There are/were some very original movies released in 2021 that didn’t make my list and for various reasons. Probably chief among them is the fact that I’ve read so many thousands of screenplays and watched nearly as many films that I’m particular about what I’ll watch or read. It’s also extremely tough to find great material because excellence is a rare thing in this most collaborative medium and it always will be.
I have the tendency to be overly complimentary when I see something that’s well done. Something that’s hitting on all cylinders, to use a car metaphor. Films are, after all, moving story vehicles. So in these brief mentions I try to strike a balance between why a film appeals and where it falls short. Hopefully they will be helpful to readers trying to decide what to watch.
In the process of writing this piece, I of course read other reviews and looked at box office data, which is a movie’s ultimate report card, at least from the audience perspective. Some critics were way off base, in my opinion, and seem to either be pandering to certain filmmakers or have spent too long in their ivory towers to understand the realities of what it takes to make a movie, especially in the Covid environment – now approaching its third year around the globe.
One such review was written by New Yorker Magazine film critic Richard Brody. His October 12, 2021 article drags No Time to Die through the mud for its unconventional ending, and a litany of high brow academia, which left no room for creative license. I dare say Brody thinks he knows how a Bond movie must work and the film failed to fit his outdated mold. He even goes so far as to pronounce Daniel Craig’s’ five turns as James Bond melancholic and unfulfilling.
Of course Brody wrote his review before the box office rendered its opinion. The worldwide audience has spoken and they didn’t agree with Brody. As of this date No Time to Die ranks 103 in the top 200 top grossing films of all time, the third biggest box for the franchise behind Spectre #68 and Skyfall #29. All three starred Craig as Bond. Not exactly unfulfilled, if you ask me.
I was glad when Variety’s December 30, 2021 exclusive by Adam B. Vary gave Craig and the filmmakers the opportunity to explain how they made some critically disputed creative decisions. Better still, today (New Year’s 2022) Rolling Stone reports that Queen Elizabeth honored Craig and the filmmakers with official titles for their work. As long as we’re on the subject of the longest running movie franchise in history…
No Time to Die
…is the most romantic of all the Bond movies to date. While Bond has always played the ladies’ man, he never actually falls in love. This time his affair is different and things take the ultimate tragic turn. In a way this is deeply satisfying. Bond’s character has just exhibited signs of an arc, which indicates a new kind of man is emerging. It will be interesting to see who the next Bond will be as a man.
The brand continues to fulfill its promises to loyal fans. We get larger than life action adventure in breathtaking locales, thrilling chases scenes, scary homicidal villainy and beautiful people. The story wraps up Daniel Craig’s unique phase in James Bond’s life, closing plot twists and settling scores with overarching crime syndicates.
On the downside, this film’s melancholic undertones are reflected in an overall dark color palette and the cinematography intentionally clamps down on the broad sweep we’ve come to expect. Bond appears hemmed in throughout the film, which is obviously part of a much larger plan for the franchise and the character but it made Bond less Bond-like. Finally, I still miss Judi Dench in the role of M (Bond’s handler at MI6) even though Ralph Fiennes put in a perfectly good performance.
All in all, I found No Time to Die to be an entertaining and extraordinary Bond episode that marks a new cycle in the franchise. I loved Daniel Craig’s Bond but am excited about who will play him next. The producers have definitely stated they begin the search for Craig’s replacement this year.
To be Continued…