- Release Date: 30/09/2021
- Cast: Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Ralph Finesse, Lea Seydoux, Ana de Armas, Jeffrey Wright
- Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Daniel Craig’s final outing as Bond was slated to release months before but was pushed back more than once due to the covid-19 pandemic. Strangely enough, this helped raise fanfare and excitement around the film to a fever’s pitch. I was brimming with excitement for the film after its trailer dropped and I watched the documentary that they made leading up to the film. In the documentary, they skillfully documented Daniel Craig’s tumultuous journey playing James Bond. The film also made it clear that Craig’s final outing as Bond would be nothing short of special. It also included anecdotes that further raised the expectations. This was also going to be the longest Bond film ever made clocking at 2 hours and 43 minutes and this conveyed to the excited audiences that they were in for a laid out and meaty story that would have a lot more than swashbuckling action and a suave super spy who could as easily sweep women off their feet as he could dispatch villains to hell.
In No Time to Die, James Bond (Craig) is called out of retirement by his old friend and counterpart from the CIA, Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) to track down a scientist who might hold the key to a deadly virus recently stolen from a London lab. Bond is soon double-crossed and must fall back on MI6 to track down the scientist and uncover a deadly plot that might have something to do with the love of his life, Madeline (Lea Seydoux). MI6 also needs Bond’s expertise in the matter as they are forced to go after the dreaded terrorist Safin (Rami Malek) who has stolen the virus and kidnapped the scientist.
No time to Die was a mixed bag for me. The action in the film was stupendous. The first action sequence involving an attack on Bond by the Spectre was in my view the best action sequence of the entire film. I just loved how the sequence escalated from being a blast to a chase sequence and then culminated with Bond annihilating his enemies using one of his trademark fancy gadgets. What I loved about the sequence was the physicality and grit that was infused in the combat and the chase sequence. One could feel the falls and the hits that Bond took and very nearly feel the pain of it. The bit where he hides behind a rock to make way for a car that was trying to run over him would give me chills for days to come. The subsequent action sequences are great too but they don’t rise to the same level of finesse and thrills of the first sequence. However, they are efficient enough to not give the audiences any room for complaints.
As was the case with Skyfall and Spectre, the cinematography of No Time To Die is one of its highlights. The film is so gorgeous to look at that there were moments when I was so enamored by it that I completely forgot about the flaws of the particular sequence and also the fact that the said sequence was pulled beyond its welcome. The beauty in the visuals is not restricted to the sprawling mansions and breathtaking vistas. Even minor sequences involving dialogs between characters are shot aesthetically. The action sequences gain a lot from the cinematography as the viewer is always in the best seat to watch the mayhem unfold.
The performances from the principal cast were efficient. Daniel Craig has been playing the character long enough to understand every beat of it and he does take his essay to the next level. The character is visibly old and bruised and that adds an odd charm to the things that he is shown doing. He doesn’t take shit from anyone and is not afraid to hand it back on a platter to even Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s empowered female characters. Craig enacts these moments with authentic deadpan mannerism that makes the sequences work even better than expected. Even the comic moments work where we see Craig finally find his footing —something that came naturally to Sean Connery.
Rami Malek should have been the best thing about this film going by how exotic he is and the kind of character I expected his diabolical Safin to be but he ends up with a glorified friendly appearance. While he is menacing in the sequences where he is given the time and room to make an impact, the muddled writing of the characters reduces him to being a questionable adversary with almost an idiotic notion of what he thinks he wants to do. I wouldn’t blame Malek for the debacle of Safin. The writers will have to bear the burden of that.
Lea Seydoux has a meatier role this time and she makes the most of the opportunities that she gets. She does exceedingly well in the opening 15-20 minutes of the film and sells the mysterious facets of her character wonderfully. This was essential to extract an initial interest in the plot and the film had to grow on the seeds that her questionable betrayal of Bond sowed. In the latter half of the film, her care for another character was dealt with subtlety and it proved to be a wonderful addition. It did enhance the tension considerably in a certain action sequence inside a forest. Ana de Armas in a quirky cameo was fun. She starts as someone who is in awe of the situation that she is in but then miraculously proves to be at home in everything that the situation throws at her. While this felt odd from a writing perspective, Ana de Armas was enterprising and gullible enough to divert our attention from the flaws in the writing. This was the best thing about her essay and she deserves all the kudos for it.
Having said all that, the film fails in its writing, its treatment of the character of Bond, and most importantly its haphazard story and muddled inspiration and the line of action of its antagonist. There are moments when the film feels like Casino Royal or Skyfall in its overtly serious tone. Craig’s Bond has been plagued by females who have betrayed him and that frustration shows on his face at the beginning of the film during a key moment but the course of action that he takes and the evidence that he has to back up his action was questionable and that set the film off on a wrong note. Safin is out for revenge and he gets his revenge when he annihilates the biggest and the worst crime syndicate in the entire world. Once he does that, he still guns for killing millions in the world and that doesn’t make much sense.
In the final few moments of the film, we see Safin come back to a certain place after Bond nearly foils his diabolical plan. This didn’t bode well for me as he was shown departing moments earlier from the site with his team and he comes back alone which was all the more surprising and stupid. It felt as if the writers had got tired and just wanted to be done with his character. The film also kills off atleast three characters that are recurring in Bond novels and didn’t have to be killed unless they are planning some stupid #Metoo compliant progressive James Bond with female protagonist and antagonist. Killing off these characters took the film far away from the original creation and not in a good way. This would also not go down well with fans of the original books and films.
It is hard to accept but the fact is, No Time to Die does get tedious towards the second half. It is all the more shocking to accept this as it begins with flair and has so much action and thrills in the first half. Post interval the film meanders and strolls through expositions and discussion and characters catching a breath over dialogs that gradually starts getting on your nerve. When it all ends so underwhelming, the pain and frustration are just compounded. Alfred Hitchcock always emphasized the importance of creating tension and then releasing it in the best and most thrilling manner. In this line, No Time To Die can be best exemplified as a fresh bottle of chilled Coke that has a loose bottle cap resulting in the fizz getting diluted. As time goes on, all that remains is sweet water with an underwhelming flavor.