“James Bond is coming back” – that’s how it is written, at the end of every Bond film since Goldfinger 1964. Never before have you had to wait as long for this announcement as now in No time to die. You have to get through a full 163 minutes until then. Is it too much to reveal if one suggests that this is the first time that this sentence is reading as a real message?
What is also certain: Bond will not return in the form of Daniel Craig, who says goodbye to the franchise with this, his fifth Bond film. When Craig was in Casino Royale debuted in the role, opinions were very divided, especially among die-hard fans. Following the arrogant and ironic gentleman style of his predecessor Pierce Brosnan, Craig looked like a proletarian who sometimes answered the question “stirred or shaken?” With “I don’t give a damn” (“I don’t give a shit”) and worked up a sweat while chasing the bad guy. And even sustained wounds that were previously unheard of, which could still be seen two shots later. Not to mention internal injuries! Craig is the first James Bond with a memory that extends beyond the individual film.
No time to die now exhausts the concept “We know what you’ve done in the last few films” once again to the point where it literally stops. In the second opening sequence of the film – somewhere there has to be a doctoral thesis with the appropriately ambiguous title Bond and the art of foreplay give – James visits the grave of Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), who at the end of Casino Royale tragically, if not entirely innocent, “Bondgirl” who has since been haunted through the films as a personified guilty conscience. Encouraged by his current companion, Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), 15 years later, Craigs Bond is standing on the heights of the picturesque cemetery of Matera, Italy, when things are booming and tombstones fly around his ears. Can you blame him for suspecting Madeleine of betraying him?
The first opening scene was dedicated to Madeleine, a novelty in the franchise that until now had only one center and navel – that of Bond, James Bond. Here, however, you see a little girl, so perfectly cast that you immediately think of Léa Seydoux, in an ultra-modern wooden house in snowy solitude, who first has to deal with an alcoholic mother and then with a masked murderer. He’s after her father, a member of the ominous Specter secret society, whom he accuses of killing his family. He finally spares the girl, which will turn out to be a pattern.
The masked man is Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek). The name reveals it more or less with a wink: He is the new top villain. His “claim to fame” is a nifty bioweapon that could be used to wipe out individual individuals or entire populations by cutting DNA. The finale takes place in his hiding place at the end of the world; In classic Bond fashion, it is a fortress-like island with a lot of high-tech, threateningly closing doors and lovely horticultural arrangements.
Obsessed with Bond
From Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) to Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), from M (Ralph Fiennes) to Q (Ben Wishaw), the usual suspects do their part to moan about Bond, to rave about him, to give him help despite it all. The opponents also suffer from Bond obsession, be it CIA man Logan Ash (Billie Magnussen), the Hannibal Lecter-like imprisoned Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) or Lyutsifer, who takes the trouble to adjust his bioweapon precisely to Bond. It would all be a bit much if Craig didn’t show so much character this time: his Bond is alternately hurt and angry, touched and exhausted, full of confidence and sometimes tired of all the fighting. It’s a great farewell performance.
But at the same time this Bond, who feels so much and shows so much, is also causing the film to stumble. There is simply not enough left for other characters to play, even Léa Seydoux as Madeleine cannot get beyond being a projection surface for what moves this James. Moneypenny and M barely have any memorable lines, and Maleks Lyutsifer makes his pseudo-meaningful villain speeches (“You, Bond, don’t want anything to change, I want the world to develop.”) In such a drowsy tone that you stay away from it feels bored of your agenda before you even understand it.
The big end
The longer No time to die the more you become aware of all the baggage that Bond has to lug around in the meantime. This not only refers to the set pieces from the previous films, but above all the set of masculinity attributes, which despite all attempts at reform, especially by Craig, is still hopelessly out of date. He likes to be more sensitive towards women, which is shown, among other things, in the fact that there is no sexual tension between him and the two important new female figures, CIA intern Paloma (Ana de Armas) and 007 colleague Nomi (Lashana Lynch) arises. However, neither Bond himself nor the script knows how to do anything else with them. Why she doesn’t get the same attention as Bond when she’s doing everything right, Nomi complains completely rightly at one point – one of the few where you can see the influence of Fleabag-Author Phoebe Waller-Bridge thinks she can feel it in the script.
This Bond has to leave, precisely because he is so in the center, everything always revolves around him. There is simply too little space left to develop a reasonably believable world around him. Certainly there are Bond films whose plot makes even less sense, but belongs to the plot No time to die among the least engaging entries in the franchise. Yes, everything is choreographed reasonably tightly and elegantly, recorded imaginatively and cut rapidly. But there is no fun of cheering. Which certainly has to do with the fact that any concrete political context, be it Brexit or the climate, is deliberately avoided. Apart from a vaguely indicated army of Russian mercenaries in Lyutsifer’s service, which of course can be shot down completely casually.
Regardless of the form in which Bond will finally return, whether as a woman or a man, regardless of skin color or sexuality – to revive the James Bond franchise, more real conflicts are needed and instead of Aston Martin nostalgia, a clear anchorage in the Presence.
No time to die Cary Fukunaga Great Britain / USA 2021, 163 minutes