No Time To Die, the last Daniel Craig Bond, and a great send off. Not that there weren’t issues, of course, but mostly a step back from the cartoonish Bond from Spectre, which I appreciated immensely – but did not expect.
Why watch it now, when my expectations were so low? I was feeling down on myself for a number of reasons (my greenhouse plants are infested with scale and whiteflies and nothing I’ve done gets rid of the damn things, my tiny vineyard is infested with Japanese beetles, ditto, and my orchard produces almost nothing (and is infested with Jap beetles- ditto), and, it seems, because all our property is in a frost pocket, that’s all I can look forward to; in addition, a program I’m working on is not making much progress – and my knees hurt) and was looking for something to distract me. Youtube was failing at that job, so I started looking at what movies I could watch that didn’t actually cost more money on top of the fees we’re already paying. Happily, the latest Bond flick is now free, so I settled in, hoping against hope it wasn’t going to disappoint like Spectre did.
The opening is unlike any Bond movie I ever recall seeing (I’m pretty sure I’ve watched them all at one time or another, but most non-Craig are forgettable) and I was wondering at the lack of conventional Cold Open, where the viewer is instructed/assured the hero is, in fact, heroic. NOTE: Spoilers follow! A little girl is dealing with her drunk of a mother (what?) when an assassin shows up to take out her whole family, except dad isn’t there, so after mom gets wasted (double entendre?) little girl proves she can handle a gun, no problemo. Except baddie must’ve been wearing some amount of body armor, or she had the misfortune of no lethal shots, as while she’s dragging the body out, baddie comes back to life and she gets away by racing across a frozen lake. After falling through patch of thin ice, she stares through the ice at baddie who just stands there, contemplating. Eventually, he shoots a hole in the ice and pulls little girl out, presumably for some nefarious end.
Cut to Bond on holiday with Madeleine Swann, Mr. White’s daughter from Spectre. When’s the damn moving to start anyway? Madeleine insists Bond visit Vesper’s grave and forgive her, then she’ll tell him all her secrets. Bond shows up, touchingly asks/gives forgiveness and BLAMO! her crypt blows up! OK, now we’re on to something. Various assorted baddies now try and take Bond down as he races back to rescue Madeleine – only to find she’s just hanging around like nothing has happened! Bond is, rightfully, in my mind, convinced Madeleine had to be involved in some way, despite all her protestations to the contrary, and leaves her at a train station, vowing to never see her again.
Five years later, a complex containing a bioweapon development project is infiltrated and the head scientist is spirited off, everyone else killed and the place destroyed. Interesting, but where’s Bond? Turns out, at some point he retired and is hanging out on a beach somewhere in the Caribbean. Then his old pal Felix turns up to recruit Bond to rescue the head scientist – at a SPECTRE meeting. Bond initially refuses, but when he finds out M had a hand in the original bioweapon development, decides to take Felix up on his offer. A lot of interesting things happen I won’t spoil here (I was hooked by this point; if you aren’t, no point in continuing). However, a Shout out to Ana de Armas as Paloma, not only sexy as hell, but I felt she was very plausible and realistic as a highly skilled CIA agent. Hopefully she’ll show up in future Bond flicks. Except will they still be ‘Bond’ flicks?
Anyway, after head scientist is rescued, only to be stolen – again, Bond is forced to work with Madeleine. His icy facade completely cracks and it takes him several moments to repair it. He then meets Blofeld – in a maximum security jail – and inadvertently kills him. Bond isn’t sure who he can trust any longer, so goes with his proven stalwarts of Ms. Moneypenny and Q, then hies off to reunite with Madeleine, who has gone into hiding when analysis proves she put something on Bond that led to Blofeld’s death. There, a very special surprise awaits. And things get really interesting. There’s a very long and complex chase – where the baddies never make any effort to shoot Bond, making things easy for him. Of course, Head Baddie manages to outsmart Bond and capture Madeleine, wouldn’t be much of a story otherwise, and now Bond has to go to Head Baddie’s Lair, shoot a bunch of people and get his very emotional send off.
Oh, did I mention that they recycle the 00 numbers and there’s a new 007? Lashana Lynch is Nomi, and there are some interesting interactions betwixt the twain of them and a lot of expected throw away lines regarding who gets to be called ‘007.’ Frankly, I expected so little of No Time To Die after the Spectre debacle I was barely aware not only was the new 007 black, but a chick as well. I don’t have any real opinion either way, if she can kick ass as well as Bond/Craig I don’t care. There was no point where I felt she was inadequate or some sort of Woke statement, she felt natural and exuded capability, so I won’t have any issues watching a ‘Bond’ movie with her as the star. I hope she hooks up with Paloma; maybe Paloma can be Felix 2.0 (Felix also gets ‘retired’ during this flick).
The only real huge objection I had was fairly trivial in the grand scheme of things, but did pop me out of the story. In part 2 of the opening, when Bond and Madeleine are on holiday, he’s driving on some twisty turny roads along a cliff and is _fully_ riding in the wrong lane as he goes around each corner. No, it’s not at night, where he might see oncoming headlights, it’s in daylight and while we can largely see he’s safe when viewing from the helicopter (or drone), driving like that will eventually be suicide. Unless, I guess, the road is somehow one-way, but then why have two lanes painted? The second one was a ‘refrigerator moment,’ though it actually happened whilst smoking a cigar, so a cigar moment? Blofeld (spoiler!) has been controlling SPECTRE the whole time he’s been in jail. I find it hard to believe that a) any signal can get out of a maximum security jail and b) that MI6 would never think to sweep for such signals. Yes, there were plenty of other silly things, but no ice castle or surfing tsunami like an earlier Bond, or the cartoonish elements of Spectre. One always has to have some leap of faith and if you accept the nature of the bioweapon, I think you’ll accept the rest.
In conclusion, for anyone that really liked the non-Spectre Craig Bond, I think you’ll be very happy with No Way To Die. If you loved Spectre as a return to the more cartoonish Bond, you might want to skip this and hope that future 007 movies will revert to the mean (I sure as hell hope not).