No(,) Time To Die (2021)

Following the tonally inconsistent, motivationally uniform “Spectre” (2015), is the (mostly) tonally consonant, inspirationally wayward “No Time To Die,” a title which should be commended for being better than “Quantum of Solace.” And much like “Quantum of Solace,” as a title, the more you think about some of the character decisions in “No Time To Die” the less sense it makes.

In one of the most egregious scenes in the film, Bond scrambles to crack the defenses of Lyutsifer Safin’s fortress as the aforementioned antagonist exits his besieged island base with a detachment of bodyguards and appears to escape. However, Safin later returns, without his men, and opens fire on Bond. Which prompted me to ponder why he would return at all, given that he knows his base is compromised and maintains no personal animus against Bond? If there was some unstated reason for his sudden and overwhelming compulsion to kill Bond, why would an obviously cautious man like Safin attack a dangerous assassin without his men? You might think the answer to the query is, “He wouldn’t, that would be profoundly reckless,” but the correct answer is, “So the plot can conclude by nanite-inspired missile-seppuku.” This is but one of many such scenes.

In another, Bond, in an attempt to infiltrate a terrorist gathering, is put into contact with an alcoholic female CIA agent named Paloma, who sheepishly confesses she’s only a couple weeks into the job, and proceeds to handily dispatch numerous trained killers with spin-kicks and double-fisted uzi-fire while wearing nothing but a party dress and high heels. I hardly need remark that its more than somewhat unconvincing, particularly given that the actress in the scene looks as if she weights scarcely more than ninety pounds and the absurdity marshals stridently against the film’s prevailing somber tone. If the filmmakers really wanted Paloma to be a convincing CIA agent, they should have had her prod Bond into an agency-organized lockdown protest, then have him arrested for domestic “extremism.”

Some of this insensibility is rendered lucid by a little knowledge of the production, which was delayed by the egress of its initial director-writer duo of Danny Boyle and John Hodge, then came the Wuhan pandemic, an onset injury of its lead and consequent, consistent rewrites. The director C.J. Fukunaga, in a interview with Esquire, elaborated upon the writing process for the project, noting that “with Bond [25], we were still writing when we’d wrapped. I was even writing in post.” He also noted that “there are pieces that Ralph Fiennes says in the trailer that neither Ralph nor I knew exactly what he was saying it for.” Obviously not ideal. Some of these problems (such as lines like “people want things to happen to them”) are doubtless a result of the rushed timetable, others, however, (such as the Paloma scene) are clearly the result of judicious planning.

I haven’t touched yet upon the political propaganda in the film, which isn’t as obnoxious as the trailer made it out to be, and probably all the more potent for that. In addition to being subtle, it is also brief and so easily removed for distribution in profitable foreign markets.

Though much was made of her in promotional material, the new and insufferably smug 007, Nomi, isn’t in the film much and was so extraneous to the plot she could have been cut from the script entirely. If that had been the case audiences would have been spared the worst line in the film, delivered as Nomi holds Safin-acolyte Obruchev at gun point over a deadly pit of nanites and askes if he knows what time it is, to which she replies, “Time to die!” A retread of The Last Jedi pit-drop scene. Trend developing.

I don’t wish to wax wholly negative. The opening is tense. Obruchev is a fascinating character and his misadventures are amusing; the initial revenge arc is interesting (though it is ultimately supplanted by a world-imperiled-via-superweapon plotline, which proves far less compelling); the acting is solid; the score, by Hans Zimmer, is keen (particularly Safin’s ethereal, understated flute motif), and Linus Sandgren’s cinematography is often quite striking.

Despite all these merits it left little overall impression. Even Bond’s death felt tepid. And its easy to understand why. If Bond were a real person and a statue was erected in his honor, many of the same people who made this film would advocate for its removal.

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