Runtime: 2 hours 43 minutes. In theaters Oct. 8
James Bond movies are so formulaic you can usually mouth along to the script, so it’s nice to know that after six decades, they can still throw in a few shockers.
Barbara Broccoli and her brother Michael G Wilson have been dedicated stewards of their father Albert “Cubby” Broccoli’s 007 series since they took the reins in 1995. The producers have made solid creative choices and earlier this year smartly kept Bond on the big screen where he belongs. With the 25th film, “No Time To Die,” they shake up the franchise, shirking most of the conventions we’ve come to expect.
The film itself can be happily grouped with Craig’s better jaunts as the super spy — “Casino Royale” and “Skyfall” — rather than the dreadful “Quantum of Solace” and meh “Spectre.”
Craig already has said this is his last Bond film, and “No Time To Die” is a fine movie for the 53-year-old actor to go out on. Rather than sticking around too long for “A View To A Kill” (Roger Moore) or “Die Another Day” (Pierce Brosnan), films mocked for all eternity by bitchy Bond fans.
For his final foray, Craig hasn’t suddenly lightened the mood from the darkness that has defined his tenure. The opening sequence includes a young girl’s mother being murdered by a gunman named Saffin (Rami Malek) in a creepy China doll mask. All of Saffin’s scenes ring of a horror film.
We fast forward to her as Madeleine Swan (Lea Seydoux), Bond’s love interest from “Spectre,” who is vacationing with Bond in Italy. While the couple drives along the coast, we hear the instrumentals of Louis Armstrong’s “We Have All The Time In The World.” Anybody who’s seen “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” knows the emotional baggage that comes along with that hauntingly beautiful tune.
When James is nearly murdered at the grave of Vesper Lynd, he believes Madeleine has betrayed him and he abandons her in fury. Five years later, Bond is retired and living off-the-grid in the Caribbean when Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) recruits him to help the CIA bring down Spectre.
Craig’s maturity shows in his emotions. He’s still confident and aggressive, but erratic and quick to anger. He’s never been more vulnerable — nor, really, has the character — than he is here. He’s also accompanied by three very different Bond girls: Alongside Madeleine, who becomes a therapist, there’s M16 agent Nomi, Lashana Lynch, and Ana de Armas as a CIA agent who’s “had three weeks training.” All three are terrific and bring out varied shades in brooding Craig.
Malek is the eccentric weirdo you’d expect him to be as a maniac hellbent on destroying the world with chemical weapons. But some more backstory on Safin would’ve been nice.
Cary Joji Fukunaga was the right choice to direct “No Time To Die,” even if he wasn’t the first in this rocky road of a production. His Bond feels reverential and classic, but not campy, and he makes bold choices.
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