond trying to get information to give his country an edge in making this insanely powerful weapon. The Nanobot Virus is everything Mallory didn’t want. It’s a little like the Genesis Device from Wrath of Khan that way.
So in a way the problem is M. Mallory commissions the Nanobot virus without ever realizing it has genocidal potential. Mallory really made a HUGE mistake on this one.
This would be a bigger deal if he weren’t a new M. What helps this movie not get in its own way is that when we met him Mallory was cynical about MI-6, slow to accept Bond and had an incompetent streak already in place. Mallory needs to be fired from MI-6 for his boneheaded move, but this really doesn’t affect the story as you can assume Fiennes is done with Bond Movies now. More on “Team Bond” later.
“No Time to Die” did succeed in immersing me and the movie entertained. It may not stand up to a harder analysis- for instance the opening scene features a frozen lake that selectively shatters. It can’t support a 10 year old girl but the seemingly grown man who follows her is supported fine and even messes with the ice a little. There’s a couple of issues like this here and there. I would need to see it again and be able to take notes to analyze this point by point. However for me it WAS a fun trip to the movies.
The imperfect movie is still good enough to spend 20 bucks on. There were some problems here and there but I think the movie achieves a level of immersion that allows it to work most of the time.
Bond makes it to the end of the movie with his pride and dignity intact. Again though- as we’ve known Bond through Craig in this experimental multi-movie arc.
Craigs Bond is still not too suave even after all this time. He is at least pithy and sarcastic though. He gets some shit from people but he gives it right back, and usually does them one better. So he doesn’t get owned at all by his peers nor is he berated much more than he is in any other Bond movie. Bond’s coworkers have always been sort of irritated by him. The fact many people only grudgingly like Bond or pretty much merely tolerate was well established. So this part is not new
Let’s just call the bad guy forgettable. Lyutsifer Safin is well played by Rami Malek, but the character truly is forgettable. I had to google his fairly preposterous name for this review just two hours after seeing the movie. He’s just not memorable- but he does what what he needs to do well.
Safin is in line with most Bond Villains, maybe he’s even a little better than average. Of course he has the usual overcomplicated Bond Villain plan; but he doesn’t outright suck. He has a personal stake in getting revenge, super weapon notwithstanding. He’s well motivated.
I was a little surprised they chose such a young actor when the story covers maybe twenty years and it seems he’d have to be 10 in his intro scene-and hes surely not. It’s a manifestation of how different this latest take on Bond is.
Safin is menacing at times and also seems fairly competent. He’s not an unworthy opponent. He has a real reason for his grudge and his dioxin scarred face is in line with real world spy incidents.
Safin’s believable as a Bond bad guy but only has a lot screen time because of the length of the movie. A lot of this time he’s simply attacking Bond, so we don’t spend a whole lot of time having Bond threatened while he’s wined and dined like in Dr No or Goldfinger.
Safin might have the smallest actual percentage of total screen time of any Bond villain. Since he does pull off his role well it more or less works out. At worst it’s harmless to the movie.
This time most of this movie is Bond himself. Living out his retirement early on. Loving life for a moment, then damaged and isolated again. A five year time jump happens after the super long cold open. After that we’re in Bonds current day, seemingly 2021- where the rest of the movie happens.
It might be about as good as SPECTRE. It’s in that neighborhood. Maybe like Rogue 1 I’ll find its just not that rewatchable, so this isn’t an outright endorsement the movie is problem free- but it won’t have you spitting out your coke in frustration either. The comparisons to The Last Jedi seem misguided and premature at this point, mostly because we’ve swapped out Bonds before.
In this final outing Craig’s finally comfortable in the role. Here’s a few reassuring things you can keep in mind seeing imperfect but enjoyable No Time to Die.
This is a LONG movie. Go to the bathroom first and get a smaller soda. Two hours and forty-five minutes doesn’t exactly fly by and we dont use a lot of that time developing the villain. The movie is well paced though. It does NOT feel as long as Rise of Skywalker (which is a half hour shorter). Whether you love the story or not it didn’t feel rushed (at that run time how could it?) or ever slow to a crawl. Only one or two contrivances really jumped out. It was not perfect but it was not boring. It was also not offensive in its treatment of Bond. He’s mocked, but only in a way we’ve seen before, Like for being old, imprecise and brutal, but James Bond maintains his thick skin and is mostly quick witted and takes no real shit.
It’s kind of cool to see Bond focus on self preservation at times. He’s got emotion about cutting people totally out of his life. Still, he coldly does it anyway and just deals with the damage later. This was fun to see.
The action scenes are of pretty high quality throughout.
In one of the more humorous action scenes they successfully play a ‘Roger Moore-era invoking’ fun action scene. In this sequence Bond’s Astin-Martin is nothing short of magically impervious to everything. Despite multiple attacks and sustained gunfire it doesn’t sustain any damage that won’t just ‘Buff Out.’ Bond is actually a bit bored as he lures the bad guys in by allowing them to think they’ve rope-a-doped his ride. When he springs the trap the classic Bond Music kicks in perfectly on cue and he’s coolly dusting off enemies. In true Bond fashion he’s grimly self satisfied as he drives away smirking. This is the scene from the trailer and commercials where the Astin-Martin is doing an Emergency Brake controlled high-speed circle with the twin front mounted machine guns blazing. This scene is as fun as it looks and may in itself justify the movie. This scene really succeeds. It’s satisfying to see Bond just being Bond.
The car, scooter and motorcycle chases all worked and came at just the right time as do shootouts and fight scenes. The didnt feel manufactured, but it is a Bond movie, so you knew it would be in there. These parts all largely satisfied.
Daniel Craig’s final outing is maybe the most different Bond movie this side of On Her Majesties Secret Service but is to me closer to License to Kill (more on that at the end of this review). The globetrotting secret agent- described as a past him prime relic for over 40 years; is for the first time in a movie that has a HARD ending- more on that later as well.
Daniel Craig has had a mixed bag of Bond movies. They featured better action and better acting then the venerable franchise had featured in the past- especially from extras, henchmen and the female leads. This welcome change was counterbalanced with making Bond more of a super tough ex-military guy who’d been to charm school rather than a well refined, super educated genius who also happened to be super tough. This iteration of Bond was very different and we introduce a kind of continuity we hadn’t had in previous movies.
Now for something of “Lightning Round” of things that stood out as noteworthy to me-
The Gorgeous Ana de Armas, who plays Bond’s Cuban asset in a big cameo would have been a more on-point love interest. Shes not in the movie long enough to really figure out. She’s a problematic character as far as squaring up what she says versus what she does
No one rips on, puts down or mocks Bond without getting their comeuppance for it.
There’s no womanizing. Bond is a one woman kind of guy who now is highly sentimental. Spectre knows to set a trap for him at his love interest from Casino Royale’s grave because he just seems to regularly bring flowers there.
The “Nano-Bot Virus” was probably a regular virus until COVID changed everyones feelings about that concept
The CIA Turncoat is extremely similar to the character who burns Felix in License to Kill.
Bond’s watch is a problematic plot hole. That EMP should be able to fry the Nano-bot virus; this actual plot-hole seems to shore up my theory this was a straight up Bio Weapon until COVID just made that too creepy to sell in the theater.
MI-6 and the people running it are profoundly immoral and dumb. They’re far more inept than we realized. They actually are fully deserving of every contemptuous remark Bond has ever slung at them. They are bad spies with bad judgement.
It was pretty cool to have the bad guys be SPECTRE and have them up to their old evil deeds. It was also kind of satisfying that they still especially hate Bond. This felt very familiar, like when Indiana Jones opponents are the Nazis. It simply makes things feel more Bond. I think the movie needed all the shoring up of the Bond-ishness it could get considering how radically different it was. The presence of SPECTRE helped this movie. A Rando bad guy faction would have been less effective. This time fan service wasn’t just jammed in and in the way, it was kind of organic. SPECTRE was the natural choice as the foe. They get what they have coming, but maybe a good writer can resurrect their faction eventually.
It actually IS time to die. Unfortunately, they shoehorn this line into the movie, but at least Bond doesn’t say it. The movie is more honestly titled “High Time to Die” or “No It IS Time to Die” because James Bond is not gonna be writing any kind of post mission report after what we see at the end of this movie. Lets just call it UnSurvivable for now. More on that later
Rest assured we see enough to know JAMES BOND IS DEAD. The movie is Unambiguous on this. They want you to know it at least this arc of movies and this Bond are finished. There’s NO WAY OUT of the hard death scene that’s not laughable. The up side is- Bond is Bond until the end. Hes brave and selfless. The bad guy kind of gets most of what he wants though, as the death of Bond will surely be a painful burden on Madeline and about the same thing Madeline did to Safir
The idea you could just throw a new Bond out there with this same cast seems impossible. This is the end of the line for this supporting cast – otherwise its too weird.
Safin has the least elaborate death of any Bond Villain EVER. If you consider that intrinsic you’ll be let down. I thought capping Safin in the head and then rage a round or two more in there was fitting for this particular Bond. It was also pretty satisfying despite being simple because you did hate this bad guy enough. You would have wanted a random SWAT team to kill this guy. Safin is evil enough and only just so sympathetic after the decent reveal of his identity and grudge. After that he’s hard and evil and pretty hands on. Again- very atypical. He’s his own muscle to a point. He doesn’t need a whole lot of guys backing him up, though he has enough anyway just to keep it Bond-like.
The movie ends with a small gathering that consists of M and a couple of the women they’ve teased replacing Bond with. It would call that part a needless addendum to the movie- but its not bad. The credit sequence ends with JAMES BOND WILL RETURN. Just what that means and how that materializes is pretty hard to auger after seeing the movie though. We absolutely see him die. The filming and cinematography are well matched to a great score that reprises many past Bond theme’s- but we may never hear his primary theme. The score is so strong I only realized this later though.
The title track and sequence occur so deep into the movie the “Cold Open” is about 30 minutes. The credit sequence surprised me. I forgot we hadn’t had them.
The song and credit sequence are as forgettable as our villain. The song itself is bad. The credit sequence is more sentimental than ‘good’ or ‘risque’
JAMES BOND IS DEAD
The way they handle Bond’s death tries to be respectful and realizes he cant just give up and allow himself to be killed. So the writers attempted to create an understandable indifference to dying backed up by a time crunch that sort of takes survival out of the equation mostly anyway. The ‘throw away’ justification might be “It was high time he met an opponent who programmed some kind of fail-safes into their needlessly complex Evil Plan.” It sort of flies. Sort of. They do layer on a lot of problems to overcome and throw emotional and physical damage at Bond right near the end to make his surviving this seem impossible anyway and that Bond was simply ‘on his ninth life’ for too long.
In fairness Killing James Bond outright onscreen is nothing if not daring. It’s also monumental. This character has been in twenty five movies, none of which ever lost money. Whether or not you’re ok with killing him, the writers seem to appreciate the level of gravitas Bond is possessed of. Therefore they set all circumstances against his survival to minimize him looking suicidal.
He’s messed up and can’t get around too quick, and for once the Villain has left a couple of precautions in place. Because it seems to me the Nano-Bot virus Bond was infected with while fighting Safin was programmed to Bond’s girlfriend and daughter only and not an indiscriminate WMD like some other reviewers have said.
So James Bond dies because he’s messed up, not that mobile and needs to flip a switch to Un-Shield the Nano-Bot Virus pool. This is a pool of acid beneath the surface of the bad guy’s island where all of the virus is contained, apparently unprogrammed. For whatever reason the island lair was appropriate too. This was Bond coming full circle in some ways, so ‘why not?’ I guess.
They tried to make sure he’s messed up enough for this not to be an indifferent suicide- but I really want to hear that dialogue again. This issue might just be enough to change my feelings a little. It might be the only part of this movie I’m not totally clear on.
If the virus were in fact only fatal to Madeline and Bond’s daughter my feeling is he would stay on the island awaiting a cure. He’d simply use technology to skype with the people he loves, cross his fingers and wait for science and the need to make another movie to bail him out. There’s a lot riding on that bit of dialogue when I rewatch this movie. I guess this is why they also make sure he’s banged up and needs to perform some manual tasks at ground zero of the Airstrike to destroy the nano-bot pool.
This movie wanted to kill Bond and wanted us to know for sure he was dead. They were nice enough and smart enough to do what they could to make the death dignified and brave. Indifference is sort of at the edge. He has enough to live for.
They did try to make him a hero in death. The circumstances that would allow him to have any chance to survive are complex and time consuming to explain. They absolutely didn’t pull this off totally cleanly- but there was a sincere effort.
Whether or not we can say they did it great really is one for a Repeated Viewings. It was not overly satisfying to see James Bond die onscreen. That said- he’s been rebooted before.
One possibility is a nebulous sideways jump to have a new Bond origin tale in what I can only call a “Bond Begins/Rise of 007” multi-movie arc. Let’s remember- as of the books James Bond is a World War II veteran- so a real revamp is probably justifiable if we preserve his core traits. So maybe we just cast another man as the hard living secret agent and do four self contained movies. Im indifferent about hard continuity in Bond Movies after this whole phase.
So with all that said, honestly, you have enough to decide what you want to do. I say “See it if you have the 20 bucks.” There’s more than a few legitimate reasons to invest 20 bucks in this movie. You’ll likely be immersed and have fun. These may be the only writers who listened to fans and used the delay from COVID to rework their script and make the movie better than the trailer seemed to be showing us. By a lot.
Finally I consider this Daniel Craig’s very best delivery as Bond- he’s still not suave and has more of a rough appeal – but that’s been how it’s been through this whole iteration. Too bad it came at the end of the run.
Aftertought – FOR BOND FAN EYES ONLY
Theres allusions and some similarity in the plot to that of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, including a great reprise of the theme. Theres a small touch of Thunderball but really the closest movie to this one might be License To Kill- the Thunderball update from the late 80’s.
In that movie Timothy Dalton’s Bond has a really personal agenda intimately involving Felix as well. It also has some of his crew leave HQ to back him up for a Revenge caper where he’s sort of off the leash. He’s also completely unauthorized with no License to Kill- so all the killings in that movie are murders.
Early in the movie Bond is stripped of his License to Kill after he gets fired for dropping off the grid to pursue a cold blooded payback quest MI-6 would just not authorize. It would even have worked as a non-Bond movie. Bond simply goes about targeting and killing every major member of a drug gang headed up by a Banana Republic leader who is mostly a cross between Noriega and Pablo Escobar. This movie came to mind a few times. Especially during the Cuba sequence where the eye-candy girlfriend starts wielding a 9 in one hand and an uzi in the other.
Underappreciated Dalton plays Bond more ruthless in LTK. The story simply involves Bond dropping off the grid to outright kill anyone involved in hurting is friend.
License to Kill is a movie that broke new ground for the franchise. It was an interesting choice and is the first and maybe only time we see an entire Bond movie focused on a grim, purely personal revenge mission. He’s an angry and vindictive Bond who mostly gets by on his own wits, though he meets up with Q later.
License to Kill is another strange but satisfying Bond movie. It’s the first Bond is freelancing and looking to simply outright kill people. He has no altruistic purpose. The adversaries happen to be really evil Narco’s who deserve to die, but Bond would never have bothered with them if they hadn’t messed with Felix; killing his hot new wife and then feeding half of him to a shark. So Payback for Felix is in both of these movies.