PG-13 for general James Bondery. While the sex is minimalized in this film, it definitely is there. Most of the takeaways from No Time to Die is the fact that Daniel Craig's Bond has always been the most violent Bond. This one really plays up the notion of blood, most notably in the pre-credit sequence with blood on the snow. There is some language and alcoholism, but it is somehow one of the more tempered Bond films. I mean, he does kill A LOT of people, but that's to be expected, right?
DIRECTOR: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Oh so many things to say. I find Bond fairly easy to write about because I was such a Bond nerd for such a long time. I still am, to a certain extent, but it has been tempered by age and other fandoms. But I remember seeing the trailer for this pre-Covid and losing my mind. Daniel Craig has such a weird place in the Bond canon. He's the one who seems to have broken the illusion about playing Bond the most, at least since George Lazenby. He's always been this guy who has mentally treated it as any role he would normally take. He's not enamored with James Bond. If anything, Bond has always been a burden for Daniel Craig. Like Harrison Ford trying to put Han Solo to bed, there's always been this idea that Daniel Craig was always begrudgingly coming back for one more, despite the fact that he's always very publicly sworn off the character for good.
With No Time to Die, he has confirmation of that wish. Spoiler alert: Bond is dead. It's not that I don't want to see Bond dead. There's something really cathartic and final about seeing the end of the story that was never going to come. But I can't help but exist in the real world and think of how the audience plays a huge part in the decision to tell this story. I remember when Batman Begins came out and the notion of a reboot just entered the collective consciousness. Christian Bale was going to play a beloved character, but assuming that the other movies never existed. The notion of the reboot is something very commonplace today. Heck, James Bond might be the most successful reboot following The Dark Knight trilogy. Daniel Craig stepping into the early days of Bond and giving him actual character arcs saved the character from being the same film rehashed time and again. But one thing that we've never really seen (again, maybe outside of Batman) is the notion that the reboot stories might be over. With The Dark Knight, Nolan gave the character three movies. The notion of a trilogy as an arc always makes sense to me. But five films for a reboot, only to open the door is somehow extremely complex for me to wrap my head around.
Because the credits end with the iconic "James Bond will return" tease. Everything about No Time to Die screams the end of an era. Okay, maybe the villain may be a little less than worthy of a final Bond movie. But from James Bond's perspective, dealing with all of the trauma that he's been dealt over a lifetime, this the movie that celebrates the end of a journey. We thought that we got that with Spectre, a movie that decided to close the book on James Bond while leaving a bookmark to be opened by someone else. Bond has an element of immortality about him. That's kind of the tacit agreement. I read John Gardener's The Biography of 007, which is honestly a way better read than you'd think. In that version of Bond, he's an old man waiting for his next assignment. He hates retirement, despite having the best retirement imaginable. That concept is kind of unfilmable. But it also makes a lot of sense. Because Bond has never aged throughout the Cold War to today, there's something eternal about him. It's probably why Never Say Never Again came across as such a slap to the face to the character. It's why Roger Moore decided to abandon the franchise after A View to a Kill. James Bond is supposed to be young and verile forever. He's supposed to escape the death traps and squeak by, regardless of what's going on.
But that's what makes this movie work so well. Because James Bond learned to hate 007. 007 was toxic to the man and that's what No Time to Die is all about. He had found happiness. But that happiness was foreshadowed by Louis Armstrong's "We Have All the Time in the World". We knew that Bond couldn't have been happy. He was born out of violence. The death of his parents and the corruption of MI6 was just too much for him to view the world from a sense of perspective. When Madeline tells him that she loves him, he is incapable of imagining the world without a conspiracy behind it. I kind of love that as mental damage. To know that James Bond's daughter is out there, without a father, because James Bond has gone lifetimes without siring a child is very telling. It's almost more impossible that Bond could have a family with a child and a remote cottage than it is that Blofeld would try to kill James Bond from prison.
I think that's why Safin might be the weakest element of the film. I think Rami Malek is great. He looks haunting and scary. But Safin represents the need for a formalized villain. If anything, he's more of a commentary of the format of the Bond villain than anything. Henson lamented that he had an island volcano and now I think that is very intention. It's telling that Safin isn't anything special. That's got to be harsh for someone like Malek, who is far too talented of an actor to get pigeonholed like that. But Safin doesn't matter. Bond is dealing almost primarily with an internal conflict. He is fighting against bred mistrust of others. He is learning to take the diplomatic route rather than the violent route. Safin, if anything, is Bond without the sense of nuance. Safin wants to remove SPECTRE just like Bond wants to remove SPECTRE. But when Safin does it, there's something genocidal about it all. It doesn't matter that Bond mows down SPECTRE agents left and right. What does matter is that they are returning fire and that he's confronting his attackers. Safin instead is wiping the board clean using mass casualties to do it.
It's really smart to have MI6 and Mallory to be the ones who create the virus that becomes the threat in this one. While we understand that M and MI6 are the good guys is concept, it's Bond having to confront the people who made him who he is. It's the lifestyle that has been drilled into him that has taken him from his family and threatened the world and the virus gives that sense of "no real good guys" motifs in the movie. It's very smart.
But the one thing I can't wrap around is the means of Bond's death. I knew it was coming. When people said that this was the last one, that only meant that Bond was going to die. Now, I like a lot of elements of Bond's death. I like the fact that it was his choice. I like the fact that it was not due to a death trap, but because of an instant mistake. It was the smallest miscalculation that made that happen and I adore that. The thing I don't like is the missiles as a means to death. That seems like something that Bond should be able to outthink. There seems to be a loophole somewhere with that. But I like the idea that Bond dies an old man in seclusion. Bond is poisoned with an irreversible virus that would kill the people around him while leaving him alive. As a metaphor for the loneliness of Bond, that works wonders. But I can see him being this force out there on an island. A built house, living off the land. He watches his daughter grow up by satellite feed from Q and we watch him age into obscurity. I adore that as an option.
But overall, No Time to Die works on so many levels that it brings me an overwhelming sense of joy. It's one of those really long movies that didn't feel boring to me for a second. It redeemed Blofeld to the status that he was supposed to have. It made Madeline far more of an interesting character. It paid homage to classic Bond without feeling slavish to it. It just works so well as a Bond movie. I just think that I'll have a hard time adapting to a new Bond story.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.