No Time to Die

No Time to Die ★★★★

Clearly the least Bond movie of all Bond movies, almost unrecognizable, aside from the few sequences already used for the trailers. That's not a bad thing at all, but I would expect it will disappoint quite a few people.

It's a thorough deconstruction of the iconic character, one that started in Casino Royale, continued aesthetically in Quantum of Solace, was almost cheapened in Skyfall and was reduced to the shallowest of surface-level observations in Spectre. No Time to Die's narrative ambitions are, thankfully, far bigger than where Mendes dared to go: The script is very conscious not just about the moral ambiguity of the franchise's title character and his increasingly anachronistic role in a changing world, but also offers a road out of this dilemma. I love that it choses a very simple revenge plot to drive this story – and reveal this motivation, what drove most of the Craig run, as thoroughly meaningless in the end.

Time will tell, but No Time to Die has a chance to finally turn Bond into what Batman has already become: A zeitgeist chiffre like its own genre, ready to be adapted, used and slightly modified to make these subtle changes the narrative core and tell a grand story about today, no matter how old and outdated the source material may be. That on its own is far more ambitious than anything Bond has ever been.

Curious sidenote: The friend I was watching this with and myself were confused about why the opening credit sequence is littered in Athene iconography, while the MacGuffin superweapon of the plot is actually called Herakles – while "Athene", given her specific mythology, would clearly be a much better metaphorical name for what this superweapon can do. There's a lingering suspicion that a name change happened somewhere so late in the process that this title sequence was already too far advanced to redo – has anyone heard anything about that?