No Time to Die, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, opens on a shot of a remote house in the wilderness of Norway. This house is located on a lake that is completely frozen over. The wind howls and snow plummets down from the sky. The camera cuts to a man wearing a creepy doll mask. He’s holding a gun and trudges through the snow, heading for the house. Inside the house, we see a little girl playing with a Tamagotchi pet. Her mother calls her downstairs. They start talking to each other, and the little girl looks out the window and sees the man in the mask. She screams and runs away. The man crashes through the window into the house and shoots the girl’s mom. What follows is a brief game of cat and mouse that ends on the frozen lake.
Before we see how the fight ends, the movie cuts to the little girl, Madeline Swann (Léa Seydoux), who is now grown up and on vacation in Italy with her husband, James Bond (Daniel Craig). Everything seems perfect, as if they’ve reached their happily ever after ending, but they soon get ambushed by Spectre, a group of international evil spies and masterminds. The two manage to escape, but they break up after Bond blames Swann for the ambush. Years later, Bond is living in Africa, alone. When he runs into an old friend at a bar, he gets dragged into a plan to recover a kidnapped scientist from a terrorist group. This sets the plot in motion.
These first few scenes are the high point of this movie. Everything about the first scene is horror-esque.The location feels remote and cold, and when that’s combined with the fear evoked by the man in the doll mask, it makes for a great horror scene. The cinematography is also amazing here. The shot of the man walking up to the house in the snow has stuck with me. And while people chasing each other on frozen lakes is kind of obvious and overused, it’s overused for a reason.
The scene in Italy is also an example of an enthralling chase scene. Similar to the first scene, one thing that really shines here is the location. Italy is quaint and charming with its winding stone streets and blue skies. This chase scene also includes amazing shots that anyone who has seen the trailer for the movie has seen, like Bond swinging off a bridge using a rope.
Unfortunately, it does go downhill from there. The movie seems to trail off after the first hour or so. The run time definitely doesn’t help. At 2 hours and 43 minutes, it’s hard to keep the audience consistently engaged. Some judicious editing would have come in handy. For example, the final battle scene dragged on for a really long time. Plus, do we really need to hear the “You and me are the same” bad-guy speech yet again? It was not very emotionally gripping, but, to be fair, the point of a James Bond movie is not really to be emotionally moving.
Nevertheless, there were also some good elements of the movie after the first few scenes. The chases and locations continue to be visually stunning, like when they go back to the house in Norway. This scene, which ends in a car chase, once again has the viewer on the edge of their seat. That said, after watching Black Widow earlier this year I’m starting to think I just like movies set in Norway.
Then there’s Rami Malek’s villain, the man in the mask from the beginning of the film. You could say that this character is a bit too cheesy, given his poison-garden island, doll mask, scarred face, and grand speeches, but is such cheesiness a bad thing? I don’t think so. In an already cheesy spy movie with flashy cars that have guns mounted to the headlights, a campy villain is a plus.
In the end, No Time to Die is no masterpiece and has its flaws, but as the final installment in the Daniel Craig Bond series, it is definitely worth a watch.