By Lynn Venhaus

“No Time to Die” is everything you want in a Bond movie, a super-spy thrill ride elevated by director Cary Joji Fukunaga’s flair for assembling dynamic action sequences and his attention to details.

And in a welcome surprise – assertive women show up in an impressive triumvirate of Ana de Armas, Lashana Lynch and Lea Seydoux.

For the fifth and final entry in the Daniel Craig era as the suave James Bond, our very human hero has left active service at M16 and is enjoying a tranquil life of retirement in Jamaica. However, his peace is short-lived when his old friend Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) from the CIA asks for help in rescuing a kidnapped scientist. The mission turns out to be far more treacherous than expected and leads Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain (Rami Malek) armed with dangerous new technology.

Fukunaga’s keen eye is well-documented in his unflinching 2015 film “Beasts of No Nation,” in which he was also cinematographer, and his masterful first season of the dark, hypnotic “True Detective” in 2014, for which he won an Emmy Award for directing.

He excels at moving this intriguing spy story along and the globe-trotting camerawork by Linus Sandgren, Oscar winner for “La La Land,” is dazzling. Even at 2 hours and 43 minutes, this slick yet gritty adventure keeps our attention, and satisfyingly wraps up Craig’s story arc as the British icon.

While most other Bond films can stand on their own, some 25 and counting over six decades, the five in the Daniel Craig era are connected. “No Time to Die” relies on viewers knowing that Vesper Lind was Bond’s first wife in the 2006 “Casino Royale” reboot and that tragic backstory, as well as familiarity with what happened in the last one, “Spectre” in 2015 – especially about his girlfriend Dr. Madeleine Swann, daughter of nemesis Mr. White, and sinister mastermind Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), Swann’s dad’s boss.

The script by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, as well as Fukunaga, is noticeably impacted by the contributions of screenwriter Phoebe Waller-Bridge (heralded creator of “Fleabag”), who brings a refreshing female perspective to the well-documented male patriarchy of the Bond franchise.

This entry is far more female-forward than previous Bond installments – and there is a new 007, Nomi, and she is a feisty, ferocious machine, with Lashana Lynch in a dandy performance, the first black British agent in the film’s 58-year history. No, he may be legendary, but they did not retire Bond’s number, 007.

The iconic ID has been around since Ian Fleming’s first novel, “Casino Royale,” in 1953, and he went on to write 11 novels and two short story collections. Other authors have carried on Bond’s missions.

What direction the Bond franchise goes after Craig’s swan song is anyone’s guess – but post-credits, producers are emphatic: Bond will return in 2022. Debate rages over the possibility of Idris Elba or Rege-Jean Page, or even a female agent. Hmmm…anticipation grows.

In the meantime, Craig fans will enjoy his final emotionally charged performance. He’s been a fine Bond, one of the best, displaying an intensity about dedication to duty, a wily intelligence and a tiny chink in his reserved demeanor about feelings, which is endearing. His orphan roots and lovers’ betrayals have exposed his internal wounds.

While he might not be as memorable as some previous villains, Rami Malek is an interesting adversary as mad genius Lyutsifer Safin, warped by his father’s zeal for using chemicals as weapons.

As the other Bond villain, Blofeld, Christoph Waltz is far better here in one confrontation than he was in the entire “Spectre,” which was a disappointing film after the extraordinary “Skyfall” in 2012.

Not everyone is sold about French actress Lea Seydoux playing the love interest, a rare second appearance for a girlfriend, but it deepened the Craig finale.

This foray features a solid cast, with the always-exceptional Ralph Fiennes returning as a conflicted M, Ben Whishaw as tech whiz Q, Naomie Harris as loyal assistant Eve Moneypenny, Rory Kinnear as government wonk Tanner and this time around, Jeffrey Wright compelling as CIA pal Felix.

Besides a take-notice turn by Lynch, Ana de Armas is sensational as a rookie CIA operative helping Bond in Cuba. She is not given as much screen time as she deserved, and her captivating sequence had viewers wanting more, ushering in a new type of “Bond girl” in a changing era.

Bond may be a relic from a distant past, but the fact that filmmakers acknowledge that change is necessary, makes for a fascinating future.

The franchise, known for stylish escapism, may be forced to adapt to keep relevant in a brave new world, but viewers will always want engaging stories of right triumphing over might – no matter if it’s good girls AND guys.

And wow, are those car chases fun to watch.

Daniel Craig as James Bond in “No Time to Die”

No Time to Die” is an action-adventure directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga and stars Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Lea Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Naomi Harris, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Jeffrey Wright, BIlly Magnussen and Ana de Armas. It is Rated: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images, brief strong language, and some suggestive material. Its run time is 2 hours, 43 minutes. It is in theaters on Oct. 8. Lynn’s Grade: A


By Lynn Venhaus
The movie shows its cards right away: “This story does not in any way claim to be the truth,” we read on the screen. “Nonetheless, it is inspired by actual events.”

Washington D.C. social climber Ulrich Mott (Christoph Waltz) has conned his way into the upper echelons of politics and society, including marrying wealthy and much-older widow Elsa Brecht (Vanessa Redgrave). When she is found dead one evening after a triumphant dinner party, her daughter Amanda (Annette Bening) suspects foul play. The police investigation will uncover a large web of deception.

As we’re immersed into D.C.’s political maneuvering, we see the slick grifter Mott ingratiating himself with movers and shakers. The charming Mott is being hailed as “Lawrence of Arabia with a Blackberry,” regaling stories of his diplomatic exploits to the doyens of society.

Remarkably, his schtick works – until it doesn’t, but he can sure spin whoppers. In a truth is stranger than fiction way, “Georgetown” looks at the power plays in Washington D.C., where an ambitious German-born swindler can bamboozle the smart and important. And it’s a remarkable story how he got as far as he did – if we are to believe it all.

Based on the 2012 New York Times article, “The Worst Marriage in Georgetown,” by Franklin Foer, the film shows how Albrecht Gero Muth took advantage of Viola Herms Drath, a journalist, author, advisor to public figures and a wealthy widow. Although their names have been changed, the story is a tragic and bizarre true-crime headline.

Playwright David Auburn, who won a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize for “Proof,” has adapted the sordid events into a dark comedy but the tone isn’t consistent, and there is little insight into the odd flim-flam man’s schemes and backstory.

In real life, Muth was 44 years younger than Drath and was convicted of her murder in 2014. You can dig deeper into that case on your own if you want more reality context.

As for the marriage, the movie offers a ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ scenario – a couple’s close relationship that disintegrates as more of Muth’s deceit is revealed.

Waltz, winner of two Oscars, and Redgrave, winner of one, delectably tango when she’s done with his charade and he’s not pretending to be devoted. They can make a three-course meal out of scenery chewing – and it’s fun to watch. Waltz also directed.

Not so fortunate is Annette Bening, whose Harvard law professor daughter character is underdrawn and is reduced to glaring at Mott with total disdain every time she’s on screen which isn’t much.

Because Redgrave, now 84, is playing a 91-year-old journalist, we see her sharp mind at work. The legendary actress might have slowed down but she’s still one of the best.

With such a lauded cast, you expect the outcome to be better but the film runs out of gas – maybe it’s because Mott is such an odd, pathetic character. It’s the kind of role that gave Waltz a film career, and he’s good at playing a schuyster. But even this guy can’t drum up any sympathy.

It is funny, however, when he’s donning an eye patch, claiming of service in the French Foreign Legion and as a brigadier general in the Iraqi Special Forces.

The attorneys are practically rolling their eyes over his antics — one of them being the exceptional Corey Hawkins, frustrated by Muth’s grandiosity and his clear-cut motives.

The movie was made in 2018, premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, and is finally out now. Not sure what that all means, and while it has its flaws, the story is intriguing  – and just to see Redgrave and Waltz tussle is worth it.

“Georgetown” is a 2019 true crime drama directed by Christoph Waltz and starring Waltz, Vanessa Redgrave and Annette Bening. Rated R for language and brief sexual material, with a runtime of 1 hour, 39 minutes. It was available Video on Demand beginning May 18.
Lynn’s Take: B-