No Time To Die (2021)
No Time To Die is three different films in one. That's why this is a very mixed review.
It's 2 hours and 43 minutes that challenge the patience and attitude of the viewer. It's a long haul.
The opening 20 minute pre-credit sequence is terrific. It's lean and mean. It has energy and is potent.
The opening aerial shot shows why this movie should be seen in a theater. Linus Sandgren (who won an Oscar for La La Land, 2016) effectively uses cinematography of the various settings that have spacious grandeur. He captures that.
Director Cary Joji Fukunaga is new to the Bond franchise. He has previously served as a camera operator as well as a director, so he has a good eye for visuals.
The main portion of No Time To Die sets out to redefine 007. James Bond (Daniel Craig) has left MI6, and settled down in Jamaica. He has a positive romantic relationship with Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux).
The old Bond seems to appear when he meets CIA agent and friend Felix Leiter (Jeffery Wright). Leiter wants Bond to join him to try to stop a villainous threat of incredible dimension. Bond at first refuses, but then he agrees.
Bond also rejects Madeleine, who he feels betrayed him. The old Bond is back on the hunt. But he is a changing Bond in a changing world.
James Bond - 007 - is a character who has had inviolate qualities. He's been an anti-hero, strong-willed, and iconoclastic. A man's man, and a lady's man.
No Time To Die shakes his image. The film reminds us that it's 2021. We are introduced to another 007. Hold on to your 2021 horses - the Bond doppelganger is a black woman (Lashana Lynch). 007 is now a female. I guess if James accepts her, we should. But it's a stretch.
And Q (Ben Whishaw) doesn't just mean Quartermaster. He's also gay.
Although James Bond shows some of the traditional characteristics, he's softened and seldom in control.
One of the problems is that No Time To Die has four screenwriters. Three wrote the story, and the three are joined on the screenplay by comedian Phoebe Waller-Bridge (known for Fleabag). Waller-Bridge has said, "Assume your audience is cleverer than you." Not a promising idea.
"Too many cooks spoil...." No Time To Die could be titled James Bond Visits the Kitchen Sink. No Time To Die begins as a killer souffle, throws in a lot of ingredients, and falls somewhat flat. It's overcooked.
At times the screenplay seems like an Agatha Christie plot - jammed with characters that flagrantly bump into each other.
The film is at its best when it is most human. When it relies on humanity, it soars. But humanity is in short supply.
A scene that has humanity and style is when Bond visits Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) in confinement. Waltz, as usual, is wonderful. He is an actor who creates vivid personalities, always with wit and intelligence.
I imagine Phoebe Waller-Bridges may have contributed to that memorable, piquant scene. It's scenes such as this that give the film life.
Daniel Craig is solid as the faltering Bond. About half of his romantic scenes with Lea Seyoux work. But she's no Diana Rigg.
Lashanna Lynch is passable as Nomi. But I know 007, and she's no 007.
Billy Magnussen, an American actor, is miscast as Logan Ash, Leiter's supposed partner.
Rami Malek plays Safin, who is not among the memorable Bond villains.
One thing action filmmakers don't seem to care about is redundancy. The last half hour of No Time To Die is teeming with redundant action. If you've seen 100s of people blown away ad nauseum throughout a film, the same shots repeated in the last part have no impact.
They've turned action dull. There's no excuse for that. It's lazy filmmaking.
I don't want to count the corpses. I just want the corpses to count.
In No Time To Die, James Bond changes. The last portion of No Time To Die is disconcerting. It changes the tone of the whole series.
Something precious is lost.
Maybe that's the appropriate theme for 2021.