An Jo on ‘No Time to Die’

Mild Spoilers

  • The irony of the title isn’t lost as one connects it to the finale in ‘No Time To Die’; the last movie in which Craig plays 007, ever since revolutionizing the Bond series with the best in Craig’s series, ‘Casino Royale,’  closely followed by ‘Skyfall.’ However, the rest of the movie would fall into the ‘trying-to-be’ mold and doesn’t spectacularly succeed. It has neither the smartness of ‘Casino Royale’ in balancing and fleshing out, bit-by-bit, Bond getting hooked onto emotions, nor the bold walk towards maternal feelings and the weird sibling rivalry that Bardem has with Craig. [“Orphans make the best spies,” says M to Craig in ‘Skyfall’ when he asks her why she selected him.]

    Carrying on this trajectory of Bond chipping away trying to be human toward himself and others and not just a gadget or a gadgets’ user, ‘No Time To Die’ tries to expand on this unexplored trait of Bond but implodes under its own weight. Instead, what director and writer Cary Joji Fukunaga offers is an unnecessarily elevated sentimentality to Craig’s Bond married off to his waning ability to dissolve emotions in bottles and pick up the gun again and become a machine. There are scenes in the film that work; and many more that mostly don’t, but the ones that work are particularly good. After a night of having discussed ‘leaving behind’ with Lea Seydoux [who Bond met in ‘Spectre’], Bond faces an assassination attempt the next day when he visits Vesper Lynd’s grave and in order to forget her and leave the past behind. He is yanked into the present when a bomb bursts upon him at the graveyard and he kills to save himself. At once, he is convinced that Seydoux is the one who gave away his whereabouts inspite of his being in a relationship with her for five years. For Bond, not trusting comes very easily, but trusting, that one is a beast. In the action scene when Bond is escaping with Lea and the antagonists are shooting incessantly at the car’s windows, Bond lets them keep shooting and continues breathing and thinking whether to trust Lea or not and she continues pleading to Bond to trust her. Finally, he makes up his mind, escapes, and leaves her at a train station vowing never to see her again. [In fact, he is convinced that Lea isn’t the one who compromised him when Blofeld tells him! He would rather hear it from the enemy’s mouth than the sweet lips of Dr. Madeline Swann!]. And then he visits her in her parent’s house and starts speaking cringe-worthy lines that would give Bollywood writers a run for their money: “Even if I spent 5 minutes with you, that would be the best 5 minutes of my life”, yada yada. Then he is again up to his cheeky attitude when he asks Lea, “Now what are you going to show me? Another child?” after Lea tells Bond repeatedly that the kid is not his child. And then there’s another bad moment in the end where he drones on about the ‘best’ creation in his life. Moments like these take away the shine from this good film that would have been a cracker had Cary and the other writers focused more on the subtle balancing act of characterizing a Bond who’s torn between his steely avatar and his slipping-away into emotion-land avatar.

    It might have looked quite good on paper; but it doesn’t fly high on the screen. It is Craig who saves these cringe-worthy scenes with his fine act. [He is a too-good bloody Shakespearean actor alright!]. Consider the scene where he meets Blofeld. There is such a fantastic build-up to it; what with Craig meeting Lea after years and her superb act of weakening him by not shaking his hand. The almost 5-minute exchange between Craig and Waltz is such a delight! It is difficult facing a giant like Waltz; but look at the expressions Craig throws at him when telling him that he’s the best chance Blofeld’s got to remain alive. He conveys a myriad of expressions through his acts of silence, of a raised and a much-demanded, lowered tenor, or a mere shake of his head. This is the best scene and the best act by Craig in the movie. [With Craig, even the villains started getting as larger-than-life but complicated like Bond; whether it’s Le Chiffre or Blofeld or the best one of them all, Javier Bardem – his stupendous long-shot take right from the elevator to that walk toward Bond in ‘Skyfall’ and says, ‘Mommy was very bad’ – is a walk that is and will be remembered till eternity.]

    The worst part of this movie is Rami Malek. [He is one over-hyped actor; the only part worth-remembering is his enactment of Freddy’s; otherwise it is the same monotonous, sonorous act everywhere.] Nothing works as a character for Rami’s Safin; neither his childhood trauma nor his adult idiotic utterances of cleaning up this world, but only tidier than Bond. Lea looks stunning as ever, and Lynch shows her spark.

    I was surprised at the route they took to mark Craig’s departure from the series but didn’t find it very troubling or terrific. It is a great moment again when the end-credits roll; Louis Armstrong’s ‘We have all the time in the world’ plays out and Craig’s fans wonder, ‘Never Say Never Again?’

  • 4 Responses to “An Jo on ‘No Time to Die’”

    1. No Time to Die is a Bond film but very unlike your regular Bond film. I liked the fact that the focus remained more on the espionage aspects of spy thrillers than the silly over the top gravity defying antics we’ve come to associate with most Bond films over the years. The overlong duration and lackluster screenplay does stand out like a sore thumb though. Overall this movie is at par with Casino Royale and Skyfall but for completely different reasons. These 3 films outshine the horrid Quantum and Specter by leaps and bounds in Craig’s version of Bond.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The length was an issue IMO. 2hr40min is quite long for Hollywood especially this genre.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Agree with you @Shivaay and Jayshah both. It’s just that they stretched the sentimental part to an extent where it just started feeling like they were just trying to ‘un-Bond’ him; if I could say that. That’s where the film dipped and thanks to the sluggish screenplay and badly written lines, it just went haywire. Still, it is a good film and worth watching for Craig.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I personally think Rami Malek suffered from an underwritten role. Either that or his character faced a choppy end at the editing table given that NTTD tries to tie so many ends together.

      Malek, otherwise, is a fine actor.

      Good review, AnJo! My thoughts are mostly in sync with yours. And yes, I will miss Craig a lot. Who thought putting in a brilliant actor into Bond’s shoes would yield spectacular results?

      These are lessons for Bollywood that folks downtown will never learn!

      Liked by 1 person

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