Thursday, October 14, 2021

No Time to Die

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

After years of being together, what James Bond (Daniel Craig) perceives as a betrayal ends his relationship with Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux). Retiring altogether from the service, he lives a quiet life in the Caribbean trying to move on with his life, but the arrival of a new threat perpetrated by the very organization he used to support lures him out of hiding. He soon discovers that the 007 number has not been retired at all, but rather given to eager newbie Nomi (Lashana Lynch), who is immediately at loggerheads with her predecessor. After some manipulations here and there, all paths lead to a new face, that of Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek), a ghost from Swann’s past whose vengeance has evolved from personal vendetta to global anarchy, reverse-engineering a nanobot-based weapon that can target any programmed DNA. Plunging back into the chaos he left behind, Bond must function as part of a team to save the world, perhaps for the very last time.

Well, that was a rather emotional culmination for a character whose MO in every film has already been too predictable, you wouldn’t think that this swan song would even go there, until it does. Perhaps that’s what makes the twist feel like a real punch after all. In the film’s more than two-hour run following every formula in the 007 rulebook, there are indications all over the place, but basing your call on previous movies, you still expect a surprise twist. But they give you none.

As already mentioned, No Time to Die is a 007 film through and through. All the established peculiarities necessary for a Bond movie are there. Chase scenes and explosions in postcard perfect backdrops such as Matera as your opening sequence? Check. A pop star lending her voice to an original song that serves as the soundtrack as the opening credits run with your visually appealing abstract 007 imagery in the background? Check. Slick gadgets and impressive over-the-top fight scenes? Check.

What’s new, then? As you might have heard, there is a new 007 agent in town, and she’s a woman of African descent. This development definitely raised eyebrows and sparked a heated debate between purists and proponents of diversity in film. Personally, I’d say give Lynch a chance. Her character is not placed there to fill a diversity quota. Instead, you get a good foil that makes you rethink the entire 007 formula as well as your view of James Bond as a character.

Malek’s Safin is 50-50. While the Academy Award winning actor manages to be sinister by being creepy in a rather fragile way, it feels as though his portrayal of the character has reached the level of caricature and a bit one-dimensional despite having his backstory being fleshed out all throughout the film. If they were aiming for a mysterious approach, then it didn't work quite well.

Perhaps my only regret is that I didn’t do the prerequisite marathon of the other 007 films of the Daniel Craig era. I remember watching Spectre and Skyfall but I could barely remember the storylines and the characters anymore. Hey, it’s been more than half a decade, okay? Somehow, I feel as though you’d appreciate Craig’s final bow as James Bond better if you do a quick refresher. Overall, No Time to Die is a suitable conclusion to what has been 15 years of the actor's career. At least now he can finally move on and focus on other roles to expand his acting repertoire.

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