No Time to Die

No Time to Die ★★★½

Might topple Casino Royale as my favorite Bond film. It’s consistently engaging, taking a page out of Mission: Impossible’s book and devoting less time to the convoluted plotting—though not ditching it entirely—and focusing more on the characters and entertaining set pieces. It’s burdened with the narrative baggage of other, worse Bond films, but Fukunaga brings all the threads together in a satisfying (if not totally neat) way, even introducing a new villain without dragging the film down with more laborious exposition and backstory. The action sequences, though not up to par with the jaw-dropping stunts in recent M:Is, are impressive; gritty and grounded rather than sleek, heightening the stakes and giving the film a tactile feel, maybe for the first time in the series. A surprisingly strong bookend for an inconsistent Bond era.

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