MOVIE REVIEW – “It never happened to the other guy,” George Lazenby said in a scene in 1969’s Her Majesty’s Secret Service when he played James Bond once – rather unkindly. The same George Lazenby who also only once made James Bond shed a tear. Now Daniel Craig could say the same – about himself. No Time to Die is an emotional 007 and perhaps the slightest “Bond” film of all time.
A personal, subjective confession: I have been a fan of James Bond films since I was a teenager. I started with Sean Connery’s very first film and have watched all of them except for the one in the lead, Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and have read every single one of the Ian Fleming novels and short stories. Apart from Lazenby, I loved all the Bond actors, and each one brought something different to the character. Daniel Craig has been using the code name 007 since 2006. Since the first great Casino Royale, he has given James Bond a darker, more ruthless, grimmer edge that suits his original character in the novel, so his performance was delightful for me. However, what we see now in the emotional, a little drippy and passionate – immensely long – No Time to Die is not James Bond, in my opinion.
From Italy – and everywhere – with love
In the film’s opening sequence, we are right in the middle of a romance in Italy between James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux). And all this while James is still pining for Vesper Lynd, whom he met in Casino Royale. However, events soon pick up, and we find ourselves in the middle of some natural Bond action scenes, with a very well choreographed car chase (details of which we saw in the trailers) and overall, the more sentimental, romantic, “soul-searching” parts are still at a tolerable level and in the right proportion.
The only problem is that after the introductory part of the film, No Time to Die is still characterised by an overabundance of emotional threads, with lots of dialogue and excessive running time. If this film were a romantic spy movie, there would be no significant problem, but this is the latest adventure of James Bond, 007, and often cold and cruel super-spy, who holds women as shields in extreme situations and does not profess his love or affection for them in long dialogues. Even the otherwise talented Daniel Craig cannot cope with this ‘modern’ PC, melodramatic James Bond, who I think is as much a sideshow as the weepy George Lazenby mentioned in my introduction.
Must say it: Daniel Craig’s James Bond in this film is completely out of character.
The script is “stirred, not shaken”
Of course, this is helped because the script is full of illogical twists and turns that are hard to believe, even for a Bond film. I don’t want to spoil too much, so all I want to say is that the isolated, constantly monitored by cameras, SPECTRE leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) is capable of “actions” that would be virtually impossible to carry out – but there’s not much point anyway – only to have ridiculous things happen to him as well. That’s just one example – the film is rife with illogically ill-constructed scenes or hard to believe character motivations.
The megalomaniac Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek) is initially driven by a desire for revenge, and then later by God knows what, because the script hasn’t been able to give him any meaningful motivation for why he is so evil. As much as I think the Oscar-winning Malek is a great actor, we only got to see a very middling main villain, who is not a memorable character beyond his, particularly glowing face. Somehow, he reminds me of a more pale Doctor No. If the new Bond is going to take this more modern, soul-searching line, it’s going to be a traditional, megalomaniacal villain who seems to have remained unchanged since the very first 007 films.
And as for the chemistry between the two leads, Daniel Craig and Léa Seydoux, it’s as if it doesn’t exist, which wouldn’t be a problem in itself if the film didn’t rely on it so much. Léa Seydoux was a much more developed, exciting character in Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding, and she didn’t shine in this role.
Finally, I have to mention the “other 007” that was much talked about in the press earlier: the Nomi played by Lashana Lynch, who was surprisingly dull and unlikeable, although I was expecting at least another Halle Berry.
Sure, I get it, as it’s been written about a hundred times: this current world is no longer fit for a macho, challenging, often ruthless 007. What we need is a James Bond with psychological and love problems, “sharing is caring”, with constant self-reflection and soul-searching. But then we shouldn’t have forced the usual James Bond panels on him: the megalomaniacal, world-dominating (or whatever – it’s not clear what Malek’s character wanted), mad arch-villain, his “henchman”, with whom the obligatory (here not very punchy) fight scenes had to be ticked off. For, if you force these two directions in a single film – and in a highly long work where hardly anything happens for over an hour – you end up with a very mediocre movie, not worthy of one of the most entertaining franchises of all time.