Die provides Craig with memorable exit
Let’s get what’s wrong with No Time to Die out of the way – it’s too long by a good 20 minutes, and its villain is from central casting. Beyond that, Daniel Craig’s swan song as James Bond is one of the best in franchise history, a genuinely thrilling entry that pushes the narrative of the international spy in different directions yet maintains the sort of globetrotting, big-budget escapades we’ve come to expect from the series.
This time out, Bond is tracking down a biological weapon that falls into one pair of wrong hands after another. It’s particularly nefarious as the disease it unleashes targets a single person’s DNA. It’s a frightening, all-too-almost-real concept, and speaks to the sense of dread and melancholy that hangs over the film. Bond’s relationship with Madeleine (Lea Seydoux) from Spectre plays a key role, while Christoph Waltz returns as well as Blofeld, a scene between him and Craig one of the highlights of the cinematic year. Die delivers the goods and then some, as much like Skyfall, this one concentrates on Bond’s humanity, making it the rare genre entry that resonate long after the curtain falls. In theaters.
Moving Mass hard to shake
Fran Kranz’s Mass is not the sort of film you sit down to watch after a rough week. An unflinching look at grief and the ways individuals attempt to process a tragic loss, this poignant drama is a showcase for its four central actors, each of whom dig deep to confront a situation none of us should ever have to face.
Taking place in a single room in a church, Jay and Gail (Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton) have come bearing an awful burden. Their son was killed in a high school shooting and the killer’s parents, Linda and Richard (Ann Dowd and Reed Birney), have reluctantly agreed to meet them to answer their questions regarding the circumstances that led to the tragedy. Once the couples size each other up, sparks begin to fly, Jay and Gail searching for answers that don’t exist, while Linda and Richard offer up explanations that mean nothing. It’s arduous to watch but gripping as the questions these four pose are ones we’ve all asked when tragedies like this occur. Mass may not be pleasant, but it’s hard to shake. Available through Video-On-Demand.
Sillly Titane stalls
We want what we want and will go to great lengths to get it. Take Vincent (Vincent Lindon), for example. Having lost his son 10 years ago, he’s so desperate to heal his broken heart that he positively identifies a young man as his lost boy when he unexpectedly appears at a police station. He comes to suspect that Adrien - who’s actually Alexia (Agathe Rouselle), a serial killer and stripper on the run - is not his child, yet he’s able to brush this aside, having finally found someone to love. It’s complicated…even more so by the fact that Alexia has been impregnated by a car.
And so it goes in Julia Ducournau’s French horror film Titane, the winner of the Palme D’Or at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. A manipulative work from the start, the director devotes the first act to a series of unnecessary shock tactics that ultimately detract from the overall work. Making her heroine a murderer with literal auto-erotic activities is a base, sensational approach simply used to create buzz. Too bad she went down this road – it does nothing but obscure the unique love story that’s the true engine of this film. In theaters.