When it was determined that, no really, No Time To Die was going to be Daniel Craig’s last outing as James Bond, we then had the question of just how his Bond was going to go out. Most of the previous Bonds to date ended at the status quo at the end of their last outing – each film having an ending like all the rest of the bond movies. However, Craig’s bond films, however, have generally never quite been like any of the other Bonds. Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace were films setting up the start of Bond’s career, and Skyfall and Spectre were very much about changing up the status quo (changing of the guard for M and the re-introduction of SPECTRE, respectively). So, there was a real question here of whether Craig’s departure would be about continuing the plot thread with a new actor picking up the baton from the last, or doing a mostly fresh-start of the continuity, as was done with Casino Royale.
Suffice it to say, what I did not expect was the film to clear the board not just once, but twice. First, theis film has the antagonist, Lyusifer Safin, take Spectre (who, again, had just been re-introduced to the Bond franchise in the last movie) completely off the board by the end of the first half of the film. Then, just for good measure, they clear the board again at the end of this movie to set up what can only be another restart for the next Bond.
All of that said, No Time To Die is a strong film. Craig & Lia Sidoux’s chemistry is much stronger her than it was in Spectre. Same with Q & Moneypenny – Moneypenny and Bond’s relationship here has settled much more into the territory of “friends from work”, rather than the openly flirtatious elements from past films. Q is also tremendous here – and while we haven’t seen the level of adventures these three have had that we should have gotten, the level of chemistry these actors have get across that sense of camaraderie better than any allusions in the script would have had.
The movie also has some tremendous action and stunts, including probably the best use of the DB5 in the history of the franchise, completely with a darkly comic lamp-shading of some of the classic car chase tropes. I also appreciate a big one-shot action scene near the film’s climax that might be a first for the franchise in this regard. The score by Hans Zimmer is also great, not just because it feels a lot like Hans Zimmer paying tribute to Dave Arnold and John Berry (including a bunch of great nods to the soundtrack to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.)
Where I think the film stumbles is with Safin. Not with Rami Malik’s performance – he does a chilling job with the material given. The problem is that Safin is a villian who is an existential threat to humanity. There have been villains at this level in the past, particularly with Moonraker. However, those villains were also ones who had a degree of motivation pushing them to this extreme – Hugo Drax, for example, being a eugenicist. Safin could be construed as being in it for the money, but his motivations are barely implied. It feels like an unforced error.
I did ultimately like the film, and while it’s not as bad a final outing for its bond as, say, Die Another Day was, it’s still a partly fizzled fireworks display.
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