REVIEW / FILM OPINION – “Dying Can Wait”, the 25th James Bond film, has finally premiered, six years after “Specter”. The wait has created a rare impatience because this is Daniel Craig’s farewell film, a new adventure after almost sixty years of the character’s existence, finally because it is still the promise of a show like only 007 can assure it. We take stock of this final meeting.
To die can wait : one last for the main road
Daniel Craig’s farewell to the 25th film in the James Bond saga arouses a lot of feelings. It is because we have been waiting for it since its first postponement, To die can wait being in fact the first blockbuster to see its release canceled in April 2020. A year and a half later, the film was finally presented. Directed by Cary Fukunaga, it is in line with the four other films with the British actor, unfolding the character’s journey from Casino Royale. The formidable 2006 film inaugurated a revolution in franchising and that of 2021, with its imperfections, brought it to a conclusion.
This time, after a beautiful escape with Madeleine Swann in Italy which turns badly, James Bond retires to Jamaica, retired from MI6 for good. A fairly simple life that will come to an end when a highly dangerous weapon is stolen from a secret MI6 laboratory by the men of the mysterious Safin.
Between the threat to the world and the personal vengeance that Safin is also leading towards Madeleine, the former holder of the number 007 has no other choice but to resume service.
In the armed service of chaos
There is the need to put on a very big show in To die can wait, and what tradition dictates is often very well staged by Cary Fukunaga. There are multiple places, Cuba, Jamaica, Norway and more. Historical fans will appreciate, the film’s villain has a pure megalomaniac base, an isolated island with brutalist facilities that the Blofeld of the Sean Connery years would not have denied.
There is also the whole dream arsenal: from assault rifles to warships, from electromagnetic shock watches to stealth aircraft, futuristic equipment, Aston Martins – a lot – explosives everywhere. As usual, the order Bond unleashes hell.
In terms of the action and its staging, we are at the top of the saga. To complete the picture of the adventure, Hans Zimmer provides a classic and effective composition, and Billie Eilish a nice title track on an elegant credits.
Successful sequences vs. faulty narration
There is in To die can wait sequences that we will remember, like the one in Cuba where Ana de Armas shows all her talent and offers with Craig a pure 007 moment, all in vodka-martinis, sharp dialogues, evening outfits and joyous shooting. But as the narration is not the finest overall, we quickly see that this concession to the second degree is sent to develop thethe tragic dimension of James Bond’s journey and his relationship with Madeleine.
We recognize here and there some touches of the writing of Phoebe Waller-Bridge on this second degree, but to a much lesser extent than expected.
In the first degree, the introduction surprises by its double aspect and its duration, and impresses from start to finish. For its very last part, To die can wait offers itself a radically different formal approach, touching in its quest for emotion. But in its middle, the film shows a few lengths, with a high-sounding mechanics where the cast seems to fall asleep.
Many supporting roles but tasteless
We retain, for many and different reasons, the interpretations of Léa Seydoux and that of Ana de Armas. If only one should be unanimous, they nevertheless each stand on the edges of a void where unfortunately most of the other characters are struggling, among the allies as among the antagonists.
Rami Malek composes a villain in whom vice only takes half, the new owner of 007 is anecdotal, and the cases of some historical figures of Bond mythology are too quickly settled.
There is something problematic about this speedy settlement. Since Vesper Lynd’s disappearance, James Bond has struggled with his past. Sky Fall and Spectrum told precisely these links which constrain him in the role which he no longer wants to play, and To die can wait cut those ties with unnecessary haste. If James Bond still looks back on his past in his headlong rush, it is as if to check that everything is burnt.