No Time to Die

Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades

5/5 (1)

“Bond … James Bond.” This is your last chance to hear Daniel Craig utter those words. With “No Time to Die” – the 007 blockbuster opening in theaters this week – the world’s favorite spy hangs up his Walther PPK. This is Craig’s last turn as James Bond.

This is the 27th installment in the series (all but two were made by Eon Productions), spanning six decades and featuring various actors in the role.

With a budget of $250 million, “No Time to Die” is the most expensive James Bond movie ever. This film has been a long time coming. Its original theatrical release was scheduled for November 2019, but got pushed back time and again – until now – due to the COVID pandemic.

Daniel Craig is not my favorite Bond. I remain bonded (pun intended) to Sean Connery. Nevertheless, Craig has served well. He deserves credit for “giving Bond more complexity and dragging him firmly into a new century.”

This is Daniel Craig’s fifth appearance as James Bond.

It’s the third Bond movie for Ralph Fiennes (as M), Ben Whishaw (as Q), Naomi Harris (as Miss Moneypenny), and Jeffrey Wright (as CIA agent Felix Leiter).

Léa Seydoux reprises her role as Bond’s love interest (Madeleine Swann) from the last film. She now has a daughter.

Two-time Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz returns as Bond’s nemesis (Ernst Stavro Blofeld). This is the eighth Bond movie to feature Blofeld’s sinister organization S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion).

Oscar-winner Rami Malek gives us a new baddie (Lyutsifer Safin). Wonderfully creepy and calmly sinister, we learn he has gained control of a bioweapon that uses nanobots that spread like a virus upon touch. An unfortunate McGuffin, given the current worldwide pandemic.

Ana de Armas serves as the film’s prerequisite Bond Girl (a CIA agent named Paloma).

And the introduction of Lashana Lynch (as Nomi, the first-ever female Double-0 spy) is called “a popcorn dropping moment.”

Now in his 50s, Craig is one of the three oldest actors to play James Bond. He says this will be his last appearance. “It’s harder to be fit for the role,” he says. And his wife Rachael Weisz worries about his injuries.

“If you don’t get bruised playing Bond, you’re not doing it properly. I had black eyes, I had cuts, I was bruised, I had muscle strains, I took painkillers,” he says. “I’ve knackered my knee and had surgery. I’ve had my right shoulder reconstructed, my right knee operated on, and my thumb got hurt. But it was part of the job.”

After making “Casino Royale,” Craig insured his body for $9.5 million.

“Craig is far too old for this kind of thing,” argued one critic. “We’re into Roger Moore territory here. It’s ridiculous to see him trying to convince us that he is a tough guy who women adore.”

Craig seemed to agree. “Can you imagine doing another Bond movie?” he said. “I’d rather break this glass and slash my wrist.”

However, in the end, he opted to do this one last wrap-up for a $25 million payday.

As it happens, “No Time to Die” gets a jump on real life. When the film begins, we find that Bond has been retired for five years, relaxing at his home in Jamaica. But the plot is kicked into gear when his old CIA buddy Felix Leiter shows up, asking for his help. How can he say no?

Yes, there’s plenty of action, including a car chase in Italy, bloody fistfights, and a seaplane flying through a web of port terminal H-shaped cranes. This is the third Daniel Craig movie to feature a death-defying motorcycle chase. Bond’s gun-metal gray Aston Martin DB5 makes a welcome return. And there are plenty of gadgets “both improbable and outrageous.”

However, many fans are complaining that the classic action series has been turned into a romance melodrama.

“Bond’s journey is more emotional than previous ones,” observes a fan who got an early showing. “He showcases a range of feelings and emotions from happiness to feeling he’s at the end of his rope (when he’s paralyzed inside the car with Madeleine shouting at him while bullets fly or the idea of accepting he’s past his prime and he isn’t a young athlete anymore), from anger to cold-blooded professionality.”

“Gone are the days where you could just have a fun spy-thriller,” grouses another fan. “These days, the writers feel the need to add in emotional and family drama in all the places that could do without it. They’ve reduced one of the best action franchises into a soap opera.”

Yet, we get a true save-the-world plot. Bond is brought back by MI6 to thwart Blofeld and Safin. And he does that to his own detriment.

The longest Bond movie ever, “No Time to Die” takes its time – a lengthy 2 hours and 43 minutes – to tell the story. The plot has many themes with plenty of surprises. “A shocking thing happens every 10th minute just to make sure that no one falls to sleep,” observed a moviegoer.

One fan calls it, “A thrilling, poignant, surprising, emotional, riveting, funny, painful, and unforgettable send off.”

Another complained, “The film is way too long. The plot is a complete mess, and I didn’t really understand what the villain was doing.”

Still another sees it as “a daring, fearless swan song done right.”

Obviously, not everyone agrees. “Without spoiling this film for anyone, the ending is terrible … It would appear the Bond series is over for some bizarre reason (although the end of the credits does state ‘Bond will return’).

Craig defends his take on James Bond. “What I’m doing is not what Pierce Brosnan was doing, and Pierce wasn’t doing what Roger Moore was doing, or what Sean Connery was doing, or what Timothy Dalton was doing. Things have changed.”

After this movie, yes, they have.

Email Shirrel: srhoades@aol.com

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