There has not been a James Bond movie since 2015, which is partially due to normal “movie stuff” like finding a new director and negotiating with the person who plays James Bond who, for a while there, did not seem interested in playing James Bond ever again. And, then, of course, there’s that whole other thing going on in the world. But at six years now, this is the second-longest gap in films – barely short of the time in between License to Kill and GoldenEye – and, by far the longest gap in-between James Bond movies when the actor playing James Bond did not change. (Mr. Craig had the previous record for that as well, in-between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall.)
(Also, here’s a wild fact: from the years 1962 until 1974 there were only four full calendar years that didn’t have a James Bond movie. In less time than the gap between Spectre and No Time to Die, Sean Connery made Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, and You Only Live Twice.)
Now Daniel Craig is back in No Time to Die, a movie with a plot so ridiculous it reaches Roger Moore-era absurdness. Though, to be fair, I love Roger Moore Bond movies and (it’s been a long many months) was pretty much in the perfect mood for something absurd.
Like the last few 007 entries, James Bond is tired of being a spy. He’s old and has lost a step. The only difference now is MI6 seems perfectly fine with James being retired as well.
When the film opens, James is on vacation in Italy with Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) and they are enjoying the quiet life. I found myself being pretty happy for James. He deserves a nice time! Keep in mind, this is a fellow who once had to sit in a chair with no seat so he could be hit with a swinging rock … down there. Look, the guy has seen some tough times. Anyway, the vacation is cut short after Spectre tries to kill James, setting in motion the “convoluted for a normal movie,” “middle of the road convolution for a James Bond movie,” plot.
So here’s my best attempt to explain what’s going on without spoiling anything: Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) is basically sitting in prison, pulling strings, with a goal of trying to make James distrust everyone he’s close with. The plan here truly seems to be to just mess with James Bond and drive him nuts.
At the same time, a fellow named Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek) is seeking revenge against Blofeld and Spectre (which is explained in an early flashback), which confuses Bond even more because he seems to be just caught in the middle — as Lyutsifer doesn’t seem to have much interest in Bond other than as a pawn.
As I said already, MI6 and M (Ralph Fiennes) also don’t have much interest in James, having already given his 007 callsign away to another agent, Nomi (Lashana Lynch). They’d just wish James Bond would stay out of it all and mind his own business. But, as we know, James Bond can’t do that and accepts an offer from Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) to come work for the CIA and look into everything going on?
And what’s going on? Well, Lyutsifer Safin has gotten his hands on a nanobot technology that has the ability to infect, or not infect, anyone he wants. So what’s harmless to one person can still kill a target standing right beside. So we’ve got the James Bond-less MI6, James, and Felix and the CIA, Spectre, and Lyutsifer Safin (who, yes, has a lair on a secret island used only to make different poisons) all fighting for this nanobot technology. It’s all pretty fun and pretty ridiculous.
The problem is the movie doesn’t always realize this should be a hoot. Rami Malek and Christoph Waltz realize what movie they are in. And I love Craig’s Bond, but there are times when he’s trying to be a Connery Bond in a clearly Roger Moore Bond movie. (When Craig lets himself have some fun, the movie is better for it. There’s one truly terrific one-liner.) And then the end, which I won’t spoil … let’s just say it doesn’t end on the typical James Bond high note.
After waiting so long for No Time to Die — and truly, after all we’ve been through, just wanting to see a throwback fun action movie — it almost delivers, but then sends us on to the streets in, let’s say, not the best mood. I want to watch James Bond and feel good after. That feels like the point of these movies. Not feel … forlorn. There’s been enough of that lately. I guess not even our old pal James is here to make us happy these days.
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