It’s a pity what has become of James Bond. The womanizing secret agent is unrecognizable as a respectful, sexless dad in “No Time To Die,” Daniel Craig’s final act as 007. It’s a fitting and merciful end for Craig, who has been turning Bond into a vulnerable sad boy since “Casino Royale.”
Director Cary Joji Fukunaga hinted at how badly “No Time To Die” would turn out when he described Sean Connery’s original version of 007 as a “rapist.”
Fukunaga’s agenda is all over “No Time to Die,” which might well have been titled “No Time for Hanky Panky.”
In “No Time to Die,” we see Bond endure the worst dry spell of his career before getting unceremoniously murdered. Bond even utters the words, “I love you” to his baby mama before getting cheaply killed off in a blast of CGI missile-fire. Isn’t James Bond supposed to be invincible?
The Bond girl, Paloma, portrayed by “it girl” Ana de Armas, makes only a brief appearance in the movie’s most traditional scene. Bond is in a familiar setting, Cuba. He orders a vodka martini—shaken, not stirred—and he and Paloma shoot up a villa where SPECTRE is hosting a birthday party for Bond nemesis Blofeld. Then, Paloma vanishes, without Bond even attempting to seduce her.
Fukunaga’s desire to innovate on the classic Bond formula is far from subtle. There is a character named 007 who is not Bond, but rather, a black woman who the director constantly reminds us is “the new 007.” He harps on this point incessantly.
Between its needling, woke virtue signaling and sentimental, overwrought story, “No Time to Die” is easily the most pretentious, least fun Bond movie of them all. At almost three hours, it is also the longest, much longer than the typical Bond flick. Is the director that convinced he has surpassed “From Russia with Love,” or even the delightfully absurd “Moonraker,” for that matter?
While the franchise is not known for its neat plots, “No Time to Die” is a mess. Basic editing to the story appears to have been skipped, which is remarkable, considering how audacious Fukunaga is about reinventing a character he clearly hates. Instead of just making a decent, entertaining Bond movie, he leaves us with a pompous, boring slog.
The daredevil stunts that announced Bond in his heyday are nowhere to be seen in “No Time to Die,” which begins with a gory horror sequence that feels like a false start. Then we see Bond getting ambushed by SPECTRE while romancing in Italy. By the time we see the title sequence, half an hour has passed.
In another jarring transition, Bond is enjoying life in Jamaica when he finally receives his mission. The meandering story starts to move a bit when Bond is sent off to Cuba by the CIA, to track down a dangerous weapon that has fallen into SPECTRE’s hands. But outside this fleeting foothold of familiarity, the convoluted story never really comes together.
It takes some time to come to grips with the fact that SPECTRE is not the real villain. Blofeld is just a minor character here, and a Hannibal Lecter-esque loon at that. What is strange about “No Time to Die” is that the familiar Bond characters, including Bond himself, feel unfamiliar and trivial. There are many times when one can say Bond jumped the shark in the past, but this is the first Bond movie in which the director’s disdain for the hero is palpable.
Bond was always cheesy, but in “No Time to Die,” there is plenty of schmaltz, and not much fun. It’s a stiff affair, lacking in the charm, glib humor, and style that made the classic Bond movies enjoyable.
With its imperial nostalgia and unrepentant masculinity, Bond has been a target of cultural revisionists in recent years. But the garter snapper of the pre-Craig era was never meant to be taken seriously. Perhaps if the director had more respect for Bond, “No Time To Die” would have turned out better. If this is a sign of which way the series is moving, 007 should surrender his “license to kill” for good.