My wife has been bugging me about seeing this movie for so long, and every few times she brought it up, it was to remind me, “Our first date was a James Bond movie.”
I think she was afraid if she didn’t remind me of this fact, that I’d bring one of my cigar smoking buddies to the screening [side note: there was lots of cigar talk in this Bond picture, including a trip to Cuba where James grabs a stick for Felix].
I remember being a kid and watching Sean Connery as James Bond as well as loving Roger Moore as a more comical Bond in the ‘70s. As a teenager, wondering why Bond wouldn’t sleep with a young, blonde ice skater that kept throwing herself at him. Well, this Bond wouldn’t do that either. This Bond and 007 film is easily the most woke in the franchise.
I’m guessing this will be the most controversial of the Bond pictures, although I can’t give some of the reasons why without spoiling. I will tell you what you already know -- Bond is in retirement, enjoying the good life (with a much younger woman; hey, he’s not completely politically correct). Of course, just like the bank robber in films that want to go straight, but get dragged into that “one last job” -- James starts to work with Felix (Jeffrey Wright), M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), and the rest. And when I hear talk of Spectre, and I’m halfway through the movie -- I think to myself -- as beautifully as this is shot, and as fun as that motorcycle stunt was, or Bond jumping off a bridge holding a flimsy wire (you see that one in all the commercials)...I’ve just seen all this before. The creepy villain (who I was pleasantly surprised with the performance by Rami Malik), the lair where evil experiments go down, and the disfigured face, the hostages taken, etc. etc. etc. It just felt like we’ve seen all this before. And since Bond is “retired” -- there’s already been a new 007, which kind of irks James. She’s an African-American woman, who my wife didn’t care for. I was fine with her character. The problem I have is...if she is the one they keep for the role, I just don’t buy her ever being able to beat up goons like Jaws or Oddjob. And if they don’t keep her, does this become the same type of goofy controversy we got when the show Jeopardy! didn’t hire LeVar Burton as the host? Oh, and on the subject of who the next Bond will be...after this movie and what happens to certain characters, it will really look bad if they don’t wait at least 5 years before rebooting with a different 007.
So, this is the 25th James Bond movie, and the 5th and final one with Craig in the tux. And director Cary Joji Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation, True Detective) tried way too hard to give a send off that the fans will think is powerful and emotional. I would have just preferred a regular Bond picture without the last 15 minutes this picture gave us. When the 3rd act started, I felt like I feel when I see a Rolling Stones tribute band. I’m hearing songs I like, but I’m thinking...that guy is prancing around like Mick Jagger, even though it’s not the real Mick. That guy looks dangerous like Keith Richards, but kind of goofy with the scarf around his neck and bandana around his forehead, but...I’m just not being as entertained as I should be. And when you’re asking me to spend 2 hours and 45 minutes watching this, I think I want a little more; or something I haven’t seen before. Instead we’re just served up the hits [side note: when you see any tribute band in concert, the hardcore fans there don’t want to hear Brown Sugar and Satisfaction, they want the deeper cuts from Exile on Main Street].
I was so starved to see something that wasn’t just a call-back from earlier Bond films, that...as excited as everyone is by seeing the silver Aston-Martin, I got more excited seeing the ‘57 Chevy.
Without any spoilers, Bond is traveling to exotic locations with Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux). In Italy, some stuff goes down that get him back into the spy game.
We jump to five years later, with an again retired Bond fishing, going to clubs, and trying to deal with Felix bugging him.
At a time when we’re all still wearing masks and talking about new variants of Covid, the weapon in this isn’t a nuclear bomb, but a bio-weapon that can target victims based on their DNA. That’s kind of cool.
The villain missing an eye (Cyclops) is really fun, and...while I usually love Christoph Waltz waltzing onto the screen, in this he’s brought in like Hannibal Lecter in a prison cell. It didn’t quite work.
We loved Hannibal Lecter for so many reasons. Watching Waltz try to chew up scenery and say menacing things, doesn’t put him in that category. And Safin (Malek) isn’t in the movie long enough for us to really understand his motivations completely. He’s just the typical Bond villain -- he’s disfigured and bent on revenge. There’s nothing all that interesting about him, except that you wonder -- how in the world did we buy him as Freddie Mercury? But I digress.
The most interesting character is Ana de Armas (Knives Out, Ben Affleck), as Paloma, a newly trained CIA agent in Cuba who Bond thinks is in over her head. She steals every scene she’s in (and not just because of that sexy dress). Their banter and fight scenes are exactly the type of scenes I wish this movie had a bit more of.
There’s good supporting work from David Dencik as a double-crossing scientist, and Billy Magnussen, who I loved so much in Game Night as the doofus. Here his continuous smile bugs Bond.
Look...I may have been disappointed with this, but you won’t be. There’s a lot of humorous one-liners that reminded me of the old days. There are a lot of fun scenes, and it’s worth going to the theatres. The first half is solid, the second half is a bit of a let down. But hey...it’s better than Quantum of Solace!
2 ½ stars out of 5.