No Time to Die

No Time to Die ★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Ok, wow… where to start with this one? First, let me give you a SPOILER WARNING. I usually try not to go into spoilers but here, I’m afraid that will be unavoidable. So here we go…

After an interesting and fairly well done opening we get a strangely bloodless gun barrel sequence??? We then continue with a prolonged opening where at the end of it Bond makes a very questionable decision. I understand it from a dramatic and storytelling aspect, but the more you think about the logic behind it, the more stupid it becomes. But I was willing to expect it and move on. What follows (after a sexless title sequence) is about an hour and half of very, very solid James Bond entertainment. It’s well shot, the action is very good at times and the dramatic scenes are unusually strong for a Bond movie. One of the unexpected strength of the movie was the acting.

Craig looked more energized and enthusiastic then I have ever seen him before in the part. He never was and never will be anywhere near my favorite Bond but I always respected him as an actor and this movie clearly shows how good he can be when he cares. Léa Seydoux fares much better here than she did in Spectre. Her character is better written, she has better chemistry with Craig and the script and direction allow her to show both strength and vulnerability. Lashana Lynch as the new 007 also does a good job. I was afraid that this character would lead to another Ant-Man and the Wasp like fiasco where she would spend the whole movie trash-talking and belittling the male lead while he would be forced to stand still and just take it like a good puppy. But this is not the case here. Thankfully the script avoided making this mistake. The two do have banter between them but it swings both ways and I liked the chemistry between them. And yet, I still think, her character was not vital to the story and should probably been combined with Ana De Armas character.

Armas is clearly one of the absolute highlight of the film. She instantly likable, looks great while kicking ass and just has great energy all around. And then, after one extended sequence, she’s gone. WTF? That’s is just such a waste. So we have one female character who is not really vital to the story and another who is reduced to an extended cameo. They should have combined the two or chosen one over the other. And while Lynch was good I would have gone with Armas. Bond teaming up with a young, nervous and inexperienced agent could have definitely benefited the movie. Besides, she would have actually had some personal stakes in the story. Like avenging the death of her mentor and possible friend Felix Leiter.

But, despite some problems and missteps the majority of the first two hour was overwhelmingly positive. And after vaguely two thirds of the movie this was on its way of becoming one of the stronger entries of Craig’s era. All it needed, was a spectacular, dramatic and satisfying final act. I was ready. And right when this movie was supposed to (needed to) take of, it just kinda stopped dead. It was, like the movie awkwardly stumbled and fell into a bottomless pit. And fell, and fell and fell. Wait, let me check… yep, it’s still falling.

I can't think of another movie that dropped the ball so hard in its final act. All the energy was drained out of the movie. Bit by bit, all the momentum faded away. There never was a sense of urgency and all the scenes seemed to drag on needlessly forever. This is also where the film biggest weakness became apparent. The main Villain played by Rami Malek.

The actor who I like quite a lot surely isn’t entirely to blame. It’s a poorly written character that Malek was terribly miscast for. First, he appears to be way too young for the part that was written. He is a nonthreatening, monologuing, one note villain at best and at worst looks like a little boy pretending to be a Bond villain. What makes matters worse, is that the script takes away his only clearly definable motivation long before the final act even begins. It’s an old saying, that a hero is only as good as his villain. And this one is unfortunately as weak as they come.

And just as a side note, aspiring screenwriter and directors out there: If you have a main henchman, don’t let him be easily defeated by the hero in the opening of the movie. The point of “the muscle” is that he has to be a constant, recurring (physical) threat to our hero over the course of the movie. But “One-Eyed Jack” here was a joke and probably the weakest henchman in James Bond history. So in that regard, he matched his master, I guess.

And then there’s the ending itself. The death of James Bond. What can I say? I saw it coming miles away. But you know what, I am ok with it. I unironically think, it is for the best. I don’t think that this character had any place left to go in in the current cinematic and political climate. And now they have freed themselves to take the 007 franchise wherever they want to. For better or worse, it was the only logical conclusion. I just wish, that when the moment came, I could have cared more. But after 45 minutes of endless and meaningless talking, walking through gardens and corridors and running in circles I just wanted it to be over.

So how the fuck do I rate this movie? The first two thirds are a solid 4 stars followed by an abysmal third act. I guess I could split the difference and give it 2 stars, but I do feel generous today. After all, the movie gave me a feature length time of very good entertainment. I felt similar after my first time watching Spectre and that movie has grown a little on me after revisiting it a couple of months ago. It is not out of the realm of possibility that in a couple of years “No Time to Die” could do the same. If for no other reason than next time, I will be prepared.

But right now, I just can’t help but feel endlessly disappointed and what’s even worse kinda indifferent towards the future of the franchise. I hope that will change one day. But for the time being, let me just say: Rest in Peace, James Bond. You’ve earned it.

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