NO TIME TO DIE : MOVIE REVIEW
2 STARS OUT OF 5 ( AVERAGE )
DIRECTOR : CARY JOJI FUKUNAGA
CAST : DANIEL CRAIG, LASHANA LYNCH, LEA SEYDOUX, RAMI MALEK
DANIEL CRAIG – THIS IS NO WAY TO GO !
‘No Time To Die’ finished filming in 2019, the year before the Coronavirus pandemic changed the world we live in. It is very interesting how the story more or less presaged the prospect of biologic micro-agents upending the world. Bond, true to style, does a heck of a lot here to salvage the world’s hide. In an ideal world, some whistle-blower in the CIA would have informed Bond about how Wuhan was operating its virology circus. Bond would have swum under the China sea and secretly reached the shores. Then after a sizzling session with a Gong Li-type, he would have infiltrated the Institute, destroyed the Coronavirus and saved the world before the pandemic began. But in the real world, the real Bond was a gain-of-function virus-research funding pact between USA and China, the pandemic continues to rage, the real superheroes are vaccine scientists and healthcare professionals many of whom have sacrificed their lives, while nobody, hero or zero, has the guts to punish The Great China which has reamed Australia for speaking up and silenced Peng Shuai for good measure.
That was the prologue. Film review now begins :
Style, thrill, sex appeal, craftiness, a memorable super-villain or even a memorable Bond – none of these are in adequate evidence in the last James Bond avatar of the semi-great Daniel Craig. What an iconic shame ! Whether the film was made with $ 250 million (its actual cost of production) or $ 25 million (“ The American”?), Craig could have gone out in a storm of magnificence but that will have to happen in an alternative universe now. ‘No Time To Die’s under-performing storyline simply does not have the dazzling imagination of the best 007 thrillers or the emotional wave of the select few Bond scorchers. This then becomes a highly expensive action flick that trots the globe from one prosaic plot point to another, before an ending that breaks the heart but that heart has already been deadened… So you just ignore the shards and walk out with distant memories of what larks ! there could have been of the stained glass tableaux.
Pic’s end drives the bullet-proof, machine-gun-firing Aston Martin home about one sobering realization. It may seem like no-brainer cinematic logic in general terms, but without top directors to guide him to the legend ( Martin Campbell in the greatest of ‘em of all – ‘Casino Royale’, Sam Mendes in ‘Skyfall’ and ‘Spectre’), Craig falls like a Kryptonite-kissed marionette. Evidence : Fukunaga’s uninspired ‘No Time to Die’ and Marc Foster’s mercenary ‘Quantum of Solace’.
You’d expect the very first sequence to bring an avalanche crashing down but the snowy prologue doesn’t really rupture the ice.
Minor mercy then that the best sequence in the entire movie follows next. In cobble-stoned picturesque Italy, Bond gets the shake-up of his life, followed by a scintillating chase sequence and then some – it’s the kind of protection that would have made Sonny Corleone live to die another day. The scene also pulsates with time-collapsing double currents of suspected betrayal. It also means that pic unwittingly wraps up its juiciest meat in the first leg.
After that point, the villain, whoever it was, nailed the script-writer by his and her scruff and blew their brains out. The director then had to pitch in to pencil in the rest of the stuff and the damage is sadly on full display (Director Cary Joji Fukunaga is one of the Co-Writers).
James Bond has retired from MI6 (his smartest decision by far) and is living it up in Jamaica, with natural walk-in showers from a little tropical waterfall on his private pad, electronic drawers that securely lock his guns while the life-saving panel of drinks sit ready access on the open table. Unfortunately his government retirement plan is shot to hell when his CIA pal Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright afflicted with the dysfunctional acting bug that has brought down everyone here) informs him that they have to re-capture a Russian scientist Vlado Obruchev. This fellow has developed a bioweapon that sneaks nanobots into one’s body. The nanobots can get into anyone’s body the same way a flu can but they are lethal only if they have been coded to the target’s DNA, otherwise the victim is unaffected : a neat, highly selective weapon.
The problem is that Obruchev soon lands into the custody of Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek), a terrorist leader who can now leverage this deadly weapon of mass destruction. The problem for us actually is that Safin, for a super-villain, is as chilling as a pock-marked dormouse, and his scripted persona is woefully short on dark imagination. Safin’s end-game, admittedly, is truly Satanic in its damnation but it is that finishing curse that is the core of cackling hell, whereas the villain’s demeanour and aura, to the very end, remain highly forgettable.
The gals in the flick are an altogether more interesting set. Audaciously, on more levels than one, the new 007 is a Black lady – Nomi, played by Lashana Lynch. Lynch looks like she can do action alright, but perhaps paralyzed by fear that she might do something to upstage the white man, we hardly see any real sparks fly from this new 007. What’s the fun in the script having the balls to have Nomi be the Ultimate Hero and yet do nothing with that power ?
I have to be the racist prick here and report that the most winsome lass is the one we only see fleetingly – Paloma, a CIA agent played by Ana de Armas who’s dressed to kill, with a seductive hairstyle, and an endearing college smile (“ I’ve got 3 weeks training ! “). Lea Seydoux returns as Madeleine Swann and Bond’s love interest, and to Seydoux’s credit, she’s more persuasive in this picture as a lady of poignancy, conflict and attraction.
With a child in tow ( despite the little girl’s uncanny blue eyes, Madeleine tells Bond – ‘She’s not yours’), Our Good Father James is in a unique fix here, and he doesn’t seem to mind it. Smooching young sirens is not the best look especially when you have an ex-partner with a four year old daughter in the background. There could have been some truly moving scenes – unseen or unheard of in the entire pantheon - of Bond walking and smiling through pastoral paradise with his lady and their daughter. Instead, Bond skins an apple with skills learnt on the job, and deposits ribbons on the little girl’s breakfast plate !
So many barbs fly but almost none stick. A tragedy inside a sinking ship lacks the emotional bite it should have had. Bond and family’s speedy exit and outmanoeuvering of marading SUVs, with a finishing fight in cool misty forest is some solid fighting but you’ve seen this in a thousand other movies. The glider which streamlines into an underwater craft is a cool touch but the Super Villain’s Secret Island Lair is a crashing bore, filled with losers raking the waters. Where’s the killer shark when you need one ? The gunfight therein is so pointless I wanted to doze off.
Craig’s acting is lacklustre and his overall disinterest shows. After ‘Spectre’, he said ” If I did another Bond movie, it would only be for the money”. We see here that no amount of money, not even $ 25 million as his payment for the movie, can buy memorable acting. Fukunaga fails as director in extracting potentially tremendous acting given the emotional pull in the drama. After the peerless ‘Casino Royale’ and Mendes’ later efforts, it has come to this from Daniel Craig. “I’d rather slash my wrists”, he said when asked at the time of ‘Spectre’s release if he would do another Bond film soon. Nobody will ask him now, and he has all the time in the world.
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