No time to die, with Daniel Craig as James Bond

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Daniel Craig in No time to die.
Photo: United Artists releasing

“That never happened to the other guy.” It could have been George Lazenby’s joke in the opening sequence of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), but it also became the rallying cry of the Daniel Craig era of Bond images, which began with him as an inexperienced and impulsive agent who had just earned his license to kill in Casino Royale (2006) and now ends with him as a thirsty, embittered, hopelessly in love man in No time to die. In retrospect, it looks like the cute recognition of Lazenby, who breaks the fourth wall (apparently on set by the star herself) that her post-Connery turn could be a different Bond has perhaps liberated the series a bit: a Once that line landed, no one had to worry about keeping any kind of consistency between the Bond actors, or even individual films.

Of course, in Craig’s actual cycle, the callbacks, echoes, and straight lines between films were uninterrupted – and not always for the better. At the beginning of No time to die, Bond still mourns Vesper Lynd, his lover and partner of Casino Royale, while committing to a life with Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), the daughter of the murderer and psychiatrist he fell in love with (rather unconvincing) in Spectrum (2015). This new one even opens with an episode from Madeleine’s childhood that she recounted in that previous entry, only now it has been revised to become our introduction to Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek), a psychopath who has lost her mind. life after her entire family was killed by Madeleine’s father, Mr. White.

White was, as you may recall from the previous film, an assassin working for SPECTER, the international criminal organization led by Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), the devious mastermind that Bond made sure to lock up in the end of this photo. Staying true to our modern era of action movies as elaborate soap operas, it also turned out that Blofeld – organ music, please – is Bond’s long-lost adopted brother. No, that definitely never happened to other guys.

Indeed, the central project of the Daniel Craig era could easily be seen as an experiment to see how one could make these films without looking like Bond while still being able to call them Bond films. The experience reached its apotheosis in No time to die, which opens with Bond in love, then moves on to Betrayed Bond, then retired Bond, then Bond working for the CIA, before bringing Bond back into the fold of MI6, where it turns out he’s actually been. replaced by a new 007, Nomi, played by Lashana Lynch. (If you think these are spoilers, note that I didn’t say anything about Bond [redacted], his discovery of [redacted], or the dramatic [redacted]s of [redacted], [redacted], and [redacted].)

There are opportunities here, a lot of them were missed: The two 007s have a playful rivalry at first, and we want the script to showcase more of their repartee. Lynch certainly seems to be playing, with her character handling Bond with just the right combination of admiration and annoyance. And we know Craig has some solid comedic chops, as evidenced by some of his previous outings and the lightness he brought to, uh, Steven Spielberg. Munich (2005). At the very least, Lynch’s 007 seems like a more interesting character for Bond to hang out with than Madeleine; the lack of chemistry between Seydoux and Craig really creaks this time around, which wouldn’t be a problem if the film wasn’t built around James Bond’s passionate love for this woman. (Craig and Eva Green had it in spades in Casino Royale, which is why we can still buy the fact that Bond visits Vesper’s grave, four films later.)

An interesting note on MacGuffin (albeit a refreshing Bondian) of the image: Everyone is looking for a bioweapon that uses nanobot technology to target specific individuals and anyone else who shares their DNA, and that Safin clearly has evil plans. We all remember that No time to die was scheduled to open in the spring of 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit. News of the release delay was one of the first signs that much of the global entertainment industry was on the verge of shutting down, along with just about everything else. One wonders what it would have been like in the middle of 2020 to watch a James Bond film about what was essentially a deadly virus that was released around the world.

Some wondered at the time why this potential blockbuster wasn’t just being sold to a streaming service so we could all watch it from the comfort of our homes while we were doing the dishes or folded laundry or on Twitter or something else. If you see No time to die on the big screen, you will have your answer. Director Cary Joji Fukunaga not only has a formidable eye, but also an intuitive knowledge of where to place the camera for maximum impact – whether it’s inside a bulletproof car that’s being strafed by. what looks like a hundred gunmen, or a bird’s eye view of Ana de Armas (playing a novice CIA agent, a brief highlight of the movie) spinning in a high slit dress knocking down bad guys, or a long take following Bond in a stairwell as he weaved his way through a small army of thugs, or simply an aerial shot hovering over the dizzying heights of an Italian mountain town. Partly shot on IMAX, No time to die is clearly meant to be seen on a giant screen.

Same this feels a bit anti-Bond, frankly; Despite their huge sets and international locations, these pre-Craig films rarely dealt with grandeur or immersion. (I think I watched most of them on airplanes first.) At times the director seems to take us on a journey through the non-Bond action landscape – a Black Knight sequence here, a Fast and furious sequence there, a Road of fury sequence there, a Hanna sequence there, to say nothing of the Impossible mission teamwork style we get when the two 007s start working together. (there is even a Thesilenceofthelambs so conspicuously – and perhaps inadvertently – wacky moment that the image briefly begins to make it seem like it’s a polish the Wayans Brothers avoids becoming an elaborate, albeit too long and expensive, parody of all the movies. gender.)

With all its links to the previous film, No time to diethe biggest failure is probably the fact that he seems to think Spectrum had a compelling story. But it’s also kind of a journey for the Craig Bonds. They extract their pound of flesh. To move on to the next action sequence, we often have to witness another endless talk or chat with the villain about how we are both really the same, you and me. Craig has neither the ability nor the will to dismiss such gossip with a raised eyebrow, like, say, Roger Moore might. Craig wants engage, move, really tackle the substance of the material; he is, after all, a real actor. Except the material has no substance: it’s still the same tired nonsense, just longer, and all the elements added to give the story and characters emotional weight mostly fail as a result. This in turn makes the image’s forays into real darkness, especially towards the end, ringing rather wrong. Yet in the midst of the squall and attempts at emotional catharses and Strm-und-drang, there’s a real Bond movie in there. No time to die is fun, but only when it dares to be.

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