All eyes are on Daniel Craig’s last outing as James Bond this weekend. In his fifth and final appearance as the iconic spy, “No Time to Die” closes out a trilogy of sorts that began with “Skyfall” (2012).
It’s the first modern Bond film to work within a continual plot format rather than the usual cold restart.
However, this makes it crucial to familiarize yourself with the previous two films, their characters and circumstances. Whether you have enjoyed Craig’s tenure as 007 will very much predict how much you enjoy “No Time to Die,” which is, for better or worse, more of the same.
With James Bond (Craig) retired from MI6, enjoying his life with Madeleine (Léa Seydoux), he makes the mistake of paying respects to the past, when it violently returns to shatter any concept of a normal life. Immediately, nothing and no one are what they seem.
Bond returns to London to find a new agent has taken his 007 status (Lashana Lynch), Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) is causing just as much chaos behind bars as he did as a free man, and even M (Ralph Fiennes) isn’t revealing his cards to the unemployed.
As Bond races around the globe to stop a biochemical weapon from infecting everyone, he is aided by Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw) in secret.
The chases, the suspense, the deformed villains all dressed in black: We have seen it countless times before. The plot offers little to nothing new in the world of Bond or action movies in general. The grains of enjoyment are sowed between the action pieces, the dialogue between new faces like Lynch and Craig’s “Knives Out” co-star Ana de Armas.
Waltz’s well-written cameo scene in “No Time to Die” is more impactful than his entire misguided appearance in “Spectre” (2015). Rami Malek’s character is another example of how the franchise has a real villain problem. One thing is for sure, the explosive ending is certainly well earned and long overdue.
If watching Bond save the world for a 25th time isn’t your thing, A24’s new oddity “Lamb” might peak your curiosity.
Born out of Icelandic folklore, “Lamb” drops us into an isolated farm where couple Maria (Noomi Rapace) and Ingvar (Hilmir Snær Gunðason) split up grueling shift work tending the land and animals. It’s summer, which means no darkness this time of year. It’s also birthing season, and one of sheep gives birth to something unusual. Looking to fill a loss in their life, Maria and Ingvar upset the balance between humans and animals.
Valdimar Jóhannsson might be directing his first feature, but he’s far from a novice, having done special effects on “The Tomorrow War” and “Rogue One.” Jóhannsson, also one of the screenwriters, takes a slow and steady approach to delivering the events of “Lamb” on screen, maybe too slow.
It does give us time to soak up Iceland’s natural beauty showcased in every corner of the frame. The script is scarce of dialogue — honestly, what’s there to talk about on a farm — and expects the audience to pick up on subtleties concerning the backstory and literary connections.
The less-is-more approach begins to wane, following the big reveal and the story runs out of gas before its memorable conclusion. Rapace, who previously starred in “Prometheus” and the 2009 Swedish version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” is fierce and wildly protective as Maria, a woman of few words and little hesitation.
The minimal special effects used to create the film’s selling point are nearly seamless, creating an unsettling but accepted character within the story.
“Lamb” could have leaned a bit heavier into A24’s particular style of horror film, which it only skirts around, never quite giving the audience what — I assume — they think they are paying for based on the trailer.
Final Thought: Whether you pick something old or new this weekend, moderate expectations.