JAMES BOND IN “NO TIME TO DIE”

A THRILLING NEW TWIST FOR JAMES BOND IN “NO TIME TO DIE”

A Film Review by Tim Riley

 

NO TIME TO DIE” RATED PG-13 Anyone who has watched the James Bond films over the course of time has a pretty good idea of how the story line will play out when Agent 007 goes up against the latest megalomaniac villain.With Daniel Craig in his fifth and final appearance as James Bond, “No Time To Die” picks up where “Spectre” left off, allowing for the spy’s romantic relationship with Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) to mellow his usual sexual escapades.With age and maturity, Craig’s Bond is no longer a womanizer, unlike Sean Connery’s apparent eagerness to bed any attractive female, including the distaff adversaries he hoped to convert to the right side.

Even though Bond loves Madeleine, he has trust issues that go back to his love for Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) in “Casino Royale,” who ultimately betrayed him. While the affair with Madeleine may be fraught with wariness, Bond is more restrained when it comes to the opposite sex. Where once the James Bond films played as separate standalone adventures, linked by characters both malevolent and benign, the Daniel Craig series has unfolded as a unified whole. “Skyfall,” for one, revealed important aspects of the double-O agent’s early life.

No Time To Die” begins in the aftermath of 2015’s “Spectre” where the film’s conclusion saw Bond and Madeleine drive away in the iconic Aston Martin DB5. While the film opens with a flashback to Madeleine’s troubled childhood, Bond first makes his appearance when he and Madeleine are visiting a rocky, hilltop city perched atop southern Italy. During the lengthy pre-credits sequence, the sojourn to Italy is charged with peril when the pair are trapped by an army of henchmen determined to kill Bond. What ensues is an extended action sequence with the Aston Martin delivering the necessary firepower.

When the dust settles on the ambush and subsequent shootout, Bond figures that Madeleine betrayed him and bids her farewell at a train station with the notion they will never see each other again.

Five years later, Bond has retired from MI6 and is living a blissfully peaceful single life in Jamaica, which is soon upended by the arrival of his old CIA pal Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) seeking help for a mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist. Leiter and his associate Logan Ash (Billy Magnussen), whose awkward grin suggests something more sinister, dispatch Bond to Cuba, where he contacts CIA agent Paloma (Ana de Armas), so slinky in a black dress that she looks like a model.

There’s more to Paloma that good looks; she’s an actual dynamo in stiletto heels, punching and kicking goons with as much efficiency as Bond. Unfortunately, her screen time is limited to an explosive evening in Havana at a lavish ball hosted by the evil SPECTRE organization.Meanwhile, there’s a new Agent 007 in Nomi (Lashana Lynch), an equal match to James Bond who is not about to give her license-to-kill digits to the retired veteran, until possibly convenient to do so.

Maybe it’s a matter of convenience, but the chief villain Safin (Rami Malek), a terrorist bent on destroying at least half of the globe with a deadly toxin, has a link to Madeleine that is anything but benevolent.While his old boss M (Ralph Fiennes) seems cagey, Bond gets an assist from Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and gadget-whiz Q (Ben Whishaw) for the inevitable showdown at Safin’s remote lair and its underground laboratory with bio-weapons that must be destroyed to save the world.

At one point, Bond meets up again with his old foe Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), now caged like Hannibal Lecter but lacking necessary menace. It can also be said that Safin is a lightweight antagonist; his mechanical, muted manner does not convey the intended threat of real danger.Inevitably, film buffs are likely to continue the debate over the finest actor as Agent 007 and the best of the official twenty-five films (not counting Peter Sellers and David Niven in 1967’s “Casino Royale” and Connery’s return in “Never Say Never Again”).

Nostalgia and an appreciation for the Ian Fleming novels may dictate Sean Connery remains the reigning champ. Arguably, “From Russia With Love,” the most pure spy story with minimal gadgets, and “Goldfinger” will rank at the top of the best entries.Daniel Craig, for all of his weariness and emotional baggage never carried by the likes of Connery, deserves a spot near the top, if for no other reason than his first outing in “Casino Royale” was so spectacularly thrilling.

No Time to Die,” which has emotional parallels to “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” is a fitting ending to the Daniel Craig era, with surprises that should not be spoiled.A thrilling yet disturbing twist to the climax of “No Time To Die” is certain to engage some passionate discourse for the fan base. One can only wonder what will be the next character arc for a new Bond.