After several delayed release dates, the last of the Daniel Craig era Bond films was released in mid-October 2021 aptly named No Time To Die (no time to release, apparently). The James Bond/007 film franchise is historic, to say the least and it has had some serious highs (Goldfinger, Skyfall) and some serious lows (Octopussy, Tomorrow Never Dies). But where does the newest film fall?
The Conservative Critic will ask: Is it entertaining? Does it have artistic/intellectual value? And of course: Is it liberal propaganda?
The Conservative Critic Meter Check: No Time To Die
Overall Rating: Good; Sort of good.
No Time To Die lives up to the 007 franchise expectations and delivers a fun, familiar, and often nostalgic spy-thriller that any fan will enjoy. It suffers from problems familiar to the franchise such as confusing character additions and a struggle to find a tone, not to mention the total lack of chemistry between Bond and his leading lady. No Time To Die also has the unique flaw of being far too long.
No Time To Die follows James Bond in the direct aftermath of his previous film, Spectre and the plot is interconnected with the plot of the prior film so much so that viewers would almost have had to have seen Spectre in order to understand the movie (but not quite). In true “Daniel Craig era” fashion, this time it’s personal as James tries to thwart a masked villain from his love’s past and also of course, save the world with some help from friends old and new.
Even with a few issues the movie succeeds in giving audiences what they came for and overall it is a decent film. They can’t all be Skyfall.
Is it entertaining?
Rating: Fun but so much time to die, actually
The movie has sexy locations, explosions, and assassination attempts: all within the first ten minutes. No Time To Die takes viewers on a bit of a chaotic thrill ride crossing many oceans and facing foes of all scope and scale.
No Time to Die succeeds in a big way on tension. Viewers clasp their hands and cover their mouths anticipating the violence that is certain to come. Anticipation is half the fun when it comes to a thrill and No Time To Die fundamentally understands this mission. The writers artfully interwove characters with extreme vulnerability with essentially the unbreakable in a way that feels a bit like dangling your mother’s china from your pinky while walking over marble floors. All danger all the time.
If not for its nearly 3-hour runtime, it would be an even more entertaining Bond movie. There are some transitional scenes that really could have been cut and a few additional characters that if removed could have streamlined the plot, cut down the time, and added to the overall enjoyment.
Does it have artistic/intellectual value?
Rating: Highs and lows
The cinematography and combat choreography as always are spot on for the film and no expense seems to be spared on vehicle combat, explosives, and other special effects not to mention scenic locations. The film for the most part works because of the sheer value of inputs.
However, the film needed some serious editing. It was almost as if the writers were given total carte blanche and no one told them no even one time. There are way too many characters, some of whom only showed up in the movie for ten minutes and were never heard of again or necessary to the story. For example, the sassy new CIA agent, Paloma played by Ana De Armas (Blade Runner 2049, Knives Out) who Bond ultimately meets at a glamorous Caribbean party for a special assignment. Not only is she a character draped in more misogyny (yes I used that word, but sometimes it’s really not just a complaint from blue-haired protestors) than she was clothing; but she has no particular relevance to the story. She should have been cut along with a full hour of the film. Way too much time is spent in literal transit or dealing with inconsequential characters or subplots that go on to be unexplored.
Further, Daniel Craig as James Bond and Lea Seydoux (Mission Impossible, Midnight in Paris) as Madeleine have absolutely no chemistry at all. One of the major critical responses to Spectre was the sudden onset love affair between Bond and Madeleine which made no sense because the characters shared no chemistry or history which would cause them to fall in love. Madeleine isn’t treated like a classic “Bond girl” meant to be a fling, she is supposed to be a serious love interest. So why would the film runners bring forward a plot flaw from their last film into their current film? Unclear. Additionally, even though Seydoux is 36 and Craig is 53 making their age gap a tiny 17 years, on-screen Seydoux looks about 20 years old and Craig looks exactly 53. So the romance reads very creepy and almost actually a little pathetic. The goal seems to be to make Madeleine seem as vulnerable as possible to achieve the tension necessary for the plot. The effect is James Bond broken-hearted over a teenager he was internationally trafficking. None of this would matter nearly as much as it does except that the love story is central to the plotline and very present for the entirety of the movie.
There are also some serious motivation problems throughout the whole story. Many times audiences are left wondering why on earth a character would make the choice they make. Particularly, but not exclusively, in the instance of the villains. “Master evil plans” seem to have a lot of holes in them which may have worked in the 1960s era Bond movies but in 2021 needs to be shored up to match the more serious tone of the modern films.
Finally a minor grievance, the opening song was not great. Sung by Billie Eilish in her signature haunting alto, it fell pretty flat. Especially compared to Skyfall. I will not stop bringing up how great Skyfall was because all of Daniel Craig’s installments now live in its shadow.
Is it liberal propaganda?
Rating: Mixed bag, but guns
No Time To Die was a little all over the place on its ideological identity. With its celebration of traditional masculinity, America and gun-fighting the overall effect is a lean to the right. However, in an effort to either modernize or appeal to a left-leaning audience (or perhaps critical pool) the movie makes some odd choices that don’t actually achieve their progressive goals.
First, without spoiling, the movie makes a plot decision that totally departs from the tradition of the films. The lack of interest in tradition is definitely something seen more on the left. But also there is a scene where Bond goes to Q’s house for help and Q is setting up for a date. Q mentions that his date is with a man revealing that Q is gay. I can tell that the filmmakers thought this revelation was bold and brave and they were hoping for a pat on the back from the LGBT activist community. Instead, it was very odd and contrived and weirdly shoehorned into the story. No one cares if Q is gay or isn’t gay and his off-screen boyfriend is of no consequence whatsoever to the story. In fact, in the history of Bond movies really only Bond’s sexuality is of any particular importance to the story. If Q is gay that’s wonderful, but who cares? It’s insulting to the LGBT community and viewers’ intelligence to make a random character gay in the movie for no reason to score some kind of societal points. Representation matters, but not if it’s phony bologna.
No Time to Die is a good watch and worth a theater trip. It’s a high-tension Bond story with more right than it is wrong. Not a fail for the franchise but also not it’s absolute best.