- Movie Rating -

No Time to Die (2021)

| October 15, 2021

It is probably well to note right away that No Time to Die, the 25 James Bond adventure, is not going to please many purists.  Those who have picked and prodded through every nook and cranny of this long-running series, or those who view it as comfort food, are going to walk away with mixed feelings.  I tend to rest somewhere in the middle.  I’ve been a Bond fan since I was seven-years-old – my first was The Spy Who Loved Me – and like Star Wars and Batman and Indiana Jones and Rocky and Star Trek – its like an old friend with whom I have developed a set of expectations.

The difference with this new James Bond film is that it tends to go places that his previous adventures have not.  It is rougher and it goes in some directions that I’m still not sure about.  But, to my delight, it was surprising.  This is not a formula Bond picture.  It has a surprisingly emotional arc not just with its story but with Craig’s five-movie tenure.  This is the actor’s last excursion and the apparent intention is to bring the character out of his comfort zones, a big risk to say the least.

The producers realize the problem with Bond.  He came out of a very specific early 60s era that geopolitics, evolving gender roles and the tides of world cinema have had a difficult time acknowledging.  This series always seems to teeter just on the edge of becoming an outdated old fossil, blind the global situation and careless with its portrayals of women as just another bed for our hero to occupy.  Ever since the exit of Roger Moore in 1985, producers have scrambled to figure out how to navigate the real world into Bond’s adventures, often with spotty results.  After all, there’s a box office to consider.

That, in a nutshell, is why I have appreciated the Daniel Craig era.  In this age of reboots, a reassessment is just exactly what Bond has needed and Craig has done very well at adding an all-too human dimension to an otherwise walking, and very outdated, cliché.  His Bond adventures are more than just a free-wheeling jaunt for king and country.  Craig has an upfront vulnerability that seems reasonable.  How does a man who has been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of men keep his sanity?  How does he keep himself alive?  How does he walk away without bullet wounds?  Broken Bones?  A concussion?  Permanent hearing loss?  What about an STD?  You’re not suppose to ask those questions but with Craig you always feel that they are possibilities.

One of the things that I love about No Time to Die is that Bond’s mortality is dead center.  The plot – about SPECTRE’s intent to decimate the world population – almost seems ready and able to overwhelm our hero and he feels it too.  Yes, Bond is a cold-blooded killer, but Craig allows us a sense of empathy.

I am trying to be vague about talking directly about the film.  That’s largely because there is so much here that I cannot reveal.  A lot of surprising developments happen during this 168-minute film and spoilers are always a danger.  Some of the surprises genuinely made me happy, but others left me feeling a little ambivalent.  What I liked was the approach to the character.  Bond is older (Craig is 53) but not so long in the tooth that you worry that he’ll break his hip.  He has an emotional center.  He has a loving relationship with a woman.  Yet, the threads of SPECTRE still hang and there are issues to be dealt with.  As the movie opens, Bond has stepped away from MI6 and is living happily with Madeline Swan, his paramour from Spectre.  But given the fate of Bond’s romantic attachments in the past, long-time fans understand that when he tells his lady love “We have all the time in the world,” it ignites a tension that runs throughout the rest of the film.

The plot itself is bit sticky given the recent world crisis – a plague that will decimate the population.  I know that the movie was written before COVID but it is interesting to have this creaky old series deal with the here and now.  I always appreciate the rare occasions when this series can do that but at the same time it never forgets its roots.  The shadow of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service looms large over this story, up to and including the presence of Louis Armstrong over the closing credits.  It’s a nod without feeling like a coat hook.

The story itself probably doesn’t warrant 168 minutes.  There are long slow patches where you wish that director Cary Joji Fukunaga would speed things up.  And I probably could have done with maybe one or two scenes of Craig’s quiet introspection, and I get that his attachment of Swann is tricky given his profession, but there were moments when the movie seems to stop to consider it and then re-consider it.

I was also not really engrossed in the villain.  Rami Malick is a good actor but he never seems to match Craig in either brute strength or personality, he’s too slight, too muted, too forgettable.  If there’s a problem with the batch of villains during Craig’s tenure as Bond, they come off as creepy rather than threatening.

And then there’s the ending, which leaves me with mixed feelings.  The third act introduces an element that I didn’t expect, and the ending leaves us on a note that can only be called “dangerous” in terms of box office potential.  I appreciate the risk that the producers are taking with this series, though I have to acknowledge that there are safety nets in place.  Craig is done, but the series will continue, apparently with Tom Hardy (who should have played the villain here).  I appreciate what this movie was trying to do and I probably won’t be able to evaluate it until I see where the series goes in the few years.  For now, I liked this movie.  I appreciated this movie.  It’s ending left me shaken, but not quite stirred.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2021) View IMDB Filed in: Action