No Time to Die

No Time to Die ★★★

No Time to Die presents a rather cold world of gunmetal grey or sandy sienna, crammed with plot and adorned with dour, solemn expressions; a world which gets briefly warmed by sentimentality, like a stray beam of sun through the clouds. There’s a certain sense of personality lacking from most of the film— not absent but latent, as it emerges briefly in certain scenes (especially the end), before being bogged down again in details and flat characters.

Léa Seydoux returns as Madeleine Swann, Bond’s romantic interest, but unfortunately, Seydoux and Craig are completely lacklustre together. Ana de Armas, on the other hand, certainly steals the scene, as she brings great energy and terrific chemistry with Craig. As the CIA agent Paloma, she is— somehow— sexy and awkward and capable, adroitly avoiding the Bond-girl tropes as she makes the most of her (unfortunately) limited screen-time. But it’s not just because of her that the action scene in Cuba is easily the most fun and entertaining of the whole film, for it manages to strike a tone both believable and cool. Various factions— CIA, MI6, Spectre— converge here, the plot develops, and the fire-fight is punctuated with pauses for Paloma and Bond to take a breath and, of course, down another martini, before the action surges again.

Other set-pieces feature some absurd plot-bullets (which only hit when necessary, or when Bond fires them), some enemies with Storm-trooper level of accuracy, and a weak sense of cinematic space. A shaky camera becomes particularly distracting— especially in one shot where I couldn’t help but picture the exhausted camera man, trying his best to run after Daniel Craig.

Rami Malek plays the villain Safin, but his role is muddled and under-developed as the film works to also tie-up any loose ends from the previous films. Malek is not sinister or convincing in his role, although the bland writing doesn’t help much in this regard. His motivation is cliche, vague, and uninteresting.

The overall result is undoubtedly a big improvement from its predecessor, Spectre, with Bond taking a far more active role in the narrative, as he’s forced to make decisions and face their consequences. Although it’s a bit all over the place, No Time to Die is an enjoyable watch, and the end is an excellent send-off to Daniel Craig’s version of James Bond.

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