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"NO TIME TO DIE"
(2021) (Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Drama/Action: A British agent comes out of retirement to help save the world once again, all while contending with being reunited with a past lover.
PLOT:

Years after seeing Lyutsifer Safin (RAMI MALEK) murder her mother only to rescue her from an icy lake, Madeleine Swann (LÉA SEYDOUX) is now dating none other than James Bond (DANIEL CRAIG) who's vacationing with her after having captured arch-villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld (CHRISTOPH WALTZ). But when Spectre agents led by Cyclops (DALI BENSSALAH) ambush him, Bond suspects Madeleine is responsible and promptly dumps her.

Years later, and now retired, Bond is living the island life when he's met by CIA agent Felix Leiter (JEFFREY WRIGHT) who informs him that MI6 biotech engineer Valdo Obruchev (DAVID DENCIK) has been kidnapped and the U.S. Government would like to find and rescue him.

And that's because under the directive of MI6 director M (RALPH FIENNES), Obruchev has created Project Heracles involving DNA tracking nanobots that can specifically target and kill people with no collateral damage to others. Bond wants no part of that, but when he meets the new 007 agent who's replaced him, Nomi (LASHANA LYNCH), with the same information about Obruchev, he decides to help Felix.

When that goes awry, despite the help of relatively new CIA agent Paloma (ANA DE ARMAS), Bond returns to MI6 headquarters and confronts M where he's ultimately reunited with Madeleine who now has a young daughter, Mathilde (LISA-DORAH SONNET). With her help along with Nomi and tech-expert Q (BEN WHISHAW), Bond tries to get to the bottom of what's happening, eventually leading him to Safin, all while contending with his mixed feelings about reuniting with his former flame.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10

Although my first encounter with British secret agent James Bond was seeing "Goldfinger" at a drive-in -- which, let's be honest, is the only place outside of the home that a one-year-old should be present for a movie -- my first recollection of 007 was the character being played by Roger Moore (and thus a sentimental soft spot for that portrayal in movies such as "The Man With the Golden Gun" and "Live and Let Die").

That said, I don't recall being upset upon Moore vacating the role. That is, until Timothy Dalton took over in the role, and the tongue-in-cheek approach I enjoyed as a kid was replaced with the far more serious and, frankly, boring tone.

While that continued to one degree or another when Pierce Brosnan assumed the title, I liked him better in the part, especially when the decision was made that it was okay to show the physical pitfalls of being such an agent. That was taken to new heights when Daniel Craig became the latest actor to play the part, and now his swan song portrayal is with the 25th Bond flick, "No Time To Die."

Although, and for several reasons I'll get into, it's not the best of the Craig-led Bond films -- that would be 2012's terrific "Skyfall" -- it's a fitting and, at times, surprisingly emotionally effective fond farewell to the actor in the part.

As was the case with the last entry -- 2015's "Spectre" which serves as the lead-in for this offering from scribes Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Cary Joji Fukunaga and Phoebe Waller-Bridge -- the biggest issue is a fairly lackluster group of villains. Christoph Waltz reprises his role from last time around, albeit in only one direct scene, while Dali Benssalah is unremarkable -- in terms of on-screen personality -- as the main secondary bad guy. All of which leaves Rami Malek as the lead, and while I like much of what the actor has done in previous roles, the character as written here is, well, fairly boring despite his nefarious plan.

We first meet him when he arrives at a remote house in snowy environs to get revenge on the man who killed his family. That figure isn't there, so Malek's Lyutsifer Safin kills his wife, but then ends up saving their young daughter who we next see as adult Madeleine (Léa Seydoux) spending some vacay time with Bond.

Naturally, the bad guys show up to spoil that, Bond thinks his lover tipped them off, and he dumps her on a train, presumably never to see her again. Ah, but like that time Sean Connery tried to take back his signature role, never say never and the two ex-lovers are reunited as Bond tries to find a kidnapped nano-tech scientist (David Dencik) who's created a DNA-based nanobot weapon that our head villain, natch, wants to use against the world.

Throw in the usual characters -- including Ralph Fiennes as M and Ben Whishaw as Q -- other returning ones such as Jeffrey Wright as CIA agent Felix, and a few newcomers including the tragically underused Ana de Armas as CIA agent Paloma and the new 007 in town (played by Lashana Lynch) and the stage would seem set for the usual Bond material.

It is, with exciting action sequences, some romance, exotic settings, and so on, including some nods here and there to past Bond flicks. Craig is as good as usual and makes the character perhaps more human than ever before (sorry, not giving away any spoilers with that), heightened by the fact that we realize this is the last time we'll be seeing him in the part.

That said, some of the material as helmed by director Cary Joji Fukunaga feels more rote than fresh and inspired (which, to be fair, isn't that surprising considering how many 007 installments we've been treated to over the years), and the film is quite long at 163 minutes, making it the longest of the Bond offerings.

Even so, it moves at a good clip, and I must admit that some goosebumps and even a lump or two in the throat showed up from time to time. I don't recall being sad about past Bond retirements, but this one is leaving me a little melancholy. Not perfect but entertaining and a fine farewell to Craig in the part, "No Time to Die" rates as a 6 out of 10.




Reviewed September 28, 2021 / Posted October 8, 2021


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