Due to the pandemic, we had to wait a few years longer for the final Daniel Craig as James Bond film. Did that lead to heightened expectations that the film could never have lived up to? Maybe. Or is it just a case of fans never going to be happy with his final Bond film no matter what? Who can say? What I can say with a certain amount of certainty is that this is definitely not the strongest of the Craig/Bond films.
Back in 2006 film fans were introduced to the latest James Bond. He was another British actor in the form of Daniel Craig. In the beginning I am sure many thought it a strange choice. While Craig was a big star on star he had not yet made a name for himself on film having just had smallish roles in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Elizabeth. But he quieted critics with a great turn in his debut Bond film, Casino Royale. His was a different Bond. Less debonair with his shorter, stockier frame and blonde hair and blue eyes. He also brought to screen a colder James Bond.
2021 brought the last of his putting on the tuxedo and spitting out the one liners while saving the world as 007 films. No Time to Die is directed and co-written by Cari Joji Fukunaga (Jane Eyre – 2011 and television’s True Detective), which is quite a departure for him. Nothing in his IMDB director roster would indicate he was prepared to take on such an action heavy and large scale film.
Bond. James Bond (Daniel Craig). Has retired from being England’s 007 and is traveling the world with the woman he loves. James and Madeleine (Lea Seydoux – Blue is the Warmest Color, Spectre) are in Italy. Love and warm sunshine are in the air. Between all the romance, Madeleine has convinced James to release himself from the guilt he feels about Vesper Lynd’s death by going to visit her grave. While there he is pulled back into his former life in the blink of an eye.
Or more accurately, in the time of a single explosion. He has survived but is being pursued by killers. James believes that Madeleine has betrayed him. This leads him to turning away the woman he loves and returning to his life of…tuxedos, gunfights, narrowly escaping death, beautiful women, and saving the world.
James is back working with his old CIA friend Felix (Jeffrey Wright – from television’s Westworld) and exchanging barbs with M (Ralph Fiennes – Schindler’s List, The Grand Budapest Hotel), using gadgets devised by Q (Ben Whishaw – Paddington 2, The Danish Girl), being worried about by Moneypenny (Naomie Harris – Skyfall, Moonlight), battling the bad guys with a beautiful woman (Ana de Armas – Knives Out, Blade Runner 2049) as well as foiling the elaborate plans of baddies like Safin (Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody, Dolittle) and old Spectre foe, Blofeld (Christoph Waltz – The French Dispatch, Alita: Battle Angel).
Right off the bat, this is no Casino Royale or Skyfall. But it is better than Quantum of Solace and Spectre. So it sits firmly in the middle in regards to quality of Daniel Craig as James Bond films. We all wanted Craig to go out if blaze of glory, but that is not the case. Why? Well, there are a couple of reasons. But mostly because they seem to have forgotten all the things which made millions fans of James Bond movies.
Yes, old foes Spectre are back, but that is not enough. While Blofeld was a cool enemy, Safin is no way near as scary or worthy enough. I do not fault Rami Malek for this, though he rather stylized way of speaking is grating at times. This is the fault of the director/script. The main bad guy really plays a rather small role here. Plus we are never really given a reason as to why he is attempting to kill millions. Adds up to a rather paper thin and non intimidating bad guy. In James Bond films there has been a long tradition of delightful baddies. Safin will not go down as one.
Most of the film is spent getting up close and personal with James Bond. Like we never have before. Seems almost like a different character as a result. Not sure we needed to know what Bond is feeling. I don’t think we even need to know that Bond has feelings. Not necessary with this character.
I know this was Craig’s goodbye but did it really have to be 2 hours and 43 minutes? Way too long! A serious turn in editing room is in order. Things needed to be tightened up. Too long even for the biggest of Bond fans. You know this is going to be a bit bloaty when it takes about 30 minutes to get to the opening credits. Yikes!
This was not a bad film. Just not exactly the one I had hoped for.