"Never take off the mask."
"Never take off the mask."

Unmasked: “No Time To Die”

25 to life

15 years. 5 movies. 3+ billions of income. Multiple locations. At least 2 ladies per movie. Two times M. One time Q. One time C. One name. Bond. James Bond.

Just some statistics which are worthy of an entire unforgettable franchise. As most of you know, though, this is only a part of the 60-year series of movies-adaptations of Ian Fleming’s cult hero. And still, we have to accept that a whole generation now, including me, has grown up and has been raised with the sixth incarnation of Agent 007 which already makes him a standalone force which can be easily considered as of the main driving ones behind the spy genre in the last two decades. My respect to Sean Connery, may he rest in peace, Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan (I’m mentioning only three of them since they’re the most popular and loved actors who played the role) but the truth is that Daniel Craig has already established himself as the Bond of our time and definitely deserved an epic conclusion to his storyline.

Well, I can safely say that despite the numerous holdups and delays (an year and a half, more or less), speculations and difficulties around the world premiere of the anniversary 25th movie, “No Time To Die” is more than a worthy end and the icing of the cake (which might be a bit bitter for some, considering the epilogue, but more about that later) of the ongoing saga about Craig & co.

With a new director towards success

And although Sam Mendes is not around, Fukunaga’s work is surprising to the extent that he has managed not only to capture his predecessor’s style and the gathered momentum but also to build on top of them through his own prism. Therefore it’s actually not that surprising, especially having in mind that the director has worked on impressive productions such as “True Detective” (director of probably the best season – the first one, and an executive producer for all of them – should tell you enough), that “No Time To Die”, although a bit predictable story-wise, is filled with much more suspense, mini twists and solid action with car chases and shootouts throughout almost the whole time, compared to previous adaptations.

Here I have to admit that I don’t really like Bond’s ladies’ appearance and the photo is also missing the third one but I can’t deny that Craig’s suit is top notch and, ignoring the fact that he can somewhat blend in with the red carpet, he looks stylish and definitely stands out in front of his companions.

Shot with classic film and partly with drones, the movie is almost perfected from a cinematographical point of view when talking about filming, lighting and landscapes. The collaboration with Oscar winner Linus Sandgren is a fruitful one and their film can boast of more than several amazing shots which are ready to be your new desktop wallpaper, if you’d like. And talking about the visual aspect, I somewhat regret that I didn’t see the movie in IMAX since it definitely had those moments which would be felt much stronger both with the senses of sight and sound. And yet again, from the heavenly spots and houses in Jamaica’s jungles, filled with calmness and providing an escape from reality, through the hillside vintage towns of Italy, hinting memories from the past even for the heroes themselves, to the depressing and destroying human lives (in a literal sense as well – you’ll see why in the movie) islands with forts from the Second World War, each location manages to reinforce the effect of the things happening on screen and to get even deeper into the audience’s emotions.

And even though I’m not one of Billie Eilish’s biggest fans, I can’t deny that the song with the same name as the movie was not bad at all and together with the cool intro, typical for every Bond movie, additionally heats up the situation and helps for creating a much tenser and more distressing atmosphere that foreshadows the end of an era. I won’t get into any further details as far as the work of legends in the film music art such as Hans Zimmer is concerned (I think he’s proven himself enough throughout the years and even mentioning him shouldn’t be necessary) but the instrumental of Louis Armstrong’s undying classic that was played in the final moments of the movie will definitely bring some nostalgic memories and a bit of dark irony in Agent 007’s life.

Untangling the “bond”

Before I went to see the first Craig movie that had the popular for the franchise word “die” in the title, I decided to do a mini marathon and watch if not everything that came out before, then at least the last 4 movies which are more or less connected to this one and which have paved the way that Craig is taking. And his way from acquiring the 00 status to his “retirement” was definitely not perfect and due to a few missteps like a slightly miswritten story, a weak villain or an unsatisfying soundtrack (let’s be honest and sum it all up – due to “Quantum of Solace”), the movie audience had their right to be a bit reserved towards the actor even after his awesome start with “Casino Royale”. Later on, however, the quality kept getting better and although “Spectre” was not on “Skyfall”‘s level (at least it was a bit of a solace, pun intended), it started a decent story whose follow-up development we can track in the latest movie.

The new agent will definitely not have any issues with hiding in the shadows and surprising the bad guys with a sudden move. Nothing personal towards her but let’s stick to the original and leave 007 be a man – if they want to go with female spy characters so much, then they should consider creating a new and different franchise.

“No Time To Die”‘s plot can be even viewed as somewhat of a precedent in the franchise’s history since it’s one of the rare cases (if not the first) in which one of Bond’s ladies comes back for a second time which is an achievement by itself, considering the fact that even Vesper didn’t survive that much and she was most likely the greatest love and, at the same time, greatest pain of Craig’s hero. Apart from that, we also see Felix in a third movie played by the same actor (also hasn’t happened so far) which more or less makes the viewers feel some sympathy towards him, especially when bearing in mind how his plot line developed. Something else that I couldn’t miss too was the fact that this is the third consecutive Craig’s movie where the reason behind the whole thing originates from one of the main characters’ past and this usually turns out to be a pretty unattractive scenario. The good thing here is that this time I wasn’t left with the feeling for “one last ride” in the “Fast & Furious” style which, despite the saying, keeps going on and on and the characters have retired like 15 times already. No, in this case Fukunaga, Craig and the crew definitely put an end to the story of 6 x 007 and due to this I partly understand the people watching the movie who didn’t like the ending.

On the other hand, however, seeing how predictable the development of the story was, for me the end was kind of expected and logical and even if we decide to consider it as a negative thing, what’s happened before definitely makes up for it with its quality. Yes, perhaps the movie was a bit longer than necessary and, to be honest, it’s true that the villain was nothing special and his plan for mass extinction was probably the most generic spy concept they could have come up with but still, the mix of explosive action scenes with much more shooting and moments à la John Wick, the inevitable high-speed offroad chases, the dramatic/romantic emotional episodes and the pinch of bri’ish humour make it quite intriguing to watch and its duration can be ignored. After all, the writers have done their job – they successfully fill in the missing fragments in stories that have started and haven’t been finished in this or in previous movies and, even in a bit untraditional fashion, they leave the door open for potential new movies and the biggest question without an answer, namely – who will take Daniel Craig’s place?

If you ask me, as long as Agent 007 is a male and is not renamed to Jane or something and the 26th movie’s name is not “The Bond Legacy”, I’m willing to accept anything else.

Agent 00X

And speaking about agents, they turned out to be quite a lot in this movie (somewhat apparent by the section’s title). The frontman, of course, is Daniel Craig and honestly I don’t think there’s much more to say about him. Even if we ignore all his other roles, it seems to me that his five incarnations as Bond should be a good enough indication that this role suits him and in spite of everyone that doesn’t like him simply because he’s not the typical Fleming hero, in my opinion the Brit is extremely consistent and stable in this character and he succeeds in attracting with his charisma not only all women around him, but also the viewers in front of the screen.

The charisma and the great chemistry between these two has been there ever since “Knives Out” and here, even though it was too short for my taste, reaches its climax – to some extent I’m sad that she wasn’t the “chosen” one.

This time he’s being accompanied by several familiar faces, turning the cast into one of the most consistent crews in two consecutive Bond movies – we see the return of M, Q, Moneypenny, Felix and Tanner. I’m mentioning them just like that since honestly I didn’t see any major difference or huge development in their characters compared to “Spectre”. However, it’s still a nice and a well presented idea to see the social awkwardness and the genius thought of Ben Whishaw as well as his latest gadgets, the playful jokes and comments from Naomi Harris and the serious, almost stone face and the spy abilities of Ralph Fiennes (I’m looking forward to seeing what he’s mixed up in “King’s Man”).

A very pleasant surprise was the return of Christoph Waltz who didn’t change anything in his character and even in his short screen time kept on being the evil genius that he’s so good at. His main replacement this time is Rami Malek and this, unfortunately, was probably one of the movie’s disappointments. His character and the driving force behind him are quite stereotypical, especially when putting in front the scarred looks, and I keep thinking that if he played the mentally unstable hacker in “Mr. Robot” style … actually no, the result would have been the same. I like the actor but the truth is that his roles are quite similar and I didn’t see anything special or outstanding in the one here. When we think about titans such as Javier Bardem, Mads Mikkelsen and the already mentioned Waltz with which Bond has already crossed guns, Lyutsifer Safin feels like being left in the shadows (both literally and not) and can only be happy that Mr. Greene was such a forgettable villain that there’s just no way he could be less noticeable than him.

The female team is with quite a strong presence this time – Léa Seydoux is the lucky one that gets her bond with Bond which was a satisfying end since Madeleine was a pretty well built-up character and honestly the actress didn’t have much competition throughout the years apart from Eva Green. And here come both the most surprising and the most disappointing introduction for me, as it’s probably been stated already in this review. I have nothing against Lashana Lynch but her acting was quite stiff to be fair and there was nothing in there which could prove to me that she deserves the 007 status. I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks that she somehow didn’t manage to fit in with the others and is not really suitable for that main role but the future of the franchise from here on is unclear anyways so anything might happen. On the contrary is my view towards Ana de Armas – not only is she beautiful and talented but in the short screen time that she was given, she managed to attract all the attention and the spotlight on herself and to perform a show that even Keanu Reeves would envy. I already mentioned that the result from her previous work with Craig can definitely be felt here and Paloma will be remembered as one of the better “Bond girls”, despite her shortlived appearance.

The end of an era

There’s no way I’d miss the chance to add this too, I hope the brexits wouldn’t be too mad at me.

I don’t know if Daniel Craig would be a suitable truck driver (I guess he at least has the license to drive a car, he drives Aston Martins after all) or be of any use to the British queen and be honored by her with the current situation on the island but this is not really relevant in this case. What’s relevant is that he not only manages to defend his country’s pride on screen but he also got the more important thing, i.e. Hollywood’s highest honors regarding movie skills, since just a while ago he got his star on the Walk of Fame which is also pretty close to the one of Roger Moore, if the Bond-aura ever played any role in this whole thing.

One thing is for sure though – “No Time To Die” is probably not the grandest ending of 007’s story but considering all the expectations that the people behind it have accumulated for the last 15 years and which they should have covered, I think it’s more than an impressive one. Questions regarding the franchise’s future are definitely there, especially when everyone wants to know who the new Bond will be, but at the moment the more important thing is Craig’s swan song which will definitely leave a solid trace in the fans’ minds and will for sure boost the respect towards him in the movie society. And considering the fact that we can basically almost call him a “free” agent now, I can’t wait to see him again as Benoit Blanc in “Knives Out 2”, as well as in all his future endeavours.

Time’s up, 007. Thank you for your amazing service!

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