One of the most anticipated films of last year, which was delayed multiple times due to the pandemic, finally hit theaters last weekend. “No Time To Die” took a long time to reach our movie screens, and it unfolds over two hours and 45 minutes. For fans of the franchise, it's still a must-see on the big screen.
Daniel Craig starred in another franchise, “Knives Out,” as the hilarious detective, Benoit Blanc, before “No Time To Die” was finally released. So though this is Craig's final outing as the titular James Bond character, it's less painful for the audiences that have grown to love his more emotionally complex spy. Craig's Bond wasn't a cad. He wasn't all love-em-and-leave-em. Even in this final installment, as a retired agent, he's still mourning his lost love, Vesper Lynd, from two movies prior.
With an unusually long prelude that sets up a mystery involving James Bond's current love, Madeleine Swann, “No Time To Die” acts like it has all the time in the world. Indeed, this is a phrase that is repeated twice in the film. When Madeleine asks James to drive faster, he replies that they have all the time in the world. Later, in a more tragic moment, James repeats the line as almost a benediction. It's a line that resonates with Bond fans: “We have all the time in the world” is not just the key line in the screenplay of 1969’s “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” it’s the title of the song performed in the mid-section of that movie by jazz great Louis Armstrong, derived from British composer John Barry’s love theme for the film.
The opening credits unspool leisurely over a long graphic section as in a classic Bond film, but now there's a Billie Eilish song, a more modern interpretation on the Bond theme music. Instead of the iconic shot of Bond turning to shoot down a barrel, there's a scene in the film that imitates that classic Bond stance. This interlude early in the film let's the audience settle into the film. Director Cary Joji Fukunaga's intention is to let the action highlight the story. There are plenty of action scenes and they're spectacular, but the heart of the film is in the emotional moments between characters. The sad partings and the betrayals, this film is full of endings.
One character is played by an actor that Daniel Craig also worked with in “Knives Out,” Ana de Armas. Her scenes with Craig are cheeky and fun. She claims to have had “three weeks of training,” but then takes out multiple bad guys while wearing an evening gown and stilettos. As with most Bond films, there are many exotic locations and an evil lair. The newest villain, played by Rami Malek, is given the ludicrous name of Lyutsifer Safin. There's the standard speechifying about how his evil plan is going to “clean up the world” and how alike he and Bond are. They're both killing for what they believe in.
Between the chase scenes, the time spent with colleagues trying to solve the puzzle, the new gadgets and a new female 007, there's much that's standard Bond and a few new updates. A Black female 007 and a nod to one character's queerness updates the tried and true formula. A weary
M is played by Ralph Fiennes and his sad dog performance slows down the film's pacing. Fortunately, Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw) are on the job to add some spunk and humor. The running time is almost three hours, but I wasn't bored. I would've preferred a little less time on the island lair, but it was a fitting send off to Daniel Craig's Bond. It was a long wait for the film, but it was worth it.
Drinks With Films rating: 3 1/2 martinis, shaken not stirred out of 5.