Themes of time, death, the past, and the future repeat throughout this 25th Bond film. It also signifies the end of the Daniel Craig era, which will be a difficult act to follow. Despite this, No Time To Die is far too long, far too confusing, and far too un-Bond-like, with four scriptwriters including the director (True Detective’s Fukunaga), old Bond hands, and much Phoebe Waller-Bridge addition. One assumes that part of the reluctance to conclude sooner has to do with the weight of saying goodbye to the actor who has reimagined a role born in World War II for the twenty-first century, where heroes don’t just have huge hearts, but also heavy ones, and wear them on their sleeves.
Watching the movie, you can see that Craig not only bruises, but he also pains. He doesn’t just shiver with muscle; he shivers with the lines etched on his face by years of witnessing horrible events. And what a face it is – more than his body, which is attractively dressed up in a variety of outfits ranging from brief underwear to tight tuxedos, this Bond’s face is the crowning gem. It has eyes that fire into you, lines that suggest its pain, a grin that warms your heart, a twinkle that few can resist, and tears that flow freely down its cheeks. Craig is inexhaustible for No Time To Die. And it is this that both saves and destroys it.
While we’re still reeling from a pandemic which may or may not have originated in a lab, the plot revolves around genetically modified DNA taken from a “off-the-books” British government laboratory. The project’s massive wickedness (whatever gobbledygook the science) is deafening in its tone deafness. M, played by Ralph Fiennes, even goes so far as to say that “it was never designed to be a weapon of mass destruction.” Do we really want to go?
It’s not just that the film’s geopolitics are poorly thought out. While the UK is desperately clinging to relevance through AUKUS, Britain’s role in saving the globe is more of an absurd hope than anything else. Even as Russia’s influence grows, the film’s presentation of Russia, Japan, and Cuba (and the people who live there) as members of an axis of evil but unimportant in dismantling it is the kind of oversight that better films no longer make.
While Fleabag’s Waller-contribution Bridge’s was intended to elevate Bond to more feminist standards, women remain vital but incomplete in the overall scheme of things. Seydoux reprises her role as Madeline Swann, although her character is reduced to an almost aggravating level of domesticity. The main change in the film is that the new 007 is a woman and is black. Lynch, on the other hand, is dressed awkwardly in pantsuits, his hand tucked uneasily into a pocket, as if trying to fill ‘that man’s’ shoes. Paloma (Aramas) as a lady who is unfettered. In a plunging neckline, a slit-to-thigh dress, and stilettos, the captivating Aramas (alongside Craig, she crackled similarly in Knives Out) floors a Cuba battle sequence, but all you can see is her brilliant smile. No one can stand up to it, not even Bond, who is yearning for love (and he is truly pining here).
Then there’s the insipid villains, such as Malek, who has a malformed visage and wears kimono-like robes, and Waltz, who makes a brief Hannibal Lecter-like cameo. The world was DNA-killed by one of them using the other. It’s one way sometimes, then the other. When Malek’s Lyustifer Safin tries to spin it as though he and Bond are two halves of the same distorted mirror, he merely adds to the incoherence of the concept.
There’s also the climactic set piece, which takes place on an island with endless passageways, mute minions toiling in poisonous water pools, the world’s data at the fingertips of a completely absurd Russian scientist, and so on. After a near-perfect confrontation in a misty woodland and some spectacular vehicle chases, particularly through an ancient Italian city, the action movie unfortunately makes its way there.
Craig, on the other hand, is a unique individual. When the dust settles (and there’s a lot of dust to settle), when the sun sets (it’s a beautiful one), when it’s time to make the call (and he’s had to make a lot of calls), his Bond stands tall and strong, little and defenseless; all-too-knowing, much-too-uncertain — you can call him James, just James.