One of the most hotly anticipated films of last year that suffered multiple Pandemic delays, hit theaters last weekend. “No Time To Die” took a long time to reach our movie screens and it unfolds over two hours and 45 minutes. For fans of the franchise, it’s still a must-see on the big screen.
Daniel Craig starred in another franchise, “Knives Out“, as the hilarious detective, Benoit Blanc, before “No Time To Die” was finally released. So though this is Craig’s final outing as the titular James Bond character, it’s less painful for the audiences that have grown to love his more emotionally-complex spy. Craig’s Bond wasn’t a cad. He wasn’t all love-em-and-leave-em. Even in this final installment, as a retired agent, he’s still mourning his lost love, Vesper Lynd from two movies prior.
With an unusually long prelude that sets up a mystery involving James Bond’s current love, Madeleine Swann, “No Time To Die” acts like it has all the time in the world. Indeed, this is a phrase that is repeated twice in the film. When Madeleine asks James to drive faster, he replies, that they have “we have all the time in the world”. Later, in a more tragic moment, James will repeat this line as almost a benediction. It’s a line that resonants with Bond fans: “We have all the time in the world” is not just the key line in the screenplay of 1969’s “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” it’s the title of the song performed in the mid-section of that movie by jazz great Louis Armstrong, derived from British composer John Barry’s love theme for the film. “Louis Armstrong Meets James Bond, Again” Jon Burlingame, Variety Oct 11. 2021
The opening credits unspool leisurely over a long graphic section as in a classic Bond film with an evocative Billie Eilish Bond theme song. Instead of the iconic shot of Bond turning to shoot down a barrel, there’s a scene later in the film that imitates that classic Bond stance. This slower paced introduction, let’s the audience settle into the film. It indicates that director, Cary Joji Fukunaga‘s intention is to let the action punctuate the story. Not to worry, there’s plenty of action scenes and they’re spectacular, but the heart of the film is in the emotional moments between characters. The sad partings and the betrayals, this film is full of endings.
One character is played by an actor that Daniel Craig also worked with in “Knives Out”, Ana de Armas. Her scenes with Craig are cheeky and fun. She claims to have had “three weeks of training” but then takes out multiple bad guys while wearing an evening gown and stilletos. This one light-hearted moment is a brief joyful moment in this brooding film. As with most Bond films, there are many exotic locations and an evil lair. The newest villian, played by Rami Malek is given the ludicrous name of Lyutsifer Safin. There’s the standard speechifying about how his evil plan is going to “clean up the world” and how alike they are–he and Bond. They’re both killing for what they believe in.
Between the chase scenes, the time spent with colleagues trying to solve the puzzle, the new gadgets and a new female 007, there’s much that’s standard Bond and a few new updates. A black female 007 and a nod to one character’s queerness updates the tried and true formula. There are a few red herrings (a cigar case, mosquito bites) and very little backstory on who raised Madeiline or much background on Safin. A weary “M” is played by Ralph Fiennes and his sad dog performance slows down the film’s pacing. Fortunately, Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and “Q” (Ben Whishaw) are on the job to add some spunk and humor.
The running time is almost three hours but I wasn’t bored. I would’ve preferred a little less time on the island lair, but it was a fitting send off to Daniel Craig’s Bond. It was a long wait for the film but it was worth it.
Drinks With Films Rating: 🍸🍸🍸1/2 martinis, shaken not stirred