No Time to Die

No Time to Die ★★

The world is arming faster than we can respond. Where's 007?

The battle cry of the later stage of Craig era Bond, constantly struggling to keep up with a rapidly evolving world that leaves classic, boots on the ground spy antics in the dust. Skyfall took this and made it the central ideology of the film, Bond now facing a villain not only maddeningly and calmly psychotic but one who existed in a landscape far beyond his understanding. He's consistently outmaneuvered by Silva because Silva doesn't operate on his level in the same way that his previous antagonists did, using the ethereal, invisible motions of cloud-computed terrorism to achieve goals that Bond and MI6 were wildly unprepared to stop.

The frustratingly overwrought Spectre took it a step further. Constantly struggling to play catch-up once again, Bond faces the shadowy Blofeld, a character whose existence serves to undermine every action in the franchise thus far, cheapening it all with his grand machinations and unbelievable orchestrations. Spectre marked a point of no return by attempting to bundle up Craig's run as Bond into a larger picture where each story thread is meticulously woven together, rather than giving each film room to breathe, disconnected from each other. This point of no return leaves a lasting impression on the conception of No Time To Die, a film orbiting far too close to the vortex that is Spectre to really come into its own.

Hitting the ground at a full tilt sprint, Cary Joji Fukunaga's film does its absolute best to craft its own world, kicking off with a spellbinding sequence in Italy that elegantly executes the best of Craig's gritty action stylings. Wild motorcycle stunts, sweeping motions of extreme physicality, a classic car chase in a classic Bond vehicle, it's all there, down to the cartoon-like henchman with the haircut heard around the world. Linus Sandgren's cinematography is undeniably beautiful throughout, exemplified further with dazzling color palettes as the film moves through the gorgeous tropical locales of Jamaica and Cuba.

But the ghost of Spectre looms, and after a relentless, action packed first half that successfully manages to avoid getting bogged down in the messy details of Bond's spiderweb of connections to every person on earth with devious intentions, it loses focus. Central antagonist Safin is underdeveloped and weakened by a poor performance from Rami Malek, with confusing motivations that quickly move from being the dark machinations of violent revenge into a muddy scheme to indiscriminately kill off whole chunks of the population. The romance between Bond and Lea Seydoux's Madeleine Swann is entirely unconvincing, a disappointingly weak fizzle in what should be the beating heart of Craig's final outing as Bond.

As the finale continues to ramp up, already long past the ideal runtime for what this movie has to offer, it gets more and more messy, trying so hard to make it all make sense and constantly failing. By forcefully continuing weak story threads from a weak previous installment, its only choice is to attempt to infuse life into those threads, and there's just no life to infuse. Madeleine, Safin, Blofeld, Bond, all husks orbiting ideas that are far from compelling while Nomi and Paloma breathe immense vibrancy into every moment they appear on screen. If nothing else, No Time To Die proves that it's time to move on to something new and different, and that Craig's time as the world's greatest spy has truly run its course.

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