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  No Time to Die Bond Goes Viral
Year: 2021
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Stars: Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux, Rami Malek, Ralph Fiennes, Lashana Lynch, Ana de Armas, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Rory Kinnear, Billy Magnussen, Christoph Waltz, David Dencik, Dali Benssalah, Lisa Dorah-Sonnet, Coline Defaud
Genre: Drama, Action, Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Some years ago, when Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) was a little girl spending her days looking after her alcoholic mother and waiting for her agent father to return while they stayed in the isolation of Norway, a man arrived wearing a mask with the express intention of murdering them both in revenge for what Madeleine's father had done to his family. Through a complicated set of circumstances, this mystery man ended up saving her from falling under the ice on the nearby lake, so now he feels she owes him something. She now is the romantic partner of ex-British Secret Service agent James Bond (Daniel Craig), so what will bring him back to the world of espionage?

Craig had expressed his desire to get out of his James Bond contract a number of times over the years since he took the role for the much-respected Casino Royale in 2006, but nobody seemed to know whether he was joking or not. Considering the denouement of No Time to Die, it had been so well-telegraphed that it is difficult to believe anyone was not expecting at least something highly dramatic to occur, though the frequent allusions to the outlier in the Bond series, On Her Majesty's Secret Service may have been an attempt to throw the audience off the scent, but its effects have haunted the franchise ever since: was it better to embrace it rather than ignore it outright?

Evidently it was, and after many delays thanks to the pandemic, this was one of the movies that showed a confidence that audiences would return in droves for a title that they really wanted to watch; Craig, despite the constant public uncertainties about the hero's relevancy that had made up an increasingly tired conversation about Bond since the nineteen-nineties, had proved to be the right man for the job, a tough guy whose masculinity was tempered with a concern that the world did not need him anymore when in fact it needed him more than ever. It was a tricky tightrope to walk, but you could not deny that while some entries had been warmer received than others, he had been an excellent choice.

That relevancy debate was tackled head on with No Time to Die, but as it had been bubbling under throughout the leading man's tenure, you might think maybe it was time to admit that audiences genuinely liked the Bond formula and were happy not only to pay good money to see it, but also to watch the countless spy flick knock-offs, some more accomplished than others, that littered the movie schedules even around half a century after he had made his big screen debut. This consciousness that seemed to ask, "how long can this last?" may come across as false modesty for a series that was still making the top ten of the year in an era of Marvel juggernauts, but it was the sort of thing that the moviegoers liked to mull over, it was irresistible not to have an opinion on a Bond movie, such a reliable conversation starter as it was.

The twist ending that was not much of a twist, even with the even less surprising "James Bond Will Return" legend at the close of the credits, came across as one more try at staying in that cultural conversation, and my goodness it succeeded, whether you loved it or hated it. Other elements, such as Lashana Lynch as the new 007, were spikily amusing, though were more in service to keeping this in the headlines than anything useful to the plot, and the sense that there was as much devoted to the publicity machine as there was to telling a rattling good yarn was never far away. This self-consciousness could have developed into a meta style of storytelling as so many other long-running franchises were lapsing into at this stage, and you may be pondering whether this instalment did not actually do that, with Phoebe Waller-Bridge much trumpeted in the writing team.

But the near-three hours running time never dragged, the Bond stunt team were as talented as they ever were, the ensemble supporting Craig had real personality, even Rami Malek as the emotionless instigator of a potential deadly pandemic, and it only suffered when trying to make us cry, which seemed out of place in this brand. Perhaps the trouble was, Craig never had as good a love interest as Eva Green first time out and Madeleine would always be second best. Indeed Ana de Armas had more potential as Bond's match as a Cuban agent he meets when temporarily working for the CIA, but perceiving she was so strong she was in danger of overbalancing the movie, she was used sparingly; she nearly stole the show, however. And she was also a ray of sunshine in a yarn that director Cory Joji Fukunaga was unafraid to allow to take a turn for the bleak, yes, the quips were present, but the weight of death was lying heavier over this Bond than any since George Lazenby also tried to prevent a deadly pandemic back in 1969. One hoped future Bonds would be less apologetic, but the admirable Craig deserved to leave on his own terms - and still talked about across the world. Music by Hans Zimmer, incorporating John Barry.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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