James Bond has become synonymous with saving the world. The iconic spy has spent the past 59 years – cinematically at least – foiling numerous world-ending plots in the most stylish manner possible.
Now, 007 has a new mission: reviving the theater-going experience. With the film industry still reeling from the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact, Bond’s latest outing, No Time to Die, is viewed by many as the movie that’ll jumpstart the global box office.
Cinemagoers have high expectations, too. The spy-thriller is Daniel Craig’s final turn as Bond, so fans are expecting No Time to Die to provide a suitable end to his time as 007. The film’s 18-month long delay, thanks to the pandemic, has also heightened the need for another stellar entry in the film series.
So, was it worth the wait, and is it actually good? In short, yes to both. No Time to Die is a fitting finale to the Daniel Craig era, one which provides a wonderful send-off for an actor who’s certainly left his gritty, realistic mark on the franchise. Unfortunately, the film is let down by a few major flaws that prevent it from being a top-tier Bond movie, or even the best during Craig’s run.
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No Time to Die opens with Bond having retired from active service (yes, again) and spending quality time with girlfriend Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux). When the pair’s past comes back to haunt them, though, Bond teams up with old friend and CIA agent Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) to put a stop to a new global threat led by the mysterious Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek).
If that wasn’t enough for Bond to deal with, teaming up with the CIA puts him at odds with his former MI6 employers, including new 007 agent Nomi (Lashana Lynch).
No Time to Die uses the backdrop of these clashing factions to build a tense and thrilling plot. It’s unusual to see a rogue Bond (yes, again) duke it out against MI6, and it leads to some unexpected alliances – albeit brief ones – that offer a unique spin on the Bond formula. Unsurprisingly, Bond and MI6 eventually make peace and join forces once more but, for a time, it’s compelling to watch them fight over the same target.
Speaking of fighting, No Time to Die’s action sequences are a traditional mix of vehicular fights, shootouts, and close-quarters combat. The majority are standard fare for a Bond flick, but they’re delightfully fun nonetheless. One sequence set inside a stairwell, filmed in one continuous shot, is a particular highlight and pushes Bond to his physical limits. Given that the fictional spy (along with Daniel Craig) is older than he was in Bond’s last film Spectre, it’s impressive to see that his physicality hasn't diminished.
Craig isn’t the only standout performer in No Time to Die. Yes, it’s his final hurrah as Bond, so it stands to reason that the film is primarily focused on him – and sets about tying up loose plot threads that extend all the way back to his first outing in Casino Royale.
To simply laud Craig’s performance, though, does a disservice to the rest of the film’s cast. All of No Time to Die’s new characters are excellent, save for Malek’s Safin (more on this later), and bring levity to a film that might've seemed too serious in the trailers.
Lynch revels in her role as MI6’s new 007, Nomi. The dynamic between her and Craig’s Bond is one of the old guard brushing up against the new blood, and the chemistry exhibited by the pair is natural and realistic. It’s intriguing to see Bond pair up with her later on too, and relinquish his usual ‘lone wolf’ role in favor of being a team player in the film’s third act.
Ana de Armas’ CIA agent Paloma, too, is a superb addition. The brevity of her character’s appearance is slightly disappointing, especially when Paloma steals every scene she’s in. Still, her role in proceedings contributes to one of No Time to Die’s best action sequences in and around a Cuba-based stakeout. Much like Lynch and Craig’s rapport, de Armas’ on-screen relationship with the film’s lead is top drawer and provides plenty of humorous moments.
As for Seydoux, who reprises her role as Swann from 2015’s Spectre, No Time to Die provides an opportunity to dig deeper into her character’s backstory. The movie’s opening scene – a chilling, horror-driven start – spotlights her history, and the entire film unravels her motives in real detail. It’s pleasing to see Swann receive more character development than she did in Spectre, particularly as she ends up being such a key component of No Time to Die’s overarching narrative.
Unsurprisingly, Bond and Swann’s relationship is the emotional heart of the film. There’s a side to Bond here that we haven’t seen since his ill-fated association with Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. It continues to show how flawed Bond is as a character and, in a way, it brings the titular hero’s arc full circle, which is rather apt as Craig wraps up his run.
Riveting and suspenseful as No Time to Die is, it isn’t without its issues.
For one, it doesn’t make good use of Malek’s Safin. The Mr. Robot and Bohemian Rhapsody star does a good job with the material he’s given, but Safin isn’t afforded the same level of development as some of the movie's other characters. In essence, he becomes a sideshow to No Time to Die’s wider narrative and feels shoehorned into the flick for the sake of having an antagonist. Considering the Craig era has had its share of superb villains, Safin is a disappointing and underwhelming final foe for Bond to deal with.
No Time to Die’s runtime, too, is simultaneously too long and too short. It’s the longest Bond movie ever – clocking in at 163 minutes – but overall, it doesn’t make good use of that time.
There aren’t enough minutes to allow the film’s supporting cast to shine (outside of a couple of moments for Ben Whishaw’s Q) or provide newcomers like de Armas or Malek with enough screen time to show off their obvious talents. Equally, No Time to Die is often bogged down by a bit too much exposition: a slightly odd criticism to level at the film that doesn’t actually do a stellar job of explaining its plot.
No Time to Die’s ending also feels anticlimactic and abrupt, despite having real emotional impact. Craig’s five Bond movies have all been leading up to this point and, while it makes for a powerful send-off, it’s somewhat lacking. It ends on a sombre note and doesn’t come across as a celebration of Craig’s time portraying the legendary spy. He gets his moment in the sun, sure, but we expected more as this particular spectacle drew to a close.
What we think
No Time to Die is largely the send-off that Daniel Craig deserves. It’s a genuinely fun, humorous, tension-filled and poignant final movie of this Bond era that exhibits the character’s evolution over the past 15 years.
Is it the best movie in Craig’s slate of Bond movies? No, Skyfall and Casino Royale were more cohesive, captivating entries in the series. And, due to its noticeable problems with runtime and plotting, No Time to Die falls short of their lofty heights.
Still, No Time to Die is a finale befitting Craig’s 007 journey. Perhaps more importantly for the movie industry, it will entice people back to the cinema. Plenty of ordinary film fans won’t care for its at-times outlandish story or unappealing villain but, even if some take exception to these problems, they don’t make it a bad movie. It’s still good – just not an all-time great.
No Time to Die is bold, touching, filled with panache and, above all, enjoyable. And, ultimately, that’s what a Bond film should be.
No Time to Die arrives in theaters on September 30 in the UK and October 8 in the US.
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