Review: Craig says goodbye to Bond role in latest 007 flick

Daniel Craig in No Time to Die / Universal Pictures

Has it really been 15 years since Daniel Craig took over the role of James Bond in the re-imagining of “Casino Royale” back in 2006?

It has. Time flies when you’re getting old, sort of like Craig’s Bond in “No Time to Die,” the 25th film in the venerable series that’s seen seven actors — Sean Connery, David Niven, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Craig — portray the suave British secret agent since the 1960s.

In the film, Bond has retired from MI6, but he’s drawn back into the spy game by the CIA who need his special set of skills to help with a mission. However, the job is a setup that reveals the complex plot of mad man Lyustifer Safin (Rami Malek), who is out to reduce the Earth’s surface population with a bioweapon that introduces nanobots into human hosts that contain a virus which is deadly to subjects with a specific DNA. The hosts pass the virus by touch, and it kills instantly.

Safin is a creepy maniac with a face full of scar tissue looking to take down the terrorist organization Spectre, who murdered his father while he working for the group. Malek’s one-note but effective performance will remind classic movie fans of Peter Lorre. The character feels ripped from the pages of an old Batman comic book, which does fit the classic Bond mold but isn’t really at home in Craig’s Bond films, which up until this one had a more realistic tone.

Ana de Armas in No Time to Die / Universal Pictures

Assisting Bond on the mission are his old M16 boss M (Ralph Fiennes), his secretary Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), and weapons master Q (Ben Whishaw) as well as the agent who took over Bond’s OO7 codename Nomi (Lashana Lynch). Each character has their moments but Lynch’s Nomi proves to be not only a nice foil for Bond but also extremely useful in the field.

Ana de Armas, however, nearly steals the movie as a sexy, neophyte CIA agent the proves to be as capable as she is gorgeous in assisting Bond in infiltrating Spectre’s lair. I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing de Armas’ character get a movie of her own.

The film is gorgeously shot by cinematographer Linus Sandgren under director Cary Joji Fukunaga’s watchful eye. The action is breathtaking and lush. The setting primarily is in Greece, and Fukunaga fills the screen with luscious images that reminded me of the work of both Alfred Hitchcock and John Ford. The action is fast-paced, but it’s not frenetic. Fukunaga makes sure you feel the impact of his scenes fully.

All of that you would expect from a Bond film. However, what caught me off guard was the bumpy love story between Bond and Lea Seydoux’s Madeline Swann, a woman who was not only victimized by Safin as a girl but also saved by him. Her relationship with Bondy truly is the crux of the movie, but saying much more would only ruin the story.

Rami Malek in No Time to Die / Universal Pictures

This is the longest Bond movie, running 2 hours and 43 minutes, but the story and action flowed well. The pacing never had me checking my watch.

As a kid who grew up watching Connery’s Bond films on TV and Moore’s Bond movies in the theater, I enjoyed some of the more whacky elements introduced in this film that had been absent in Craig’s other Bond movies. However, Fukunaga kept the more fanciful aspects of the movie reined in just enough for the film’s crushing climax to have full impact. You will see something in this Bond film that you have never witnessed before.

I would rate “No Time to Die” as my second favorite of Craig’s Bond films behind “Casino Royale.” It’s a bit of a shame that this is his last one, but Craig did go out with a bang.

(PG-13) 2 hrs. 43 min.
Grade: B-

New in Local Theaters

No Time to Die (watch trailer) / (PG-13) 2 hrs. 43 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle Point, Malco Towne, Starlight

Classic Corner – The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs / Orion Pictures

Jonathan Demme’s 1991 adaptation of Thomas Harris’ 1988 novel “The Silence of the Lambs” is one of the best popcorn movies of the last three decades, and I rank it among my personal top 15 favorite movies.

Obviously, that’s a very subjective and meaningless list to anyone but me; however, I back up my opinion with the fact that the film is one of just three movies in history to win Oscars in the top five categories: Best Picture, Director (Demme), Actress (Jodie Foster), Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally).

Some feel “The Silence of the Lambs” holds the distinction of being the only horror movie to ever win an Academy Award for Best Picture. The Academy has only nominated two other horror flicks, “The Exorcist” from 1973 and “Jaws” from 1975 for “Best Picture” in its history. While the movie definitely contains horrific elements, I’d label it as more of a psychological thriller than out-and-out horror movie. But why quibble? The film truly is a masterpiece however it’s defined.

For the movie’s 30th anniversary, Fathom Events resurrects it for special showings on Oct. 17 and Oct. 20 locally at the Malco Razorback Cinema.

The plot is tight. FBI boss Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) pulls Clarice Starling (Foster) from agent training to interview an incarcerated psychiatrist/serial killer Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lector in hopes of gaining his insights on an at-large serial killer dubbed Buffalo Bill.

Crawford has an inkling that Lector might be attracted to Starling’s spunk and intelligence and cooperate with her. He also believes Starling is tough enough to survive dancing with the devil that is Lector.

The bond developed between Lector and Starling is haunting, and upon reflection, it’s difficult to tell exactly which character was manipulating the other more.

Hopkins is simply unforgettable as Lector. He gives an iconic performance that remains just as chilling today as it was three decades ago. Hopkins’ Lector is icy and reptilian, yet his voice is soothing and hypnotic as he profiles Starling. He truly seems to be a caged animal while stalking the confines of his cell.

Coupled with Tally’s enthralling screenplay and Demme’s deft direction, Hopkins convinces you that he is evil incarnate, and yet his charisma and sardonic charm made me chuckle. I distinctly remember other viewers cheer at the end of the film when he says he is “going to have an old friend for dinner.” They knew he meant it literally, but still couldn’t hold back the laughter.

Hopkins gets as good as he gives from Foster, who is masterful in the more understated role. If she weren’t as strong in her own way as Starling, Hopkins wouldn’t have shined as darkly as Lector.