As the hours turned into days turned into months then finally turned into more than a year of delays, No Time To Die has finally been released internationally and is making its way to the United States this week. The 25th Bond flick lived by its name for a while, it seemed like there was truly no time to die as the film would never see the light of day due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
However, after all the delays, the rewrites, and the pandemic here it is.
And how is it?
Well it’s hard to talk about the final Daniel Craig Bond film without discussing the first four. It is easy to forget that Craig originated his rendition of the classic character all the way back in 2006. Daniel Craig was taking the helm from Pierce Brosnan, who wrapped up his Bond with Die Another Day just four year prior. Casino Royale would ground Bond completely.
Casino Royale and Skyfall were universally praised by audiences and critics alike, but Quantum of Solace as well as Spectre were a mixed bag to say the least. No Time to Die would surely steer the ship one way or another for the Craig rendition of the character.
Would the final Bond film be a home run or simply a strikeout?
And I can honestly say it was neither. I believe that No Time to Die is a perfectly entertaining film, and while it might not be the very best Bond film ever, it most certainly is not the worst. Though not fantastic nor horrible, it is a pretty perfect ending to the Daniel Craig era Bond flicks.
After Bond (Daniel Craig) retires for five years from MI6 and leaves his former love Madeleine (Léa Seydoux), the former 00 agent finds himself back within the confines of his old job with some old faces like, M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw), and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), and some old titles, given to new people. In the form of a new agent named Nomi (Lashana Lynch) taking the mantle of 007.
Filled with exciting returns of many characters, including Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) and Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) as well as new additions including Paloma (Ana De Armas) and Logan Ash (Billy Magnussen), Bond attempts to stop new villain Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek) from using a weapon that could mean the end of the world.
The flick is directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, director of Beasts of No Nation and written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who have been involved in all the Craig-era Bond films as well as newcomers to the franchise Fukanaga and Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
Daniel Craig has always been a good Bond. There is a point during Skyfall that the character becomes less of the nuanced agent he is in Casino Royale, and more of the one-liner Bond we all know and love. This film balances those two Bonds rather nicely. It gives Bond a lot of time to be serious, but also delivers some of the delightfully cheesy jokes. Daniel Craig has certainly made his stamp to the Bond franchise and is easily one of my favorites.
Other than a good Bond, a classic Bond flick has to have good action set pieces. This one does that in stride, from the opening onward the film does a great job keeping the audience at the edge of their seats.
There’s cyber enhanced bad guys, explosions, and a wonderful early sequence with the most classic looking Aston Martin of the bunch. Another particular sequence that stood out was a nicely done spy sequence in Cuba where Ana De Armas has an exciting part in. The best part of said sequence is that it balances the spy genre with light humor and multiple points of view. There’s Bond, the bad guys, and MI6, all of which have their own orders to follow. Simply put, the spy genre is strong with these set pieces.
Another aspect that works is modernizing Bond. Screenwriter and Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge is most likely to be the reason behind this. Unlike most other Bond films this movie balances “Bond Girls” well. The modernization of Moneypenny in Skyfall was a great step, and this film does that with Bond girls. One could argue that Lynch, De Armas, and Seydoux are all the traditional Bond girls, but their stories at many points are far more interesting than that of Bond. Instead of adding to the movie servicing Bond, they add to the movie by servicing their story and the greater plot.
A huge aspect to the latter half of the film is Seydoux’s (Madeleine Swann’s) connection with Bond. In many ways this connection is the heart of the film, while De Armas adds to a fun action sequence and adds a nice bit of humor to the picture. It is also refreshing to see Bond with a female agent that he does not end up sleeping with.
Lynch’s Nomi adds to the film by being a foil to our main protagonist, her plight is an interesting one and leads to many good moments between her as the new 007 and the man we know to be 007. Lynch steals every scene she is in and has quite the back and forth with Bond.
Overall, these aspects help create an ensemble that never feels too overblown and balances character and action well.
While nothing is egregiously bad in this film, some of the beats of a traditional Bond film fall short. Especially with the villains. While Waltz and Malek give great and intriguing performances in the film, nothing ever seems like it comes together for either villain. It is not that they don’t have enough screen time, everyone knows Vader had twelve minutes of screen time in the original Star Wars, but it just feels like the script is missing something and perhaps was focusing on other aspects of the story.
The main villain of this film has little to do with Bond. Without getting into spoilers, the climactic battle seems rather uninteresting because Bond and Safin have no real connection. Though this is not a detriment to the film, it is missing the classic thing we all like about Bond: his villains.
Le Chiffre and Silva are great examples of iconic villains in the latest Bond films. They both add so much to each film and even have a nice playful back and forth with James Bond. However, Blofeld, similar to his appearance in Spectre, and Safin fall short when it comes to the story of Bond. Though that might not be what the writers wanted to focus on with this final ride with Daniel Craig’s Bond.
While the villains took a hit in this film, Bond himself is not tied to them. The more interesting aspects to Bond in this film come with his relationship with Madeleine as well as his relationship to spies in general. This includes Felix Leiter, Moneypenny, Q, and M. One scene with Leiter in particular asks a question I’ve had about spy buddies for a long time. Do they really know each other?
And while it asks the question, it doesn’t really matter the answer. Though for my money I would reckon that it does not matter if they actually know each other. It matters that they are there for each other and there is a clear kinship with Bond and Leiter as well as everyone at MI6, even though they might not emotionally know Bond, they know him enough.
The strongest aspect to Bond in this film is everything but his villains. Which for a closing chapter of a movie series is just fine. We no longer need to focus on the villains because it is not about them: It is about Bond, James Bond.
VERDICT: 3.5 out of 5
While the latest Bond film doesn’t bring much new to the table, it does excel in using the Bond formula and breaking said formula when it needs to. Whether that be with the modern Bond girl or the fun action sequences or focusing more on Bond himself. It balances the nuanced nature of contemporary Bond as well as the cheesiness of other eras.
The film is a lot of fun and gives a genuinely satisfying ending to this fifteen year run of Craig era Bond and pays enough homage to be a satisfying twenty-fifth installment of the series.
It might not be perfect, but it sure is satisfying. Craig’s Bond reinvigorated a franchise and brought back James Bond to a modern audience. The lasting impression he left on the franchise will be seen for years to come.