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Thread: NO TIME TO DIE (Cary Joji Fukunaga 2021)

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    NO TIME TO DIE (Cary Joji Fukunaga 2021)



    Cineplex "fun" - or at least a beautiful French actress and a soothing score

    This will not be a review. I have not watched the dozens of James Bond movies you need to see to claim familiarity with the franchise, nor am I a devotee of blockbusters. I might add I am not sure I know what a "blockbuster" is, exactly. However the idea of a Bond film being for the first time shot (though only partially) with IMAX's 15/70mm film cameras and on film appealed to me, and I went to see the first local IMAX theater showing of No Time to Die. The French title, by the way, is Mourir peut attendre, dying can wait, which already is more realistic and makes more sense.

    I did read Fleming's initial couple of Bond novels when they first came out, and saw the first Bond film, but can't remember it. My impression of the books was that Fleming, a privileged, posh-educated flop, wrote them for a lark, and hit it lucky with an immediate bestseller and pounds rolling in. He died in his fifties, but no matter. He had a good run, and has filled the world with nearly seventy years of dashing trash, and no end in sight.

    The endurance of this franchise is not without some radical transformation of its core ideas, which probably began with the first Bond film, because the novels are more fun and less flashy than the movies, than any film realizations of Fleming's boyish fantasies had to be. The Daniel Craig Bond seemed the most wrong of all. His Bond decisively substitutes muscularity for chic, solemnity for the original Sean Connery good humor. One did not visualize the original 007 with big biceps, even less with Craig's bulldog face. Fleming's Bond was more dashing than daunting. He was quick on his feet, not strong. Body building doesn't go with being a debonair man about town, or didn't in 1960, at least. Martinis and women were a lot more important back then, and helped mitigate the absurd evil of Fleming's bad guys, whose weapons were preposterous and colorful. One thinks of Odd Job, the Oriental bad guy who sailed derby hats at his victims laced with razor blades.

    The bad guys are too real in the new Bond film, their grandiose schemes too thoroughly worked out to be fun any more. That custom Aston Martin car is still a delight to look at, and the martinis are still ordered "shaken, not stirred," but the adolescent pleasure and dandyish choosiness are lost because Daniel Craig is a grownup.

    At first it seemed this time among the new stars Rami Melek was the least successful. His prizewinning signature role as Elliot Alderson in "Mr. Robot", the marvelously convoluted and disturbing TV series he dominated, was a suffering, sensitive, neurotic madman genius one felt for dearly, qualities not at all right for a Bond villain. His performance as Bond villain Lyutsifer Safin seems overreaching, squalidly self-pitying, hammy. But in overdoing it so much perhaps he is the only actor to capture the original grotesquerie of an authentic Ian, Fleming character. Christoph Waltz's subtle underacted performance as Blofeld is too creepy and too real to fit the original Fleming model, just as the bad guys' plan for global destruction this time is much too close to what we're actually going through right now. And on second thought, both these characters totally lack the Bond villain comic touch, the more needed given Daniel Craig's dourness as Bond.

    How did I watch No Time to Die? By focusing on a beautiful woman and some nice music. For the first part, I focused mainly on Léa Seydoux. I have seen a number of Léa's earlier films, starting with Breillat's The Last Mistress (2007) and Honoré's La Belle Persone (2008), and there are many, including Kéchiche's controversial Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013) - even though she was, I think, only 33 when this, her second Bond appearance as Madeleine Swan was made. Many by now know the story that she is descended directly on both sides from the two most powerful cinema industry families of France, Gaumont on one side and Pathé on the other, and how totally she has banished the stereotype of the spoiled, privileged child of movie power with a hardworking, bold career that has made her today's most important female French movie star. There is not space to recount her career. The English language appearances have been great, but are the tip of the iceberg, and this itself is almost unique. She is eye candy with intelligence, heart and soul; she is magnificent. Her Madeleine Swann deserves your full attention. She may be destined to be the most important Bond movie woman, with a major role in multiple Bond films, and as, moreover, the only woman Bond has fallen for, without betrayal. A very uh-Bond thing to have happen, but nonetheless I relished her many scenes, her classic, tragic departure on a train and her reinstatement, even though that is only one of multiple ways this Bond movie goes on too long and has too many compartments.

    The settings, naturally, are spectacular and beautiful, and included Jamaica, London, Scotland and Italy - and Santiago de Cuba, though the latter sequences, featuring a Cuban 007 actually played by a Cuban, Ana de Armas, met by Craig doing Knives Out, could not be shot there. Jamaica stands in for it. But the action dominates and some of these locations aren't even really explained. No Time to Linger.

    Toward the end, the action wore me down. I was tired of putting my fingers in my ears to mute the crashes of bombs and weaponry. But then I found a reason to listen: Hans Zimmer's score. It fascinated me how he weaves his sweet strains between the explosions. Listening to those strains tames the bombast and makes the soundtrack cohere. I have never liked movie music, but for once I see the point of it. Let us not compare Zimmer to his boring, conventional alleged main competitor, John Williams who anyway is over the hill. Zimmer seems to have never studied music. This isn't to say he's unmusical. It's to point out that film score's aren't musical compositions in the normal way. They are scribbles, doodles, sounds to fill spaces, as with Zimmer's binding of the explosions here, or tuneful, catchy "themes" like Maurice Jarré's for Dr. Zhivago and Laurence of Arabia, which you get sick of but can't get out of your head. Notably Zimmer got his hands on a synthesizer early in life, and those are how me makes his stuff, in, reportedly, a grandiose, well-staffed studio. What has happened to the many excellent classical musicians who used to make a living in Hollywood playing recorded scores?

    I wanted to leave early, because this movie goes on at least forty minutes too long and it was getting dark outside. But I just couldn't, because of the drawn-out series of cliffhanger scenes that occupy those final superfluous forty minutes. You just want to know if Bond finds no time to die, or if mourir, after all, ne pouvait pas attendre. If you're curious to know, go to an IMAX theater and find out. This is not cinematic art like Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk, but it is cinematic craftsmanship of a high, expensive order.

    However it is far from a good movie or an outstanding James Bond flick. Despite my pleasure in watching Léa Seydoux and hearing how music is blended with canon fire, I'd have to agree with the Austin Chronicle's reviewer Richard Whittaker, who thought this "overstuffed storytelling, mixed with lackluster pacing, that renders No Time to Die a torturous misfire." Happily it's Daniel Craig's swan song after five films and a long, fifteen-year stint as 007. Playing Bond called back from retirement here, he has now himself retired as Bond for good. I hope.

    No Time to Die, 163 mins., was originally due for release Mar. 4, 2020 but was pushed back due to the COVID pandemic three times. The last change was to Sept. 30, 2021, actual US release date Oct. 8. Watched at Bay Street in IMAX Oct. 7, 2021. Metascore: 69%

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 10-10-2021 at 02:29 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    North Carolina

    MAJOR SPOILER ALERT - move over Chris and let a real Bond fan write this review

    James Bond, R.I.P.

    “No time to Die” directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga

    While Wilson and Broccoli have presented a sumptuous Bond with all of the elements thrown in including lavish settings, lots of action, pretty girls along with the standard tropes M, Q, Moneypenny, MI-6 including the gadget-prone fast car; they borrowed heavily from Bond’s past, so much so that the original director, Academy Award winning Danny Boyle, objected to the script and dropped out. Instead, they hired, for what must surely be a lot less money, the untried Cary Joji Fukunaga in his first major feature film debut who horribly muffs the entire production with wooden performances and lines delivered as if this was your weekly HBO drama and not a world-wide major theatrical release. I can see why Boyle objected. Broccoli and Wilson stole plot devices from previous films and even took the scores from John Barry composed themes (not taking anything away from Billie Eilish who wrote the opening song).

    In a nutshell, we have the plot from at least two previous Bond films – the main villain wants to poison the world in a major kill-off (Moonraker) and Bond finally marries a girl but she is tragically killed in the end by Blofeld (On her Majesty’s Secret Service). They even took the music from OHMSS with the same delivery! I kept thinking as the film unfolded, “Why does this seem familiar?” Then I realized it was all a mish-mash of previous Bond outings; starting with the use of the Bond’s old DB5 from 1965, destroyed at the end of “Spectre.” Now in that film, it was both humorous and ironic he had the car in some warehouse that included Judy Dench’s clever repartee about being ejected. Why would you have Bond driving it around some unknown Mediterranean location? Evidently the Craig Bond has an endless supply or a need to drive Sean Connery’s iconic car from “Goldfinger,” which also got destroyed in that film, too.

    In what could be described as a “huh?” moment, Bond visits the grave of Vesper Lynn, whom evidently, he’s still pining over (despite him saying, “…the bitch is dead.”) This convoluted plot so far has included a very long opening that also involves the assassination of a Spectre member, “White” whom Bond killed in a previous film. White’s daughter is saved by a strangely masked man who pulls her from an icy lake (the plot’s reason later revealed in a very long villain speech). Also later, we learn that Blofeld has booby-trapped Lynn’s grave in case Bond ever shows up… and he does… ten years later! This coincidence so struck the non-Bond fan with me, he leaned over and said, “How could he possibly know Bond would just happen to show up at her grave ten years later, still pining for her?” I had to laugh and reply, “He couldn’t.” Another ridiculous plot device.

    Bond finds out that his girlfriend, Léa Seydoux as Madeleine Swann (Bond’s girlfriend in Spectre) whom we briefly know from the superficial introduction, is more than just a current squeeze. He’s fallen in love and intends to settle down. But when he discovers her connection to Spectre (he didn’t know?) as a possible attempt on his life, he cuts her like a bad date and wishes her goodbye before he “disappears” having retired from being a 00 agent. Remember, the entire 00 program is a remnant of the cold war, which Judy Dench reminds us as M when she says so in the beginning of “Casino Royale” perhaps the best of the Daniel Craig Bond’s. So that when he “retires” on his island in the middle of nowhere, the 00 label is passed to another agent, who is given his famous number, 007. This becomes one of the more interesting and humorous juxtapositions later when both Craig and his replacement, Lashana Lynch as Nomi, are addressed as 007 and they both respond. Felix Leiter, Bond’s friend with the CIA, shows up at his island paradise with a new proposition for him – help track Spectre’s latest intrigue, a scientist who has a top-secret virus capable of being a mass-destruction weapon (aka, the plot to Moonraker).

    Still with me? Because the convoluted plot gets worse and so do the coincidences. When Bond gets to Cuba, he meets up the first “Bond” girl in the film, Ana de Armas as Paloma (she appeared with Craig in “Knives Out”), who also happens to be working for the CIA and is, evidently, a deadly shot as every single one of her gunshots later is a kill, no matter the distance, no matter the angle. They attend a party where the guest is an eyeball, presented by Bond’s same one-eyed attacker from five years earlier who also hasn’t changed. He pops out his eye and then we hear the voice of Christoph Waltz as Blofeld. The party is the ultimate collection of Spectre agents who are there to witness Bond’s death as revenge. It’s all a trap! However, the scientist whose virus was supposed to be intended for Bond, somehow has given it super-mass-attack capabilities and it attacks all of the guests instead, leaving Bond untouched. The reason for this twist is later explained in that long villain speech, which we have to endure. Bond escapes, goes to a boat at sea, only to be betrayed by Leiter’s partner who is secretly working for some unknown villain. Leiter dies and Bond escapes.

    The film is half over and we’re finally, finally introduced to the movie’s main villain, Rami Malek as Lyutsifer Safin, the masked man who saved the little girl in the beginning and who later somehow became the love of Bond’s life, the one he let go… but secretly still pines for. He has trouble letting go, evidently. Safin is the person who was behind kidnapping the “mad scientist” whose virus will destroy the world. He’s tailor-made one that will kill Blofeld as the old girlfriend, played by Léa Seydoux as Dr. Madeleine Swann, yes the same Dr. Swann who was Bond’s girlfriend in Spectre and whom he dumped in the film’s beginning as being the love of his life, that Dr. Swann, is also the little girl in the lake from the beginning… and the man in the mask who saved her, is the ageless Safin, who somehow has remained young despite the incident happened well over a decade earlier. She is to deliver the deadly virus (which later turns out to be nano-bytes) and leave. Bond confronts Blofeld in a long-drawn-out unnecessary scene before the nano-bytes, later identified by Q, as the culprit… and they’ve also infected Bond.

    We’ve finally arrived at the film’s climax… or have we. Does Bond go to the villain’s island lair? Noooo… he goes to find the girlfriend and seek an explanation as to why she killed Blofeld. It’s during this part, Bond discovers they’d made a spy love-child, which she denies, for his benefit, that it’s his. Safin (aka, Satan???) shows up out of the blue with an endless supply of henchmen in cars, on motorcycles, etc. who all happened to be hiding just over the hill and now converge out of nowhere on Bond’s car carrying his ex along with their child. In a forest whose fog conveniently appears for some scenes and then disappears for others, Safin kidnaps the girl and takes off for his island lair conveniently located between nations (aka, Our Man Flint). The new 007 and Bond fly to the island and infiltrate its defenses through another endless supply of henchmen (they’re never henchwomen) who all have matching uniforms and a seemingly endless supply of grenades and bullets. I wrote a parody to this once. When Bond finally reaches Safin, he must sit through one of the most poorly written Bond villain speeches ever. Safin goes on and on about how he wants Bond to suffer while he cleanses the world (again, aka Moonraker and Our Man Flint) all the while the strains of music sounding so familiar as they are rip-offs of John Barry’s themes written for Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

    Bond saves his old girlfriend and his daughter, sending them out with the new 007 supposedly to be rescued at sea. Bond remains, confronts Safin who has installed a fail-safe device, a vial of Bond’s girlfriend’s blood that contains nano-bytes so that Bond will never be able to touch her, or his daughter, again. Bond kills Safin, opens up the mountain’s lair to incoming missiles and then, yes folks, for the first time in Bond film history, dies at the end! What??? Yes, they kill James Bond!!! In what was a twist from OHMSS, it’s Bond who dies and not his wife/girlfriend and the same music plays over the end, Louis Armstrong singing the John Barry theme, “All the time in the world.” Not fair… not fair.

    In the post scene, 007, M, Q, and Moneypenny sit around the office and toast to James Bond before they go back to work… how thoroughly unsatisfying. The credits role and this old film historian/critic and Bond aficionado sits there crying in the theater as the producers have finally done it; they killed James Bond! My friend, who hasn’t followed the series, doesn’t know that at the end of every James Bond movie, Bond gets the girl and some reward for doing a good deed. He doesn’t die! He does in this movie! My question was why… why kill Bond? The only reason I could think was that they are going to replace the white male with just the 007 moniker and call it a day. James is a relic of the past. But wait. The credits are over and it’s the old Broccoli (senior) trick – James Bond will be back. What??? You just killed him, for the first time ever!!! How can he be back??? Are you going to clone his DNA from his daughter??? (notice all of the repeat punctuation represents my incredulity)

    Despite all of the tropes, despite all of the action, this film borrows too many plot devices and themes from other films. Instead of tying up all the loose ends, it simply rehashes old film elements and tries to make them appear new. All of the elements are there, they’re just used rather poorly. I can see why Boyle quit, or was fired. He objected to the script. It’s terrible. And the director they brought in couldn’t handle the scope and depth of a Bond film in a way that could’ve brought some freshness to the franchise. Instead, we’re given a rubber-stamped copy of old Bond plots and villains with wooden speeches that mean nothing… and so dies the Bond series, with a silly whimper exit and not a massive villain’s lair explosion where James Bond saves the day. He doesn’t… mores the pity.
    Colige suspectos semper habitos


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