Review – Daniel Craig Says Goodbye. . . Again (“No Time To Die”)

He’s Bond. James Bond. And this is Daniel Craig’s final film as 007, even though Craig adamantly refused to come back to this role five years ago after 2015’s Spectre. Oh well, I guess waving a generous paycheck under your nose will do the trick every time! Can you say $25 million?

It’s been a while since Bond successfully captured the infamous head of the international crime syndicate known as SPECTRE, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), who also turned out to be his half-brother. Since then, Bond’s been relaxing in Matera, Italy with his new girlfriend, Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), the daughter of Mr. White from the previous movies. BUT! SPECTRE is after Bond again, but why and how did they find him? Could he have been betrayed again, this time by his beloved Madeline? After a harrowing chase and escape, Bond says adios to Madeline and MI-6.

Fast-forward five years and Bond is found in Jamaica by his old CIA buddy, Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), and his assistant, Logan Ash (Billy Magnussen). There’s trouble brewing and Felix needs 007’s help in tracking down a kidnapped MI6 scientist named Valdo Obruchev (David Dencik) who has weaponized a virus with programmable nanobots that can kill using individual DNA! Bond agrees and goes to Cuba where he meets excitable newbie CIA agent Paloma (Ana De Armas) who may act giddy, but she turns out to be a helluva bad-ass agent. Once Valdo is captured, Bond learns the awful truth. “Project Heracles” is a secret MI-6 program implemented by his old boss, ‘M’ (Ralph Fiennes). Going back to MI-6, Bond meets the new 007, Nomi (Lashana Lynch), who has taken his place.

From there it’s a jigsaw puzzle to find the stolen virus, which is now in the hands of sinister and creepy Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malik), who looks, talks, and dresses like Dr. No from the first 1962 movie. After some diabolical doings here and there, this wacko villain eventually kidnaps Madeline and her adorable little 5-year-old daughter, Mathilde (Lisa-Dorah Sonnet). With the help of ‘Q’ (Ben Whishaw), both 007’s team up and go after Safin at his island fortress where he’s got not only Madeleine & Mathilde held hostage, but he’s on the verge of wiping out millions with his programmable virus!

At nearly three hours long, there’s alot to unpack; I barely scratched the surface with everything that happens in this exciting finale. There are amazing chase and fight scenes in Italian streets, in forests, at luxury parties, and a breath-taking climactic one that is straight out of a Jason Bourne/John Wick movie with a nearly non-stop, single-camera shot. And besides plenty of terrific action set pieces, you also have some great acting scenes, like the riveting tête-à-tête between Bond and Blofeld. Craig, after doing five Bond films, has really fleshed out a three-dimensional human arc to his character. But let’s not forget the villain! Bond movies aren’t Bond movies without a nasty bad guy and Malik is about as creepy, eerie, and disturbing as they come.

There’s also a great intricate story to unravel here, thanks to screenwriters Neal Purvis & Robert Wade (Skyfall, Casino Royale), Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and director Cary Joji Fukanaga. Despite only directing Jane Eyre (a period picture) and the eclectic Beasts of No Nation, you wouldn’t think this would be his cup of tea, but like previous Bond director, Sam Mendes, Fukanaga excels in his filmmaking like a seasoned pro. Daniel Craig couldn’t ask for a better send-off than this combination of screenplay and director. The only beef I have is the character of CIA agent Paloma. She was only on screen for barely ten minutes! She was SO good and SO entertaining she could have an entire film devoted to her! This needs to happen, people!

**Now showing only in theaters

Dr. No (1962)

His name is Bond. James Bond. And this movie started a world-wide film franchise that is STILL going strong today! Wow! Ian Fleming’s novels about a dashing British super-spy and his exploits against the bad guys like SPECTRE and Blofeld are well known, but this movie began it all.

The game’s afoot in Jamaica as weird radio-jamming waves are being emitted from there, disrupting rocket launches from nearby Cape Canaveral. On assignment is British MI6 agent John Strangways (Timothy Moxon) who’s working in co-operation with the CIA. But after he mysteriously disappears, 007 James Bond (Sean Connery) goes out to investigate. After Bond is nearly killed by a chauffeur, he knows he’s on the right track, but who wants him dead? A series of clues leads him to a local fisherman named Quarrel (John Kitzmiller) and his soon-to-be CIA buddy, Felix Leiter (Jack Lord). Looks like the answers lie in the small Chinese-owned island of Crab Key!

As Quarrel and Bond are searching the island for clues, they meet local shell diver Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress, but she was dubbed by Nikki VanDerZyl). Right on time, the bad guys arrive and kill Quarrel, but take captive Honey and Bond to their boss. In a secret underground lair, Bond and Honey meet the infamous criminal mastermind, Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman), a Chinese-German scientist with metal hands due to radiation exposure. He’s a member of SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion). His sinister plan? To disrupt NASA’s Project Mercury space launch from Cape Canaveral with his radio beam. Oh, No! You’re evil!

Imprisoned Bond manages to escape and makes his way to No’s control room, overloading his nuclear reactor, and killing the evil doctor by knocking him into a reactor pool, like Batman & the Joker at Ace Chemicals. Naturally, Bond and Honey escape unharmed and have lotsa sex. Isn’t that nice? Now, what did author & creator Ian Fleming think of this movie? “Dreadful. Simply dreadful,” he said. Yeah, most critics hated it as well. It was long-winded, uninteresting, underwritten, had only a few action scenes, and the British were confused over a Scottish actor (Connery) portraying a BRITISH secret agent!

The screenplay adaption by Richard Maibaum (11 Bond Films), Johanna Harwood (From Russia With Love), and Berkely Mather (The Long Ships) wasn’t bad, but they didn’t ‘get it’ until the subsequent movies, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, and Thunderball which cemented the popular franchise we all know today. This movie, a very low-budget attempt (many actors wore their own personal clothing), made a ton of money at the box office. Director Terance Young, who would go on to direct more Bond films, hit all the marks here, including the famous shot of Andress walking out the ocean in her signature white bikini.

This movie also introduced such mainstays as Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell–14 Bond films), Bond’s boss, “M” (Bernard Lee–11 Bond films), and Major Boothroyd (Peter Burton, replaced by Desmond Llewelyn, who did 17 Bond films), who would later be known just as “Q”. And it was in THIS movie that “M” tells Bond to get rid of his trusty Beretta gun and use Q’s new Walther PPK, a staple in the Bond series. Bond even drives his world-famous Austin Martin car, but it’s not all tricked-out yet.       

For many, Connery IS James Bond, and he’s still widely regarded as the one and only, true 007. He did six Bond films (or seven IF you count Never Say Never Again in 1983, which was an awful Thunderball remake). Some fun facts: Jack Lord demanded top billing in the next Bond films, so he was fired, however, he got his own TV series, Hawaii 5-0 soon after. The ‘spider scene’ in the movie? Connery has a genuine spider phobia which made shooting that scene difficult. They ended up using his stunt double and, like in Raiders of the Lost Ark, used a pane of glass to separate the tarantula from Connery. In a case of art imitating life, NASA did report that someone was in fact using radio waves at one time to disrupt their rockets.

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