No Time to Die

No Time to Die ★★★½

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As it turns out, the element most detrimental to Daniel Craig's tenure as 007, was Kevin Feige's success. The only thing more powerful than a licence to kill is the licence to print money, and Feige reinvented that one for 21st century blockbusters. The Bond producers have always embraced the cinematic zeitgeist, so to nobody's surprise they wanted to have some of that interconnected franchise cake, too. It proved to be a profoundly problematic decision. When Spectre clumsily tried to tie the previous Craig films together, it cemented the future direction for his 007. The franchise's historically nonchalant approach to continuity was no longer a viable option for Craig's Bond.

I'm not saying that No Time to Die never had a chance to be a great final chapter, but inevitably it carries over some of its predecessor's issues, one being Léa Seydoux. While I have to give her credit for actually trying this time, I still don't feel that she and Craig have any chemistry at all. And boy, does the movie bank on me believing in their romance.

Before getting into the stuff that really bothered me, I'm going to talk about the things that I like about No Time to Die. Craig is my favourite Bond and he delivered another great performance. He gets a lot to work with here, especially towards the end, and I'm going to miss him deeply. Lashana Lynch's Nomi was great fun and I'd love to see more of her. Maybe she'll finally get the chance that Halle Berry never did, and will reprise the role in a potential spin-off. Ralph Fiennes does a fine job, too, but more about him later, because spoilers.

I never warmed to Spectre's visual presentation, but thankfully No Time to Die looks really nice once again. Not only the cinematography, but the production design is marvellous as well, with the final set piece even paying homage to the ingenuity of Ken Adam. Costumes aren't usually an element I care much for, but throughout the film I kept noticing how exceptionally well-dressed everbody was.

If you're not keen on getting spoiled, feel free to skip to the final paragraph, because now I'm going into detail about the things that I didn't like or that simply didn't work.

After sitting out Skyfall and Spectre, Jeffrey Wright returned as Felix Leiter. But he's Leiter only in name, since this character has nothing in common with the one we met in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Leiter's dialogue is so bloody awful, they turned him into a braindead moron. And Billy Magnussen? Fuck's sake. I sincerely hope that wasn't part of the "liven up the script" rewrites Phoebe Waller-Bridge was hired to do.

During the production original composer Dan Romer was fired over "creative differences" and replaced by Hans Zimmer, who delivered an entirely unmemorable score. Most likely because that's what the producers wanted. What they most certainly didn't want was for the action to be generic as well. Yet, it is, sort of. There's plenty of fighting and shooting and car chases and explosions and it's all entertaining, but it kinda blends all together. There's nothing standing out like the opening sequence of Skyfall, the sinking house in Casino Royale, or Spectre's helicopter stunt. That said, I must admit that Daniel Craig, despite looking his age, still handles himself really well.

The other issue that No Time to Die inherited from Spectre is the tone. Both films continue to explore their hero's psyche, but instead of the previously serious stories they now do so within the framework of megalomaniac villains and their schemes for world domination or destruction, respectively. And it doesn't work. The campiness of oldschool Bond adversaries clashes with the grounded personal approach to Bond himself. I understood the desire to reintroduce some of the classic elements, because there's only so much introspection you can do before it becomes a cliché itself. I love Craig as 007, but in retrospect it might have been better, had he retired after Skyfall.

At least that way - now comes the big one - we wouldn't have had to endure the utterly misguided attempt to turn cinema's most famous assassin into a goddamn family man! Are you fucking kidding me? They made him a father, for fuck's sake! Given the number of women Bond shagged over the course of six decades, it's only logical to presume that their might be a couple of little James and Jane Bonds running around in the world. But we never see them nor are they ever mentioned. Just as we never see him taking a shit. Now, before anyone starts hyperventilating, comparing having kids to taking a shit would be fucking awful in real life, of course. In the context of a Bond movie, it's equally counterproductive, though. I'll always defend the personal approach the Craig films took, but this was a stupendously bad idea.

Particularly since the emotional stakes were already high enough without the child. I never imagined they'd ever have the guts to do it, but about halfway through a feeling started creeping up on me, that Bond may not make it out alive. During the final minutes it became clear that he wouldn't, actually. I like that the film didn't turn his death into an out of the blue shock moment. It was handled quite well, even if it was a little bit melodramatic for my taste. And it's only fitting that Bond's demise is ultimately caused by the very system that created him in the first place. It would've been even more significant, had it been under Judi Dench's M. As I said earlier, Fiennes was a good choice as her successor, but Bond's relationship with her is one of the key reasons why Casino Royale and Skyfall are so great. It's not Fiennes' fault, that he couldn't fill that void. No one could have.

No Time to Die is not the triumphant victory lap I hoped for. It's not a disappointment either. My love for Craig's Bond makes it easier to not get too upset about the things I didn't like, but man, I really wish he would've gone out with a bona fide home run.

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