No Time to Die (2021)
"No Time to Die" stars Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, and Ralph Fiennes. Releasing on October 8, 2021, the film has James Bond searching for a missing scientist and facing off against a new threat.
The film is directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, who also directed "Sin Nombre", "Jane Eyre", and "Beasts of No Nation". It is the 25th installment in the James Bond film series. It has been one heck of a journey for Daniel Craig when it comes to 007. It has its share of highs and its share of lows, but in the end, it helped put Craig on the Hollywood map, similar to what the franchise has done for the other actors like Pierce Brosnan and Sean Connery. But like all of the other journeys, all things must come to an end. The Daniel Craig era of James Bond has brought a side that no one has expected to see from the famous character. Not only that, but it also formed an interconnected story arc that explores Bond's early days as an MI6 agent. This year, that arc is finally reaching its conclusion with the latest installment that could prove to be Bond's biggest mission yet. I hadn't gotten into the long-running franchise until I watched "Skyfall" almost a decade ago. That film is still one of the best installments in the Daniel Craig era, in my opinion. Since then, I have been following the recent installments in James Bond's cinematic series of adventures. If you're wondering why I haven't watched the older ones, that's the story for another time. Right now, let's enjoy the fact that Daniel Craig's swan song is finally here after so many delays due to the pandemic. Was the film able to cap off the story arc that started with 2006's "Casino Royale", or was it a bloated mess that tarnishes the famous spy's reputation? Let's find out.
The story is set after the events of 2015's "Spectre", where James Bond (Craig) left active service with MI6 and broke up with Madeleine Swann (Seydoux) following her betrayal. Now retired in Jamaica, Bond is approached by CIA agent Felix Leiter (Wright) to help him track down Valdo Obruchev (David Dencik), a scientist who is kidnapped from an MI6 laboratory. Obruchev is responsible for developing "Project Heracles", a bioweapon full of nanobots that can lethally affect a target's specific DNA. Knowing how deadly this bioweapon can be in the wrong hands, Bond springs back into action, reunites with his old MI6 allies, including Q (Whishaw) and M (Fiennes), and finds a new partner in the form of a new 007 agent, Nomi (Lynch). He'll have to use every gadget and skill he's got to save the world while also going toe-to-toe with Lyutsifer Safin (Malek), a terrorist leader from Madeleine's past. The most crucial thing to know about "No Time to Die" is that it contains plenty of elements that relate to the previous installments in the Daniel Craig era, mainly 2006's "Casino Royale" and "Spectre". If you choose this film as your first James Bond experience, there's a good chance that you'll be easily confused as to what's going on. So I would highly recommend you watch the other Daniel Craig/James Bond films before you dive into this one. As I mentioned before, the film is designed to be an "epic" conclusion to Bond's journey that began with "Casino Royale", so it makes sense that it raised the stakes not just for the main character but also for those around him, especially Madeleine. However, like many other final chapters, it needed a solid and emotional narrative to earn those stakes. Was it able to accomplish that mission? Yes, but not without a scratch or two. It couldn't quite reach the same heights as "Skyfall" regarding the story and emotional depth. Still, it did deliver an entertaining and well-crafted conclusion that understood what made the previous Bond films spectacular experiences. Cary Joji Fukunaga took over directing duties for the franchise after the departure of Sam Mendes, who helmed the last two installments. This was my first time seeing the director in action as I haven't seen his other works before "No Time to Die". After watching how well the film blends with his vision, it made me wish I had. Fukunaga provided plenty of majesty and thrills in its locations and action regarding the stellar cinematography and production design. More importantly, he made the slow and dramatic scenes as riveting as the shootouts themselves. "No Time to Die" proved to be the longest installment in the franchise with a whopping two hours and 43 minutes, which is just as long as any other action blockbuster to date. Here's hoping you don't drink too much while watching it as I did—worst mistake of my life. The runtime alone can bother those who've grown tired of action films that are as long as waiting at the DMV. However, its decent pacing and Fukunaga's direction managed to compensate for its excessive length. Daniel Craig once again brought life into the unique side of James Bond, both physically and mentally. We've seen Bond struggle with his trauma since "Casino Royale", and seeing him come full circle with his experience was both satisfying and thoughtful. All of that was due to Craig's magnetic performance. Rami Malek also did a swell job with his role as Lyutsifer Safin, proving himself yet again to be one of the most remarkable and talented actors working in Hollywood today. It's hard for me to say if he's better or worse than the other Bond villains since I haven't watched all of the films before "No Time to Die". However, I will say that I was impressed with how formidable he was in terms of his connections to Swann and his motivations. Lashana Lynch made a solid impression for herself as Nomi, and Christoph Waltz was deviously enjoyable as Blofeld. I also thought Ana de Armas was one of my favorite parts of the film. She plays Paloma, A CIA agent who assists Bond in Cuba. While she's not in the movie that much, she did provide some delightful moments in the action and humor. Aside from its runtime and some tiny narrative issues, the only flaw I had with "No Time to Die" was how it ended. Without spoiling anything, I thought the ending was quite fitting and bold considering that it's Craig's last hurrah as the iconic character. Unfortunately, the way it was handled onscreen wasn't as memorable as I thought it would be. It worked in generating some emotion in the characters and the scenario. It's just that I was hoping for it to go all out with this special occasion regarding the main character. It's not a horrible ending, but it is a surprisingly subtle way to conclude this story arc.
Overall, "No Time to Die" has enough gadgets in its pockets to deliver a well-shot and diverting conclusion to Daniel Craig's 007 journey. Its bloated runtime and flawed ending kept it from reaching the same level of quality as "Skyfall" or the other epic finales to specific franchises like "Lord of the Rings" and "Avengers: Endgame". Other than that, this is another suitable chapter in the long-running spy franchise thanks to its cast, Fukunaga's direction, cinematography, and engaging story. It may not be a perfect conclusion, but I can at least say that the six-year wait was worth it, especially for James Bond fans.
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