Daniel Craig James Bond
Ana De Armas Paloma
Rami Malek Lyutsifer Safin
Lea Seydoux Madeleine
Lashana Lynch Nomi
Ralph Fiennes M
Ben Whishaw Q
Naomie Harris Moneypenny
Christoph Waltz Blofeld
Jeffrey Wright Felix Leiter
Hello again! Time for another review of “Was I Entertained”! For this edition, instead of perusing NETFLIX, Amazon Prime, or even my own Movie collection, we ventured out to the cinema’s to catch a new release. Due to COVID, we have not managed to see very many films in the theatre (naturally they were all closed) and going out to a movie, you almost have to take out a second mortgage on your house to pay for the tickets, popcorn and pop. Where are the days that I used to the movies with 2 dollars, buy my ticket, pop, popcorn and a chocolate bar and still have change? I must be getting old! Anyways, we had luckily won a gift certificate for the Cineplex from a charity lottery and this was the first time we were able to use it in the last 2 years.
There were a few movies that piqued our interest at the local movie theatre, and we had narrowed it down to 2 selections, Dune or No Time to Die. I wanted to see Dune as I was a big fan of the original series and the precursors that were written after Herbert’s death. However, my wife was not familiar with the series and stated that we should watch that one at home when it gets released to smaller screens so that if she bored she can pick up her tablet for another game of Candy Crush. So, with that in mind we went to see the latest James Bond flick, No Time To Die.
Where do I start with this latest foray into British spy agencies and their war against terror? Well, the film starts (as most Bond films do) with a long prologue. He is gallivanting around Italy with another beautiful lady in tow. This time, one probably young enough to be his daughter. (I had to check IMDB on this one, and they are 17 years apart in real life, so that comparison is feasible, even if a bit of a stretch).
We also find out that he wants a new life with this nubile young lady, and it can only start if he closes a certain chapter in his life. This chapter is focused on Vesper, (another Bond love - from Craig’s first foray into the world of James Bond in Casino Royale), where he must close the door on his past, accept her betrayal and move on. Naturally, as this is a Bond flick, the tender moment at the grave site of Vesper becomes a trap. He fights them off, returns to his hotel room to find his new love, Madeleine preparing for departure. Bond (Craig) thinks that she set him up with SPECTRE (remember them, they are the bad guys for most of his films) and he grabs her and tries to evade the bad guys while trying to get his new love to confess her sins with respect to her betrayal of him. Of course, as this is a Bond flick, he trashes an exotic car (one of my personal favourites, gotta love these classic Aston Martins), blows up many people, trashes the scenery and does some incredible stunts with the car, on a motorcycle and even on foot! The prologue ends, and then we cut to opening credits where a pretty crappy theme song comes on after the traditional man in a barrel scene. I have to say, that while Billie Eilish can sing some nice songs, this one is not up there. Historically, Bond theme songs end up making their way up the charts and I can remember almost all of them… this one however, I wanted to forget.
The next scene opens about 5 years later with Bond (Craig) on a beautiful Caribbean island and we learn that he is retired. He is whiling away the days, swimming, fishing, drinking and we believe being a bit lecherous. He meets up with his old friend Felix Leiter who says he is in dire need of his assistance to thwart an old enemy. Not only does Bond (Craig) come out of retirement to fight again, he discovers that his once legendary position within MI6 has now been filled by another person who wears the title of 007. That is Nomi (Lynch), who not only tries to outdo the original, but she also seems to have a huge chip on her shoulder and inferiority complex where it comes to Bond.
I really don’t want to give out too many spoilers from this point forward, but leave it to say that Bond (Craig) meets up old enemies i.e. Blofeld (Waltz), old loves i.e. Madeleine (Seydoux) and old friends, Moneypenny (Harris), Q (Whishaw) and the aforementioned Leiter (Wright). Whereupon, together they must combat not only the old enemy, but also defeat an enigmatic Safin (Malek) who is the principal antagonist of the film. All in all, almost a standard plot line for any Bond film in the franchise.
What did I like about the film? There were several points that provided enjoyment in this very long film. Let’s start with the cinematography, how can you go wrong with the scenes in this film. We have Italy, Jamaica, Scotland, UK and Norway. While each scene may not necessarily represent the supposed location, they were all extremely picturesque nonetheless. I also found that the camera flowed well in the action sequences and did not become choppy or sped up to such an extent that it becomes comical. I always hate it when that happens for it ruins the flow of the film for me, and makes any fight sequence look like a cartoon on fast forward. Next, we have the cars…man, do I love Aston Martins. They are my dream car if I ever made it big. These cars are beautiful, fast and distinctive. Too bad they had to destroy so many of them while making the film!
Next up, I actually liked the story line. It was a good way to finish off Craig in the role of Bond. The story flowed for the most part, and while there was the odd bump or scratch the head moment, it still was pretty good overall. The characters were well developed overall, for as much of the cast, they were just reliving an old role and carrying on. The continuation of Madeleine (Seydoux) as the principal love interest was a nice touch. Maybe, they could have selected an older actress to give a better representation, as for some, the age gap might prove to be detrimental to the story. But her character was instrumental to the story line and the end of the film. On another note, I also enjoyed Paloma’s character (Armas) in the film. It took me a second to recognize her as one of Craig’s co-stars in “Knives Out” a great movie that I previously reviewed on this forum with both actors in principal roles. Her role, while lasting only a few minutes of screen time was extremely well done and the action sequences were not only lively, but also fun to watch.
Now, what didn’t I like? Ok, some may cringe at the next statement, but for me, ever since Craig took on the mantle of Bond I found that that these films have ceased to be “James Bond – 007 films”. They are now good action movies that just happen to have the main character named Bond. To me this is not the fault of Craig who is an excellent actor, but the fault of the system (Director/writer etc) who wanted to modernize the franchise, in my opinion, just a little too much. The whole image that was started by Ian Fleming in the novels and original portrayed by Connery has somehow been lost over the years. For me, Connery is Bond! He was a fearless, womanizing, hard drinking, devil may care agent with a deathwish. While this attributes are not necessarily reflective of today’s society, that was the character that was created and some said inspired by Fleming’s own activities during the war. I know that the whole franchise has matured over the years and changed by the era that it was filmed or even the actor who portrayed Bond, but for me, the whole premise of Bond has changed to make it more palatable to viewers of today.
As I previously mentioned, Connery for me was the best. Yes, I know sometimes the scenes were cheesy and the fight sequences were almost laughable, but it was the spirit and the gadgets that I loved. Afterwards it Lazenby in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” and his portrayal was comical. Connery returned for one more foray in “Diamonds are Forever” before being replaced by Roger Moore in “Live and Let Die”. (I am not counting “Never say Never Again” which was made independently of the franchise writ large). Moore, was almost a caricature to me. Sure he could look dapper, and he was a bit of a womanizer, but his action sequences while better choreographed then Connery’s looked comical. Remember the old joke in Cannonball Run…”You can’t hit me, I’m Roger Moore” that was a distinct slam on the character as was portrayed by him. Timothy Dalton joined the series for two films and while he looked more rugged than Moore, did not really pull it off. It was not until Brosnan took the helm as Bond that I really started to enjoy the franchise again. Brosnan was more of a composite of the previous versions of Bond, and we now find the scripts, plots and characters solidified. On Brosnan’s departure, we have Craig as 007. Due to the changing world around us, the character was changed to represent todays morals and what would become acceptable by today’s society. Ok, I get it, the world changes and what was acceptable or the norm before is no longer the case. Really I am ok with that aspect, but what I would like to see at this point, is just change the name of the principal character. It can still be 007, but it could be a different agents name in the role, then it would not matter what sex, colour, creed, or even orientation the actor is. Actually, this film introduces that concept, and quite well (storyline wise) I might add. So this might be the direction that the producers may be heading into the future. I hope so, as I think it will make it easier to adapt the main character to reflect whatever is acceptable at the time, without re-writing who Bond is and was originally created to be.
Ok, that was quite a tangent, hmm, where am I? Ok, at this point, I always like to discuss the characters and the actors that portrayed them. So here we go:
Daniel Craig as James Bond: This is the 5th and final foray for Craig as Bond. From what I have read he is starting to feel too old to carry the part anymore and make it believable to the audience. For this last venture I must say that he did a fine job for his finale. As I mentioned previously, while I find this latest series of films to be more action genre than traditional Bond, I can respect the fact that it was well acted role with plenty of stunts and action to keep me interested. I also enjoyed the fact that Bond finally found his love, his legacy and his purpose in this film. He demonstrated great chemistry with all cast members to include his love interest Madeleine (Seydoux), competitor Nomi (Lynch) and his nemesis Safin (Malek). His last Bond portray was a truly enjoyable performance. Craig is a solid action star who has also many other ranges, from drama to comedy to draw upon. I have no doubt that his next projects will be just as entertaining as this one.
Ana De Armas as Paloma: Armas was excellent as Paloma. This role was far different than the timid and innocent waif that she portrayed in “Knives Out”. She was an action heroine, and did it well. Demonstrating physical skills that were not present in “Knives Out” not to mention some lighter moments her character of Paloma was a very strong supporting role that was actually more memorable then some of the performances of the other co-stars.
Rami Malek as Lyutsifer Safin: Malek is quickly becoming a fan favourite. He is extremely talented and believable in almost every role I have seen him in. From playing Dega in Papillon (which I have reviewed previously on this blog site) to Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody (also reviewed on this site) I have enjoyed each and every performance. When watching Malek, you know he is in the role and that whatever he does will be first rate. My only complaint for this character was that he did not get enough screen time or backstory to help fill in the holes of the “why” he was doing everything. However, that is not the fault of the actor, but the writer and director. In this case, as the film as very long to start off with, I can see where decisions would have to be made with respect to the storyline. Regardless, another good performance by Malek.
Lea Seydoux as Madeleine: This is the first time I had seen Seydoux in a memorable role for me. Even though she was in Spectre, I really don’t remember her character, and I probably should I guess. Going through her IMDB resume, I see that she was in a few other films that I had seen in the past, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Spectre, Grand Central, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol to name but a few. In each case I have to really think on what role she played. In this film, I can truthfully say that I am sure I will remember her role within it. She played the love stricken damsel quite well. Her chemistry with Craig and Malek was noteworthy and added to the story. As the principal co-star and love interest, her character was intrinsic to the plot. I will have to go back to the previous movies mentioned and give them another watch to take a look on how she did in those s to really give a good comparison. However, with these holes in memory, I will just have to say that her performance was fine and I look forward to seeing her in future projects.
Lashana Lynch as Nomi: While Lynch is not a bad actress, to me she did not fit in the role as an MI6 Agent. I don’t know what it is, but it just didn’t work for me. If I was casting that role, I would have probably picked Christine Adams (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Batman Begins) or Thandiwe Newton (Westworld) for that part. As I pointed out above, MI6 did re-issue the 007 moniker to Nomi after Bond’s retirement, and I do like the fact that this could possibly lead to a complete rebranding of the character. Like I said, keep 007 movies running, just remove James Bond from the character as it will now be able to transition to a new and contemporary hero that is acclimated to today, without offending any purists of the franchise. I also found that her chemistry with the other supporting characters was a little off, but that could be due to the fact that her character was to have a bit of a chip on her shoulder and a touch of inferiority complex when compared to her predecessor. For me, while the character was important, I found the portrayal a little lacking compared to the other cast mates. Having said that, I will pay attention to her future roles and see how her style and talent matures and progresses.
Ralph Fiennes as M: Fiennes is a very accomplished actor and has had some very big shoes to fill in the role of M. In this role, I find Fiennes very believable as the head of the department. He has the necessary panache and style to carry the role and position. I do like the fact that in the World of Bond, Fiennes has made M his own, without trying to emulate previous actors/actresses who have held that role.
Ben Whishaw as Q: Here is a case where I don’t really care for the new actor. To me, Q was an eccentric older gentleman who was a genius without social skills. Whishaw, while kinda filling out the genius portion with no social skills, I find he is too young to be believable, and he did not really come across as part of the team.
Naomie Harris as Moneypenny: I like Harris as Moneypenny. When they re-cast Moneypenny for the 4th time (not including Casino Royale and Never Say Never again) they made a fantastic choice. I find her to fill in the role nicely, just like it was her own. Actually getting back to the character of Nomi, Harris could have done this as well, and I think in a much more believable fashion. Her range of emotions with respect to Bond was very well done as was the chemistry between all in her scenes.
Christoph Waltz as Blofeld: Here is another actor who is fantastic and only received minimal screen time. However, for all intents and purposes, his character could have been written out and the screen time centered on Malek for the antagonist. But it is always nice to see him in any role. No one can play the smug, conceited bad guy like Waltz. It is always great to watch him in these types of roles as he never disappoints…in this case the only disappointment was that his role was not greater.
Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter: As the 8th iteration of Leiter, Wright does an admirable job. He is believable as the trusted American friend and his chemistry with Craig is good. An accomplished actor, I can’t really remember a time or role that I did not like Wright in. From Hunger Games to Boardwalk Empire he has played a diverse set of characters that always add to the story. As with the other actors listed above, I always look forward to seeing him in a supporting role for any film or show.
So, all in all, were we entertained you ask? Yes, we were, “No time to Die” is an action packed film with a great cast. It was filled with all the necessary car chases, explosions, fights and guns to make an action movie enthusiast salivate. Additionally, this film does close a chapter for Craig as the latest Bond which some fans may find hard to take. Like I have opined several times, to me these are not Bond flicks anymore, but action movies, so I will rate this film as a great action film which happens to have a character named Bond. Who will be interested in this film, well first off, anyone who loves the franchise (even if in my opinion it has changed), loves action films or is a fan of Daniel Craig. If this is the genre that you enjoy, then definitely give “No Time To Die” a watch!
Our score: 7.5/10
If you are interested in other films starring the main cast, please consider the following recommendations:
Daniel Craig Defiance, Spectre, Casino Royale, Logan Lucky, Skyfall, Knives Out, Quantum of Solace, Munich, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Ana De Armas Knives Out, Blade Runner: 2049
Rami Malek Mr. Robot, Bohemian Rhapsody, Papillon, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, The Pacific, 24
Lea Seydoux Spectre, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Lashana Lynch Captain Marvel
Ralph Fiennes Schindlers List, The English Patient, Red Dragon, Harry Potter (Franchise), Skyfall, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ben Whishaw Spectre, Skyfall
Naomie Harris Spectre, Skyfall, Southpaw, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, 28 Days Later,
Christoph Waltz Inglourious Basterds, The Three Musketeers, Django Unchained, Spectre,
Jeffrey Wright Shaft, Ali, The Manchurain Candidate, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, The Ides of March, Broken City, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Boardwalk Empire, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Westworld
Till Next Time!