This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Nate Ridgeway’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Up until this point, I’d only seen Goldfinger and Spectre, so while I’m not a Bond nerd, I still understood enough from Spectre for No Time to Die to make sense.
I think I’m just going to break down the different elements that stuck out to me, starting with the good.
Firstly, it’s a Bond film, and I watched No Time to Die on the biggest screen I could find. This alone made the movie super fun. There’s always going to be that coolness factor from a Bond movie, and this shouldn’t go unnoticed or underrated.
I really liked the directing in this movie. Especially in the action sequences there is an intentionality that pays off, so that we never feel lost with close-ups but also are tight enough to really experience the action. This is a an absolute tightrope to walk, and No Time to Die walks it well.
The romance and heartbreak between Bond and Madeleine is actually really intense, I just wish there was more of it. After the intro when Bond puts Madeleine on the train, we get less than five minutes to experience the awkwardness, hurt, and hate between them. This is a conflict that could have been such a powerful layer for this story, but right after that five minutes of awkwardness they’ve reconciled and their conflict is gone, leaving the rest of the movie with nothing but pure action (oops, I stepped into the “bad” category already).
The pacing in this movie works really well. Of course, it has the cutthroat actions sequences and drama, but it also gives us moments to breathe and be introduced to new characters. This works incredibly well, so that the nearly three-hour-long runtime feels like maybe only a couple of hours… until we get to the third act.
From here on, I’ll be talking mainly about the bad.
As mentioned above, the entire third act felt like a mess of convoluted black ops, stretched to an unreasonable length of time for no other reason than to make the ending of the movie feel big and important. It sure does feel big, but so unimportant that I could have skipped a full half hour and checked back in for the last 10 minutes without missing anything noteworthy.
Part of what makes the third act so unbearable is the villain. We’re given a man who wants vengeance and is handed his vengeance in the opening scene. What is he still doing around later on? Did I miss something important? Why does he want to murder half the planet? Why is he angry at Bond? Why does he save Madeleine’s life just to scare her 30 years later? It makes no sense because Malek’s character is nothing more than a plot device. I repeat: this is not a character, this is a plot device. We’re not given any real insight to his real desires or wants. There’s a minor effort to create a “Thanos”—a villain who, in his own, twisted way, makes a lot of sense, and might genuinely make the world a better place if it wasn’t for immorality involved. The difference is, Thanos is given an entire movie for us to understand him, and therefore, fear him. Malek’s character is instead a line of dialogue for us to really “get” his mission, and it’s the same thing we’ve heard in a hundred movies before… “he’s not just targeting a few individuals, he’s trying to kill millions.” Why? It’s not like his feelings are still hurt about his family, cause he got revenge for that already. The truth is, he doesn’t have a good reason, but the final Bond villain needed a big baddie, so why not bring in some “plot twist” that feels scary because he was part of Madeleine’s childhood? It just doesn’t work.
One final gripe. Hans Zimmer, dude, did you put any thought into this one whatsoever? Your score sounds like every other average piece of music for whatever generic action movie might be this week’s bro-film. Hopefully you’ve got something better in store for Dune, because all I could think during Bond’s death scene is how boring those strings were.
All in all, it’s still fun, even though the finale doesn’t work. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more had I seen the 3 Bond movies before Spectre.