FlixChatter Review: NO TIME TO DIE(2021)

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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?

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Ranking Daniel Craig’s Bond Movies

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I saw No Time To Die two days ago so pardon me, I still have Bond on my mind. I know embargo has passed for this film, but I need to mull this over a bit so I’ll review it this weekend. Per customary with new Bond movie released, the internet is filled with new Bond film ranking. I probably should do that at some point, but ranking 26 films takes a bit of time, so for now I’m just going to rank five of Daniel Craig’s movies.

Before I do that, I thought I’d share this trailer of Being James Bond, a brief 46-min retrospective doc where Craig candidly reflects on his 15-year tenure as James Bond. It includes never-before-seen archival footage spanning from Casino Royale (2006) to No Time To Die (2021). It’s available to watch for free on Apple TV+ and a must-see for Bond fans!

There’s really no ‘science’ in these ranking of course, it’s based on instinct and well, personal taste.

So here they are in the order of WORST to BEST:

QUANTUM OF SOLACE

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This is perhaps the only Bond movie in the last 20 years that I’ve seen only once and I haven’t had the desire to rewatch it. Even the worst of Pierce Brosnan’s Bond, namely Die Another Day, I’ve watched 2-3 times as there are still some fun, albeit idiotic, moments. When I first saw Quantum I just thought it’s such a dull movie, with a truly lame villain (totally miscast Mathieu Almaric) and a rather meh Bond girl (Olga Kurylenko). It’s even more of a letdown considering it was a continuation of an excellent Bond movie, so the buildup was much more intriguing than the actual movie.

SPECTRE

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Speaking of having a lame villain, the fourth Craig Bond film somehow the same fate as Quantum despite having Oscar-winning Christoph Waltz, whose huge Hollywood breakthrough was playing a phenomenal Nazi officer in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. I had just mentioned about that in this post where the henchman (Dave Bautista) is actually more memorable. It’s a bad sign when the best spectacle is the opening action sequence, as the entire film just never quite match up its intensity and entertainment value.

It doesn’t help that another big-budget spy thriller franchise Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is released the same year and it features plenty of phenomenal, highly memorable action sequences… the exhilarating Vienna Opera House scene alone definitely gives the Bond action set pieces a run for their money!

NO TIME TO DIE

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Well, this is definitely one of the most somber Bond film I’ve seen to date… which marks the end of the era, so to speak. Is it a proper send-off for Craig? In short, yes. It certainly also marks a progressive step for the 50+ year old franchise build on the male patriarchy. I do think Cary Fukunaga‘s direction is quite impressive and he made some intriguing, bold choices… I’ll have more on that in my full review, so for now I’ll leave it at that.

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I had just rewatched this a couple of days before I saw No Time To Die, so it’s still fresh in my mind. Bond returns home in this one… though not exactly under a happy circumstance. There are plenty to like about this one and centering the story on M (Judi Dench) as one of the major plot makes it stand out from the pack. For once Bond isn’t the primary target, heck Silva would probably let Bond go as his wrath is for ‘mommy’ who he thinks betrayed him (certainly an interesting moniker for a former MI-6 boss). Javier Bardem is a memorable villain and the relationship between Bond and M reaches penultimate point in a dramatic and emotional way, I actually still teared up watching that scene at the church.

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What a phenomenal Bond debut for Craig! I absolutely LOVED this film, it ranks in my top 5 amongst all 26 films. When I first saw it though, I didn’t think it would stand as my favorite out of all of Craig’s Bond films… but it definitely stands as the one I’ve seen the most out of his 5 films. I know that the poster shouldn’t determine the quality of the film itself, but even judging from that, Casino Royale‘s poster with Craig at the card table with a smoldering look is absolutely fetching.

It’s got everything you want in a Bond movie – great villain, captivating love interest who’s more than a damsel in distress (Eva Green), dynamic action, gorgeous locations… plus the score by David Arnold is so lush and beautiful, evoking John Barry who’s my fave Bond composer. 


What do you think of my ranking? How would YOU rank Craig’s Bond films?

Top 15 Daniel Craig’s JAMES BOND Moments

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I’m a longtime Bond fan and it feels like ages ago since I saw a new Bond movie. Can you believe it that SPECTRE was released in 2015? That’s SEVEN years ago! Thanks to this ongoing pandemic, this film just kept getting delayed. Well, Bond has been on my mind the past week as NO TIME TO DIE is finally coming to theaters! It marks Daniel Craig‘s fifth and final appearance as James Bond, and even he seems quite emotional saying goodbye to the role and regretted his rather blasé response about returning to the franchise after Spectre wrapped. 

I personally think Craig has done a phenomenal job as Bond and proved me wrong in my early assessment of his casting, as I mentioned in my review of Casino Royale. So in honor of his last outing as Bond, my pal Ted and I are listing our favorite Craig’s Bond moments. Nice to finally have a new post for FC’s 007 Chatter category 🙂

Let me start with Ted’s top 5 list:

1. Casino Royale – Bond broke into M’s apartment

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Fans of Bond films knows that the relationship between M and Bond has always been professional, but I really appreciate the filmmakers decided to come up with this scene and showed us the real relationship between the young 007 and his mentor. I love the back-and-forth performances by Craig and Judi Dench in this one. Too bad we never find out with M stands for.

2. Quantum of Solace – Opening car chase and climatic shootout/fight scenes

In rare case in the Bond franchise, this film was a direct follow up to the previous one. Unfortunately, the film was not well received by fans of the franchise, but I still thought it’s a good sequel. The film came out around the time another spy franchise was dominating the box office, Jason Bourne. Most of the action scenes in the film were pretty much carbon copy of action scenes from The Bourne films. I thought this opening car chase was great way to start the film:

The shootout and fight scene for the climax was quite intense, just wish Bond was fighting a formidable foe here. Mathieu Amalric was a total miscast as the main villain and in this scene, it looked like Bond was fighting a little kid. I still thought it was well shot and edited: 

3. Skyfall – Kincade introduction

Some Bond fans probably know that Kincade was originally written for the late Sean Connery, it’s supposed to be a surprise cameo. But Connery turned down the part and we can only imagine what would’ve been like to have seen Connery came out of the dark and utter the famous lines “Bond, James Bond.” I thought Albert Finney was great in the role but man it would’ve been great to have seen Connery back in the Bond franchise one last time. 

In any case, the scene I’m referring to starts around 3:05 below:

4. Skyfall – The Shanghai scenes

The entire sequence in Shanghai was beautifully shot by Roger Deakins. This scene starts with Bond following his target and ended with a big fight in a empty office building:

5. Spectre – The opening of action scene

This is my least favorite of Craig’s Bond films and this Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City is probably the best scene in the entire film:


I love the five scenes Ted listed above. In fact, I was going to include the SPECTRE opening scenes too, as I think it’s the best part of the entire movie. I just learned from the Being James Bond documentary that Craig actually did that scene with a broken leg, what a trooper!

So I’m listing mine in order of the film’s release. The Quantum of Solace‘s opening car chase scene is my favorite from Craig’s second outing as Bond, so I’m not listing that again.

In any case, here are my top 10 picks:

6. Casino Royale – Opening Parkour Chase Scene

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Bond movies are known for their bombastic and action-packed intro scenes. In Casino Royale, it’s even more crucial to have a memorable sequence as it’s the first time we see Daniel Craig in full-on action and boy did he deliver! The parkour chase is what’s on-trend at the moment but even re-watching it over a decade later, it doesn’t feel dated and I’m still in awe of Craig’s physical prowess in this scne.

7. Casino Royale – Bond Meets Vesper Train Scene

I’ve included this clip so many times on this blog, I think it’s a record, ahah. Those who have been loyally following my blog knows how much I LOVE Vesper, my favorite Bond girl, and her intro here is my absolutely fave Bond moments. Craig’s got a sexy but playful chemistry with Eva Green, which makes this scene so delightful to watch over and over. 

8. Casino Royale – Shower Scene

I’ve already been on board with Craig as Bond at this point but THIS scene makes me LOVE his portrayal. He manages to be tough, almost thug-ish in his action scenes, but he’s also got a sensitive, emphatic side that’s displayed beautifully here. It’s Bond like you’ve never seen him before, and THAT’s sexy.

9. Casino Royale – Card Game, Bond meets Felix

Given the title, obviously the card game has to be one of the main highlights. I enjoy the banter and dynamic between Bond and Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), but what I think is underrated is the interaction between Bond and Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), his on the staircase. I LOVE Wright’s casting as Felix and definitely the strongest actor to portray Bond’s ‘brother from Langley.’

Bonus: We also got Craig uttering the brilliant ‘do I look like I give a damn’ line when asked if he wants his drink ‘shaken or stirred.’

10. Casino Royale – Ending scene

Craig’s Bond debut is just filled with so many wonderful moments from start to finish. Oh what a triumphant ending it is! Of course fans expect all Bond actors to utter this famous line, but here it doesn’t feel like fan service at all. In fact, it’s a perfect cap to a phenomenal Bond movie and perhaps even Craig’s way to say ‘screw you’ to naysayers.

11. Skyfall – Bond meets Q scene

I’m really fond of Ben Whishaw‘s casting a Q and this whimsical intro of them practically insulting each other is wildly amusing.

12. Skyfall – Bond takes M on Aston Martin DB5 ride ‘back in time’

Director Sam Mendes did a wonderful job in Skyfall, and I love that the plot of Judi Dench’s final Bond film appropriately centers on her character. After ‘kidnapping’ M after Silva’s attack at the court house, Bond took M to a garage where he’s been hiding his precious Aston Martin DB5… I LOVE M’s comment when he saw the car! 😛

13. Skyfall – Bond & Silva interaction

Javier Bardem is definitely one of the most memorable Bond villains ever, and perhaps the best in Craig’s tenure to date. This interaction may come across homo-erotic at first glance but the way Silva tantalize/manipulate Bond to see if he would crack is simply brilliant.

 

14. Spectre – Rome car chase

I’m with Ted in that I find Spectre underwhelming overall. I think Christoph Waltz is such a weak villain here (such a contrast to his work in Inglourious Basterds) but his henchman Hinx (Dave Bautista) does have some memorable moments with Bond. I love this beautifully-shot car chase scene (by DP Hoyte Van Hoytema) through Rome, and the ending with Bond parachuting down with a smirk on his face is a classic!

15. Spectre – Train fight scene

I actually rewatched this clip right after I watched Craig’s documentary Being James Bond that he broke his leg doing this stunts. Bautista is such a big guy, I cringe watching this now, Craig could’ve been seriously hurt! Interesting to learn from another interview that Craig actually broke Bautista’s nose doing this scene, so I guess they’re even! 😀


Hope you enjoyed our Daniel Craig tribute. I know he’ll be missed!

So what are YOUR favorite Craig’s BOND moments?

BOND 25 NEWS – New Title, Synopsis & Release Date

Well, well, well, it’s been a while since last April since we saw the Live Reveal of the cast/crew at Goldeneye, Ian Fleming’s legendary Jamaican villa. Earlier today a tweet came announcing the title AND when we’ll see the movie!

Here it is again in the 16:9 format:

My first reactions is, ‘Hmmm, I thought they’re gonna have another one word title like Skyfall and Spectre, but No Time To Die isn’t terrible, though the word ‘die’ has been kinda overused in this franchise. In any case, I quite like the retro font here and the title plays on the fact that Bond has left service. Well, temporarily anyway, the synopsis tells us he’ll take up the spy mantle when his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA turns up asking for help, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.

Despite rumors of numerous set problems, the 25th Bond film continues production in Jamaica and Pinewood Studios, UK. I follow director Cary Fukunaga on Instagram and he posts stuff pretty regularly. Last June, they even released a set video featuring Daniel Craig with Jeffrey Wright (Felix Leiter) and Lashana Lynch (Nomi) on set. I for one can’t wait to see miss Lynch being introduced as a female 007 (as I mentioned in this post).

No sign of Rami Malek just yet though, who I think is an inspired choice as a Bond villain. Apparently Malek signed on to do the role on one condition, and it totally make sense given his background.

Per EW, “It’s a great character and I’m very excited,” Rami, who is of Egyptian descent, is quoted as saying. “But that was one thing that I discussed with Cary. I said, ‘We cannot identify him with any act of terrorism reflecting an ideology or a religion. That’s not ­something I would entertain, so if that is why I am your choice then you can count me out.’ But that was clearly not his vision. So he’s a very different kind of terrorist.” 

I’m curious to see how Malek fares as a young Bond villain, let’s hope he’ll do much better than poor Toby Stephens in Die Another Day (which basically the same meaning as No Time To Die?). I guess we’ll find out when the movie opens on Wednesday, 8 April 2020.


Well, what do YOU think about the new title?