CALLERI: Daniel Craig says farewell to James Bond

This image released by Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures shows Daniel Craig in a scene from “No Time To Die.”

There are now 25 official movies produced by EON featuring James Bond in all his resplendent MI6 British glory.

The first group of Bond movies, those with Sean Connery as 007, were fun, fast-paced, and from a visual point-of-view, sunny travelogues with interesting, often exotic, locales. “Dr. No” began the era in 1962, and “Goldfinger,” a great spy adventure, is the high point.

Roger Moore’s long string of Bond films are usually too goofily over-the-top. Pierce Brosnan’s 007 entries were epic, big budget Nineties blockbusters that clicked with audiences.

“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” George Lazenby’s single stab at the genre is harmless filler, although elements of it play fast and loose with some facts known from the earlier films based on Ian Fleming’s novels.

Timothy Dalton’s two Bond pictures – “The Living Daylights” and “License To Kill” are vastly underrated and deserve another chance from those of you who’ve rejected them.

Daniel Craig’s 007 arrived with a burst of glory in 2006 with “Casino Royale.” This was a serious reboot for the series and fans loved Craig and his Bond. Alas, the excruciatingly bad “Quantum Of Solace” follow-up almost derailed the admiration.

Craig and 007 recovered nicely with “Skyfall,” which holds the title of most financially successful Bond movie of all time. It’s very nearly perfect. A villainous Blofeld returned in “Spectre,” which brought the franchise an even moodier 007.

Two interlopers, those non-EON efforts sniffed at with an air of disregard by purists, are the 1983 return of Sean Connery as Bond in “Never Say Never Again,” after he had previously quit the series, as well as a different “Casino Royale,” an earlier silly spoof from 1967.

Now we have “No Time To Die” and Craig’s dark and dour MI6 agent has amplified his discontent. It’s also the actor’s last outing as 007. If what we see on-screen is a possible blueprint for future Craig entries, thank goodness this is good-bye.

Who should replace Craig? Either Richard Madden of “Game Of Thrones” and television’s “Bodyguard,” or Henry Golding of “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Monsoon” are my choices.

There something timely in “No Time To Die.” The traditional, and rather shopworn, Bondian weapon of mass destruction – yes, another one – is a lethal viral contagion that will be delivered by nanobots, all concocted by a scientist who won’t shut up. This twisted assault on humanity is due to the fact that the villain, a lizard-skinned bore named Lyutsifer Sifen – a play on “Lucifer Satan,” get it – has psychological issues because of how his parents died. He also loathes Spectre, which is both odd and interesting.

Rami Malek is Sifen, and he’s woefully miscast and deadly dull in the role. A boring villain is not what we want. Everyone knows the better the villain, the better the movie.

The first five minutes of “No Time To Die” resemble a horror movie. The next ten minutes are a romantic idyll. Then for about twenty minutes we have a spate of action with cars and motorcycles chasing each other. The opening credits arrive with Billie Eilish singing. What we know at this point is that Bond had retired.

Things get messy. Sifen has a connection to Madeleine (Lea Seydoux), the woman Bond loves. Bond has to leave Madeleine. There’s a child in jeopardy, and we enter a long, murky 163-minute slog that strains your credulity, endurance, and the legend of 007.

Highlights include another 007 (Lashana Lynch) lurking about; she’s in training. M (Ralph Fiennes) is a more miserable curmudgeon than usual. Q (Ben Whishaw) is gay and preparing dinner for his boyfriend when Bond and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) are compelled to interrupt for computer assistance.

Lynch, Fiennes, Whishaw, and Harris try hard to add some energy to the clunky screenplay co-written by director Cory Joji Fukunaga, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

How many car chases through forests can there be in one movie? A lot. After all, locations are in Italy, England, Jamaica, and Cuba, which offers the liveliest action sequence with Paloma (Ana de Armas) a CIA-agent aiding James.

Through it all, Craig’s Bond rarely cracks a smile. He’s no longer a secret agent. He’s a mope. However, as the torpid tale progresses, he has to return to being a secret agent. But he will not stop being a mope.

There’s literally one solid laugh line. This occurs when the CIA’s Felix Leiter, the man Bond calls his only “true friend,” returns with a slick young CIA sidekick named Logan (Billy Magnussen), who worships 007 and wears a white shirt. Get ready for a “Book Of Mormon” joke.

Jeffrey Wright plays Felix, and he’s the only actor in the entire film who remembers the phrase “tongue-in-cheek” and how that attitude applies to a James Bond movie.

Everything looks dreary in the visually uninteresting film. Obviously director Fukunaga decided not to turn on too many indoor lights.

Additionally, if you like cliches, the villain’s lair is one of those gray concrete complexes hidden on a secret island. How many times have you seen that in an action movie. A billion? I kept waiting for Connery and Moore’s Bonds to show up.

Saving the least for last. Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) returns, but only for a minute or two. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

Fukunaga and his team have forgotten what the James Bond films are supposed to be about. Glossy, stylish fun.

“No Time To Die” is a stiff. And a good time to see a better movie. “Goldfinger,” perhaps.

Michael Calleri reviews films for the Niagara Gazette and the CNHI news network. Contact him at moviecolumn@gmail.com.

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