Even with a run time of nearly three hours, the latest James Bond installment still can’t meet modern times. Maybe it shouldn’t have to.
As the franchise approaches six decades since the first film adaptation of Ian Fleming’s book series, there’s a clear tension between what can and can’t be updated in the James Bond canon. Example A: even in 2021, “Bond girls” are still forced into impractical, stilts-disguised-as-heels during fight scenes.
As a plus, “No Time To Die” features its first Black woman as 007 and Léa Seydoux’s character, Madeleine Swann, is the first love interest to be a major character in two films.
Lashana Lynch, who plays Nomi, the film’s new 007 after Bond’s (Daniel Craig) temporary retirement, said in a college roundtable interview she wants her character to demystify the “strong Black woman” trope.
“I knew that she would help facilitate ushering this new era that I think the franchise has done really well in, in reshaping how women are viewed and represented within the franchise,” Lynch said.
Sure, the role of women in the franchise has improved since the ’60s, but Bond is still Bond: he still manhandles women and he still flirts with every female agent he meets. And while it isn’t outrageous that the age gap between Craig and Seydoux is nearly 20 years, it’s creepy.
The 25th installment of the famous film franchise serves as an end to Craig’s five-part role. The movie follows Bond after his old friend and CIA agent Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) persuades him out of his temporary retirement with the looming threat of — you guessed it — global catastrophe.
The genre’s usual camp teeters on cliché at times. Bond’s crisp white button-up miraculously stays clean after a scuffle in the forest; the man running through a crowded club and huddled over with a suspicious-looking briefcase is the man Bond and Nomi are both after; and a returning villain has a bionic eye. A BIONIC EYE.
And Q (Ben Whishaw), the head of the MI6’s research and division branch, “hacks” into a hard drive after clicking on a screen displaying “Hidden Files Detected” in all-caps. Truly, stellar work.
The intense, Mario Kart-like motorcycle chase through an Italian city was fun, though. And the new Cuban CIA agent Paloma’s (Ana de Armas) full-body kick is worth the price of the movie ticket and every viewing after that.
The movie feels classic and glossy — though that may be because of the three years of delays. Hans Zimmer’s score is forceful the entire time and there’s a beautiful glow and lighting technique in night scenes.
The sound mixing, though, truly deserves an Oscar. In one early scene, the sound team rejects the overdone, cut-and-paste muffled sound effect in a post-bomb scene and instead invents a warp-like, fluctuating effect that succeeds in fully immersing the audience.
It’s clear there are multiple Billie Eilish stans who made final decisions in “No Time To Die,” since the film features six different renditions of the artist’s track that was released last February.
Along with its high production value, a solid cast — Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Mr. Robot”) as the main villain, Safin, is a terrific casting choice — and a long run time that surprisingly doesn’t weigh down the pacing, the film tiptoes a half-step into modernizing the franchise.
Diversifying the cast and expanding the world for more nuanced characters is great, but woke-baiting with a half-refreshed Bond is wholly unnecessary.
“One of the first scenes Nomi has with Bond is about how much the world has changed and […] whether he belongs in that new world or not,” director Cary Joji Fukunaga said.
This sexist trash definitely doesn’t belong in the new world. And that’s OK.
“No Time To Die,” rated PG-13, will be released in theaters Oct. 8.