No Time To Die – A Movie Review

I’ve seen most of the James Bond movies, but I have to admit that I wouldn’t consider myself a huge fan. In fact, when I talk to true James Bond aficionados and tell them that Sir Roger Moore has always been my favorite Bond, the look on their faces confirms my belief that James Bond isn’t really for me.

That being said, I do like Daniel Craig as the super spy. In fact, I’d say he’s my second favorite Bond. I also deeply enjoyed Casino Royale, Craig’s first outing as Bond.

Unfortunately, I can’t say I much favored Craig’s subsequent Bond movies. If I’m being honest, I remember being confused through much of them, never quite understanding what was going on.

Sadly, No Time To Die continues this tradition.

At two hours and forty-three minutes, No Time To Die appears to cover a lot of ground. Yet, in the end, even with such a long runtime, they didn’t invest enough of it in the emotional foundation that was to serve as the gut punch during the final act. More on that in a moment.

My problem with the Craig era is that while they do seem to continue a running storyline, they don’t always remind the audience of what came before, and I’m not sure they always even conform to what was previously established. For me, this results in a lot of confusion.

This could be considered a spoiler, so consider yourself warned. At the beginning of No Time To Die, Bond is on a trip with his wife. Yes, you read that right. Now, as I’m watching the beginning of this movie, I’m thinking to myself, “Did Bond marry this woman in the previous film?” He then suspects her of being a secret agent, puts her on a train, and tells her he’ll never see her again. Flashforward ten years, five of which Bond has spent in retirement, and she’s reentered his life. He spends a lot of time saving her life, protecting her, and running around. By movie’s end, he tells her that she was the only happiness he’d ever known. What?! He’d spent more time talking to Q in the movie, yet we’re supposed to believe that?

There was also a plot about poison being delivered through DNA and M having something to do with it … I don’t know. Craig’s Bond movies, to me, seem so overly complicated that they get boiled down to nothing more than action. Or maybe they’re not overly complicated; maybe they’re just nonsensical and the action is what drives the movie.

In my heart of hearts, I do believe Bond movies can be simple, full of action, and under two hours. They used to be that way. They can be again. But they tried with No Time To Die. They really did try to shake it up a little.

You may have heard that there’s a female 007 in No Time To Die. Again, this is a slight spoiler, but there is. She’s played by Lashana Lynch and she’s great. Handles the action very well. You also perhaps heard about Ana de Armas being in it as well–after all, her name is on all the posters. She is indeed in the movie, has a great moment, but that moment regrettably ends after about twenty minutes. I don’t know if they were setting her up for a spinoff or what, but she seemed very shoehorned into the film (while stealing every scene).

Léa Seydoux plays Bond’s former wife, Madeleine, and does so just fine. I personally felt no chemistry between Craig and Seydoux nor did I believe they ever actually loved each other. I certainly didn’t believe that the brief time we saw them as husband and wife were the happiest moments of Bond’s life. At movie’s end, they desperately need us to believe this in order to hit an emotional payoff, but for me … not so much.

And that’s where No Time To Die got itself in a bit of trouble. Beyond the typically overly complicated “bad guy” plot, it also tried to walk an emotionally complex tightrope in the hopes of grabbing us by the heartstrings at story’s end.

Furthermore, I don’t mind a funny Bond, after all, Moore is my guy. Craig seemed a little out of character, though, when he would toss in a wisecrack or two. I don’t remember that side of Craig’s Bond, not to such an extent, and it struck me as awkward.

Finally–the action. At least with a Bond movie, no matter what, you’re going to get some killer action. I found myself underwhelmed on this front as well. There were exciting moments, to be sure, but nothing that amazed me. I think the Mission Impossible movies have spoiled us a bit in that regard.

Even with all of that being said, Daniel Craig is STILL my second favorite James Bond, and I’ll continue watching James Bond movies even if I don’t ever particularly love them. I think the attempt they made at modernizing him a bit in No Time To Die was well-intended, they just hit the wrong notes at the wrong times. James Bond can still thrive as a movie franchise, but I think it’s time to take him back to basics on one hand, and on the other hand, I think it’s time to rethink his entire mythology. That’s a topic for another day, though.

In the end, No Time To Die is fine. It’s Craig’s last hurrah as James Bond, so that alone makes it worth watching.

Casino Royale – A Movie Review

Okay, so as much as I enjoyed the previous James Bond movies, at no point did I actually think any of them (yes, ANY of them) had the sort of hand-to-hand combat abilities the characterization would lead you to believe.  James Bond was supposedly a human weapon along with being a lady charmer, and while most of the actors pulled off the latter quite well, the former always left me a little … unsatisfied.

But hey, who cared, right?  I mean, we had all those crazy gadgets!  Sure, Roger Moore couldn’t throw a decent looking kick to save his life, but he had one tricked-out car!  But I’m afraid even that got old.  As our technology advanced in the real world, Bond’s gizmos didn’t seem so incredible anymore, and when they tried to up the ante on them, they just came out looking ridiculous (invisible car, anyone?).

As I saw it, they only had once choice.  Get rid of the ludicrous weaponry and focus on the man.  And in order to do that, they had to get a man.  Not just a man who looked good in a tux, but a man who could actually make you believe he could kick your tail with virtually no effort at all.

Enter Daniel Craig.

I always liked this guy (see Layer Cake), and I knew they’d found the right Bond the moment they picked him.  Bond was originally intended to be a bit of thug.  Sure, the ladies loved him, but his attitude toward them was rather one-and-done.  He was cold, calculating, and he didn’t mind spilling blood to get what he wanted.  He had a license to kill, and he wasn’t afraid to use it.  He’d been in some scraps, and his face showed the history of those fights.

With Casino Royale, that’s the Bond we get through Craig.  The action is amazing, absolutely amazing, and it’s so amazing because it is mostly physical action.  The near-opening scene will have your eyes bulging, and it’s mostly just a foot chase!  Craig is truly an athlete with a physically superior body, just the sort of thing you would expect from a secret agent of Bond’s caliber. 

Thankfully, the technological aspect to Bond was kept to a minimum and none of it seemed unrealistic or over-the-top.  It still played a role, mind you, but nothing that makes you slap your forehead and yell, “You’ve got to be kidding!” 

Yes, the story runs a little long, and yes, it gets more than a tad confusing at times, but who cares!  I was mesmerized with Craig the entire time and the story, while certainly not mind-blowing, was more than entertaining.  I actually found it surprising they took some time to lay some character groundwork for Craig to work with.

I realize I border upon hyperbole, but Casino Royale may just be my favorite Bond movie ever-EVER.

Dr. No by Ian Fleming – A Book Review

Even though Dr. No was dreadfully intolerant by today’s standards, had next to no real plot, and neglected to include any substantial characterization, I couldn’t put it down.

James Bond is confident, capable, cocky, rather sexist, and perhaps even racist in Dr. No, but the prose is written at such a fast pace, Fleming concocted such a ludicrous villain in Dr. No, and Bond prevailed in such “manly” manners, it’s  hard not to get engrossed in it all. 

Dr. No is a brisk, leisurely read that entertains and quickens the pulse.  I didn’t find Fleming’s writing style terribly adept, but the man knew how to hook a reader, and in the end, some would say that’s all that matters.