FlixChatter Review: NO TIME TO DIE(2021)

NoTimeToDie-uk-poster

For Bond fans, it has been a long seven year itch since we last saw a new Bond movie on the big screen. Delayed 2.5 years since April 2020, it’s been quite an arduous waiting game… there’s even a rumor at one point that Bond might be coming via a streaming service [gasp!] Well I for one am glad that didn’t happen, and I think this film deserves to be seen on the big screen.

For a franchise famous for its opening sequences–often followed by a music video of its theme song featuring scantily-clad women–this one already sets itself from the pack as it actually does not feature its titular hero. I’m going to keep this review spoiler-free (or clearly mark them as I usually do), so let’s just say the opening features an ‘origin story’ of sort for a female recurring character, which in of itself is quite revolutionary. There is a lot of firsts in Daniel Craig‘s Bond film, starting with the man at the helm, Cary Joji Fukunaga. He’s the first American director to direct a Bond film, which features Lashana Lynch as the first female 007. All of these historic anecdotes are cool, but at the end of the day, did the film deliver?

Bond-NoTimeToDie

One thing for sure, the post-credit opening scene delivers incredible panoramic vistas, as one would expect from a Bond film. Bond is shown living a blissful life with Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) as they are on holiday in Matera, a picturesque stone village in Southern Italy. Bond is in love, and for a brief moment seems to live a blissful existence… but of course you know it’s short-lived because suddenly he’s nearly blown to bits and chased in a brutal fashion by relentless goons (well, what else is there?). Fukunaga proves adept in mounting a pretty exciting action sequence early in the film, complete with an insane car chase careening through rocky hills and cobblestone streets that ends with something rather fantastical even for a Bond movie. It reminds me of the Nick Fury’s car attack in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it seems Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 is equipped with similar bullet-proof feature!

NoTimeToDie-Matera

Bond fans (me included) loves watching epic action sequences like that, so getting that ‘craving’ satisfied early on is a smart move, as the next hour is relatively quiet as Bond nurses a broken heart and lives quietly in Jamaica. There are plenty of nostalgia here despite its theme of ‘letting go of one’s past.’ From moments recalling integral characters in Craig’s Bond past (as well as those before his era), down to the choice of a melancholic song (one of my top 10 favorites) AND the lines Bond say (which he utters twice in the film). Another theme running through the vein of Craig’s final Bond film is secrets … which as a spy he is obviously well-versed on, but the secrecy isn’t just those of the country he serves, but of the woman (or I should say women) he loves.

As I feel that this is a rather unconventional Bond film, this will be an atypical review. Without getting into too much of the plot, let me just go over the good and not-so-good parts about the film…

THE GOOD:

Firstly, Daniel Craig‘s performance. I haven’t always been super fond of him even though he wowed me in Casino Royale, at times he appears too thug-ish and his sex scenes with the Bond girls can be laughably absurd (the one with Monica Bellucci in Spectre comes to mind)… but over his 15-year span playing the character, he’s able to balance his tough, formidable action prowess with his sensitive, vulnerable side. It’s even more palpable here as he declares his love for Madeleine… Bond is past just showing off his muscular arms as he unabashedly wears his heart on his sleeve.

NoTimeToDie-finale

Then there’s the oh-so-fabulous Lashana Lynch as Nomi… sassy, smart, sexy, a woman who knows her own power but also has enough confidence in her competency that she doesn’t concern herself with ‘titles,’ or in this case the code name 007. Right from the moment Nomi meets Bond, she’s clear that she’s got no time for the old patriarchy. I love that she is often one step ahead of Bond and unafraid to put him in his place. There are lots of moments where I silently whispers ‘you go girl!’ but at the same time, she’s also empathetic and mindful, which proves that a woman’s strength isn’t about knocking men down as they don’t need to.

NoTimeToDie-Nomi

Ana de Armas is fantastic as Paloma, a Cuban CIA agent working with Felix who’s assigned with Bond to track down a scientist at a Spectre party. Having seen her with Craig in Knives Out, their meet-up is actually quite hilarious. She’s shown as a rookie who’s still excited for her first big mission but comes out surprising everyone’s expectations, especially Bond. Wish she had more screen time here though… I want more Paloma! This is perhaps the most playful shoot-em-up in this movie, harkening back to a scene from a Roger Moore Bond flick, but it’s a lot of fun to watch!

NoTimeToDie-Paloma

Another returning character is Jeffrey Wright‘s Felix–the actor has a consistently formidable presence in so many franchises … Bond, Marvel, DC (I so look forward to seeing him as Commissioner Gordon in the upcoming The Batman). After five years in retirement, Bond ends up teaming up with the CIA with Felix, along with a Jack Ryan type ‘state department guy’ Logan (Billy Magnussen). Wright is undoubtedly the best and most memorable Felix in the whole 007 franchise.

NoTimeToDie-Felix-Bond

All the returning cast in the MI-6 camp, Naomie Harris‘s MoneyPenny, Rory Kinnear‘s Tanner, Ralph Fiennes‘s M and Ben Whishaw‘s Q are all wonderful. Bond is so fortunate to have such phenomenal friends, esp. Q who’s willing to give up his date in order to help his friend out. So good to see MoneyPenny and Q collaborating again. I also enjoyed the rather talky scene between Bond and M in London, mulling over the dire consequences of Safin’s grand plans.

Now, I didn’t care for Christoph Waltz‘s Blofeld in Spectre who I described as nothing more than a clichéd, petulant psychopath. Well somehow he actually fares better here even and manages to rile Bond up even while he’s contained in a box within an extremely high-security prison. Somehow Blofeld still have control over his organization who’s now got a lethal DNA weapon using nanobots… which connects him with the main Bond baddie-du-jour Safin, that brings me to the…

NoTimeToDie-blofeld

THE NOT-SO-GOOD:

Rami Malek’s Lyutsifer (is this just another lame way to say Lucifer??!) Safin just falls short in comparison to former Bond villains of the past. He seems dangerous on paper but kind of underwhelming on screen. Malek comes across more creepy than menacing, I actually think of him as a tragic character given what happened to his family, leaving him as the only survivor. His eerie connection with Madeleine from when she was a young girl just isn’t fully realized. At first I thought it might have involved a Stockholm Syndrome or akin to Phantom of the Opera’s obsession with Christine , but in the end I’m not exactly sure just what they’ve got going on here.

NoTimeToDie-Safin

Speaking of Madeleine, I generally like Léa Seydoux as an actress in other films but I just didn’t care for her as Bond’s love interest. For one, she always looks like she’s about to cry every two seconds, even when she’s on holiday in a sensational location! Looking at Madeleine just makes me miss Eva Green’s Vesper so much, and I feel like Bond has a genuine chemistry with Vesper and they look like they’re having fun together as a couple. Now, even though she’s given an origin story, a privilege very few Bond girl is afforded to, it’s hard for me to be invested in her narratives.

NoTimeToDie-MadeleineSwann

SPOILER ALERT! [highlight to read] Then there’s Madeleine’s daughter that got Bond transfixed upon meeting her. ‘She’s got my eyes… Am I the father?’ Now, Bond didn’t right out say it, but he’s so obvious about it that Madeleine kept saying ‘she’s not yours’ a couple of times. I don’t know why the writers think the scene is supposed to be romantic, but it’s so cringe-worthy!

As for using nanobots to infect certain people based on their DNA, essentially making certain people to be killer weapons is quite eerie during pandemic as certain people can be ‘silent killer’ if they’re carrying the virus and spreading them unknowingly. The fact that a psychopath like Safin having access to this and harvesting them in an island somewhere does sound scary. At the same time, the whole villain hellbent on taking over the world just gets tiresome, I mean you’d think after 50+ movies they’d find a more creative reason for compelling villainy. Also, what’s up with the scientist Obruchev (David Dencik) who’s portrayed in such a silly, cartoonish manner. Let’s just say I wasn’t sad when he meets his inevitable end.

FINAL VERDICT

No Time to Die is the first Bond film to come out in the #MeToo era and Time’s Up movements, so the producers enlist Phoebe Waller-Bridge as one of the screenwriters to steer the franchise to be more progressive. Now, I have no problem with that, and having someone like Nomi is a great addition to the franchise as her character arc still feels organic to the story. I’m not sure everything about the more ‘radical’ storyline works for me though, SPOILER ALERT [highlight to read] honestly I’m not sure about the whole ‘Bond being a father’ narrative. I mean, given the plethora of women he’s bedded, you’d think this shouldn’t come out as too much of a surprise, but still it feels a tad forced, especially since the big reveal comes as Bond is about to be killed off.

As for Fukunaga’s direction, I feel like it’s going to be a divisive one as despite some dynamic action sequences and Bond himself being put through the wringer, it’s a largely melancholic and somber affair. The Japanese-American filmmaker has said in interviews that being an ‘outsider’ gives him an advantage that British filmmakers might not have in making this film. The bombastic car chase in the beginning and the shoot-em-up in Safin’s nanobot factory in the third act feel familiar but with an edge. I appreciate the way he shows Bond’s weariness and defiance with style (like when he didn’t care if he live or die when his DB5 was riddled with bullets), but yet manages to make the super-spy human. For a super long 2 hour 43 minutes running time, it actually didn’t feel overly tedious, which in and of itself is quite a feat.

NoTimeToDie-nanobots-factory

Visually speaking, the film is gorgeous to look at, shot by DP Linus Sandgren. It’s got all the globe-trotting vistas to tick off the escapism box. Hans Zimmer‘s score has some decidedly familiar sounds, blending Monty Norman’s iconic Bond theme, one of John Barry’s famous motif and Billie Eilish’s theme song, fusing a rousing, suspenseful score with tender, sentimental elements.

I mentioned that there was no compelling human drama in Spectre and that it was a largely soulless affair. Glad to report that it’s quite the opposite here as it’s one of the most emotional Bond movies where things comes full circle for Craig. So to answer my question if the film delivered, the short answer is YES. Unlike his predecessors, Craig’s Bond films shares a plot thread that connect them all, which is quite unprecedented for the franchise. Thus, while Craig’s tenure does not end in an all-time-high fashion, I can say that it’s a bold and memorable finale for a game-changing Bond era.

3.5/5 Reels


Have you seen NO TIME TO DIE? Let me know what you think!

8 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: NO TIME TO DIE(2021)

  1. I’ve just skimmed through your review here since I won’t get to see the film until Sunday. I’m trying to get into the film as fresh as possible, it’s very difficult since a bunch of people on Twitter has been tweeting about. Ha ha!

    1. Totally understand, Ted! That’s why I’m always careful about hiding spoilers, but going in as fresh as possible is always tricky with social media these days!

      1. Just saw the film earlier today and finally read your whole review. I agreed with you for the most part. I can’t agree with you about Lashana Lynch’s Nomi though, her character was not needed in the film and it’s a very bad example of tokenism in big Hollywood films that I wish they stop doing. If her character was to be expanded in the franchise then I would agree with you. But it doesn’t look like they’re going make her character a continuation within the franchise. I do agree with you about the whole daughter subplot, it’s not needed at all. This was a messy script and you can tell there were many cooks in the kitchen involved.

        I appreciate they paid tribute to ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE, loved the inclusion of John Barry’s music from that film. From what I remember, when Danny Boyle was the director, the original script was a loosely remake of OHMSS, so apparently they kept some of that elements in the final film.

        The film was weirdly edited too, again it felt like too many cooks were involved in the editing process. Loved the opening action sequence but was a little disappointed how Fukunaga decided to go all John Wick for the climatic shootout sequence.

        Overall, my score would be 3 out 5. Too messy of a script and kind of uninspiring direction by Fukunaga. I thought he’d bring in some cool and inventive action sequences for this one but it ended up being too generic for me.

        1. Hey Ted, I’d have to disagree with your take on Nomi. I am not a fan of tokenism either but I don’t feel that her character is forced at all, in fact I think it makes sense that MI-6 got a new agent to replace a retired one (or someone they thought are dead). Sure, she didn’t HAVE to be assigned as 007, but even as far back as Skyfall, Fiennes’ M has kind of a testy relationship with Bond so he probably gave that code name to a WOMAN just to spite Bond, which I think works as the two have a playful banter and the entire MI-6 office were bewildered having two 007 together in one room. Lashana Lynch is terrific in the role though of course I’d love to see both Nomi AND Paloma more in the film.

          I teared up hearing ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE’s song in the beginning, it’s such a beautiful song that’s so emotional given what happened in that Lazenby film.

          I think our ideas of what constitutes a cool action sequences differ… I thought the Matera sequence in the beginning is pretty great and the Cuba shoot-out is a lot of fun, it’s perhaps the most playful of the whole movie. I certainly think Fukunaga did the best he could with the story, as far as ‘too many cooks spoil the broth,’ that has plagued many big franchises. I am hopeful the franchise reboot would be more focused in terms of story, but first it’d be fun speculating WHO would actually be cast as the next Bond!

  2. Saw it this afternoon with my brother, and from your review, it seems like you and I are mostly on the same page. It’s certainly not flawless, but it’s a solid and worthy end to the Craig era of the franchise, which IMO has never quite lived up to its early potential (“Casino Royale” is flat out my favorite Bond movie of all time, and it pains me that Craig never got a follow-up Bond movie in the same league). I had a good time.

    IMO the movie’s two main flaws are a. the villain(s) and b. that it’s a sequel to “Spectre”. To the latter point: I really, REALLY don’t like “Spectre”, and my major issue going into “No Time to Die” was that just based on the trailers, it was pretty obvious this movie was going to be built on the premise that I care about what happened in “Spectre”, and I didn’t. Honestly, as I told my brother, I think in some ways this movie works better as a sequel to/capper on the whole of the Bond franchise than as a closer to the often frustrating Craig era; Felix Leiter’s death matters here BECAUSE it’s Felix Leiter, not so much because it’s THIS version of Felix Leiter who just kinda disappeared for two whole movies (I’m with you, Jeffrey Wright is EASILY the best Felix Leiter we’ve ever had, and criminally underused); Blofeld’s big scene with Bond works for me because of the 60-some years of cinematic history between Bond and Blofeld, not because of anything Blofeld did or said in the last movie. (How did “Spectre” manage to screw up the idea of Christoph Walz playing Blofeld??? Truly baffling.) The filmmakers do about as good a job “redeeming” prior series entries as you possibly can, but there are still limits here; like, Bond getting hunted/forced out of retirement and hopping back in the game would be a lot more powerful were it not for the fact that Daniel Craig’s Bond has LITERALLY QUIT JAMES BOND-ING TWICE IN THE PAST FOUR MOVIES. He spends more time quitting the spy business than doing actual spying! Fukunaga and co., like I said, have done about the best job anybody could — I was actually kind of astonished that they made Madeline into an actual CHARACTER in this, after the great Lea Seydoux was such a blank nothing in the last movie — but it’s still a “silk purse from a sow’s ear” situation, and there’s only so much they can do.

    If I’m willing to cut them slack on the franchise continuity nonsense, I can’t do the same for the dearth of good villain material. Like you said, Rami Malek’s Safin is a total dud — I’ll in fact go out on a limb and say that he’s the worst villain of the Craig era. The character as written is just a mess — I didn’t really understand who this guy was, what motivated him, what his ultimate goal/plan was — he’s not scary, or intimidating, or intriguing, he’s…just kinda there. And Malek, who I’ve been assured has been quite good elsewhere, is kind of embarrassing in this — it’s the kind of clumsy, mustached twirling performance we’ve had to suffer through from actors who saw Heath Ledger’s Joker and thought “Charismatic and crazy — I can do that!” No Rami, you really, really can’t, and it’s a slog watching you try. (The secondary villains don’t fare any better — “Robot eyeball guy” is just a generic heavy for Bond to punch, while Billy Magnussen’s CIA toady overplays the “villain as fanboy” bit that was much more effective when Mark Dacascos did it in “John Wick 3”.)

    HAVING SAID ALL THAT — there’s a lot to enjoy here. I liked Lashana Lynch as Nomi — the banter between her and Bond worked for me, and never strayed into outright camp — and I REALLY liked Ana de Armas as Paloma. (My brother and I are in agreement with you — bring her back in the second half of the movie! The character is fun, de Armas really delivers, and she and Craig have tremendous chemistry together.) Jeffrey Wright and Christoph Walz both bring more to the table here than they’ve been allowed to in prior Bond pictures, and I thought Ralph Fiennes got more stakes to play as well as M; it’s still not a huge role, but the story allows M to feel/be emotionally and ethically compromised, and that leads to some interesting wrinkles. Whatever problems are inherent in the script, I thought Fukunaga did a good job behind the camera; this is actually the first of his work I’ve seen, but I actually found myself thinking “this is well directed” during the opening, creepy home invasion sequence — I know this sounds like a “well yeah, duh” thing to say, but considering how many of the Bond movies are directed in a meat-and-potatoes, by-the-numbers way, it’s refreshing to see a Bond movie and feel like it’s ACTUALLY DIRECTED, like Fukunaga and DP Linus Sandgren were actually making careful, precise choices about where they wanted to put the camera and what they wanted to see. It especially pays off in some of the action sequences, the opening chase scene in Matera and the big fight/shootout in Cuba in particular — I could ACTUALLY TELL WHAT WAS GOING ON, and there are moments where the camera will move at a particular time to reveal new visual information or increase suspense…it’s such a blessed relief after a decade or so of action movies where the operating principle seems to be “shake the camera a bunch, show some CGI battle scenes, good enough”.

    I liked Madeline a little more than you did — not that she’s the greatest female character ever created or anything, but she’s actually a CHARACTER in this movie, and the opening scene ALONE made her more compelling to me than the entire run time of “Spectre” had. (Getting involved in the relationship between her and Bond sort of necessitated me pretending that there’s some great, unmade Bond movie about the relationship between the two of them, but the continuity in this series has always been a patchy, catch-as-catch can affair, so I was happy to do so.) Zimmer’s score is effective, if a bit…well, Hans Zimmer-y (my brother turned to me and said “that sounded a lot like Hans’ Batman score”, and indeed there were a couple of cues in the third act that sounded like lightly rewritten versions of “Dark Knight” tracks). It’s not a short movie, but I didn’t find myself getting bored, even during the talky middle section, and I was surprised by how emotional I got at the climax, and at the callback to “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”…like I said, for all its faults, it’s a solid and respectable way for Craig to end his tenure as Bond.

  3. Pingback: The Alliance Lately: Issue No. 39 – The Minnesota Film Critics Alliance

  4. Hey CB! I LOVE your long comment, it’s practically a review! Maybe one day you wouldn’t mind collaborating on the blog? 😉

    Well as it stands now, my favorite Bond film remains to be Casino Royale. In fact, in my ranking https://flixchatter.net/2021/09/30/ranking-daniel-craigs-bond-movies/ of Craig’s 5 movies, NTTD is nestled between Spectre and Skyfall.

    I don’t like Spectre either, as you said it’s baffling how they underused Christoph Waltz and made him boring as Blofeld! He fares slightly better in NTTD even in that short scene, I think the way Fukunaga sets it up makes him seem more ominous. As for Malek, yep Safin is a dud and I hated that lame Lyutsifer name too, soooo obvious that it’s a play on word of the devil! If only he were as menacing as he’s supposed to be.

    I cried when Felix died 😦 I guess it’s not surprising as they’d just reboot that character along w/ Craig’s Bond. I think the only other memorable Felix is the one in Licence to Kill where he was fed to the sharks, OUCH!

    “Daniel Craig’s Bond has LITERALLY QUIT JAMES BOND-ING TWICE IN THE PAST FOUR MOVIES.” Ahah, so true!! He barely did any spying, mostly just running around and dodging bullets! I really hope they would do more espionage action instead of of just car chases and shoot-outs like every.other.action.franchise out there!

    After rewatching NTTD a second time, I actually warmed up a bit more to Madeleine (though I still think she cried WAY too much!) but at least she was kinda bad-ass towards the end against that Robot Eyeball Guy (LOL!) who is just lame, lame, lame! Give me someone fun like Jaws or even Dario (crazy how Benicio Del Toro’s career trajectory has surpassed even many of the Bond actors!)

    I love Nomi and Paloma even more the 2nd time around, esp the latter who’s just a delight in such a brief scene. She’s an absolute scene stealer!

    I didn’t mention about Fiennes’ M much but you’re right, he’s got more stakes to play here than before, though I still miss Dame Judi as M.

    Now you didn’t say anything about the ‘Bond has a daughter’ bit… I still hated that idea and feels so hugely UNNECESSARY!! Plus that kid actress could barely act other than looking confused the whole time.

    I agree the action sequences are great and the opening action in Matera + Cuba shootout are a lot of fun! Even the forrest scene is well-directed, with some nods to previous Bond films, most notably the ski resort chase of For Your Eyes Only where Bond used a rope to ‘trip up’ his enemies. I think the biggest kudos I can give to Fukunaga is that he made the 2.5 hour running time seems a breeze, good pacing is VERY difficult to pull off in ANY film!

    Zimmer recycles his scores ALL THE TIME, so not surprised it sounds a bit like Dark Knight tracks. But the theme song melody is so lovely and I really like hearing it as instrumental bits throughout the movie.

    Thanks for letting me know your thoughts, CB! Hope we can catch up in person again soon!

    1. I apologize for my comment being the length of a short novel, lol — I started typing and my fingers refused to stop! (Maybe I’m extra excited because I’ve BARELY been to a movie theater in the last year and change, so this felt like a bit of a homecoming.)

      Yeah, Del Toro in License to Kill is a good counter example to Boring Mechanical Eye Man. I think it’s fine in a Bond movie where there’s already so much other stuff going on — and where Bond himself is going to go through a major emotional arc/change — if the villains are a little more stock/less built up, but at least give us charismatic guys who we love to hate/wanna see Bond thrash. The baddies in “No Time to Die” are, top to bottom, a snooze.

      Dame Judi is the best M, hands down. Again, not this movie’s fault, but I feel like if Judi’s M had to deal with the death of Bond, it would have more weight than Fiennes’ M, who we’re just getting to know. But he’s good in the role, nonetheless, and I think gets more to do here than in the prior films.

      Yes, the forest chase was quite good as well! And while I’m kinda take it or leave it on Billie Eilish in general (which to be clear is on me being a fuddy duddy — the moment where I first heard “Bad Guy” and thought “Is she gonna mumble sing the whole thing like that…?” was the moment where I realized I was OLLLLLLD lol), I liked the title song.

      Always a pleasure chatting — hope we can do so again soon! (And if time allows some day, I’d LOVE to collaborate/guest post!)

Join the conversation by leaving a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s