No Time to Die
Its release has been delayed for a year and a half due to Covid, but Daniel Craig’s James Bond swan song has finally arrived on the big-screen. No Time to Die (157 minutes, minus the end credits) wraps up Craig’s Bond story in a way that is pretty fitting. It has the expected double-crosses, references to Craig’s four earlier Bond outings, shoot-outs, chase scenes, explosions, homicidal villains and even some genuine emotion mixed in there. Not all of it works; there are at least a couple of action scenes too many, the villain doesn’t end up being as intriguing as the screenplay thinks he is and this Bond’s final character arc is not without its contrivances. Still, it is mostly an enjoyable tribute/send-off for a run that truly rejuvenated the franchise.
Though this is normally where I’d put a plot synopsis, that feels kind of pointless in this case. I doubt there are many people who hear there is a new James Bond movie and need to investigate further before they decide if they are going to see it. You either enjoy 007 or you don’t. If you have seen any of Craig’s other Bonds, you’ll have a decent idea of what you are in for here. The main differences are that it is longer (it’s fifteen minutes longer than the previous longest in the series, its direct predecessor, 2015’s Spectre) and it definitively concludes his ongoing story.
Part of the fun of these movies over the last 59 years is that we know going in there will be a beautiful woman (usually multiple), exotic locations and complex schemes, yet the way those are used is what makes each entry different from the others. Without getting into those specifics, which feel strangely spoiler-y to me, I’ll say this is more intense, with a villain more evil than megalomaniacal, and has big stakes for James Bond.
The villain here is Lyutsifer Safin, played by the very talented Rami Malek. He is calm, brilliant and will stop at nothing to get his revenge. Malek has a couple of scenes that are really creepy. His introduction made me think we were in for a special Bond antagonist. However, as it went on, the story was a lot more about Bond’s connection to each of the other characters. I just didn’t feel the one they kept insisting upon between him and Safin. There are several layers separating them that made this less personal than Bond’s last three battles, even though No Time to Die is quite focused on James Bond as a person.
Daniel Craig is good as usual, switching from witty to angry to violent to sad, all without losing that James Bond charm. The producers have a tall task in front of them trying to find someone to fill his shoes. Léa Seydoux, returning from Spectre as Bond’s love interest, Madeleine, is also good here. She supplies a lot of heart, not an easy thing to do in a James Bond movie. The pair has convincing chemistry together.
The rest of the cast is a mix of familiar faces (like Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris and Jeffrey Wright) and newcomers like Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas. Lynch is Nomi, a 00 agent who doesn’t find Bond as amusing as everyone else seems to. While I wished she had been allowed to participate a bit more in the action, she definitely holds her own with him. de Armas (so good in Knives Out) is Paloma, an excitable agent who assists Bond at one point and is part of the most entertaining action sequence in the movie. She brings a welcome energy that is fun to watch. Unfortunately, her role is small; I wouldn’t mind seeing Paloma get her own spinoff.
I probably don’t need to say much more. You knew if you would see it the second you heard it existed. No Time to Die is a solid, if unspectacular, conclusion to the Daniel Craig era that includes basically everything you’d want from it and then some (I’d rank it in the middle, under Casino Royale and Skyfall, about even with Spectre and above Quantum of Solace). I was generally entertained, even if it hits the same emotional notes a little too often. It may not have been worth the eighteen month wait, but it is still reasonably satisfying.
3¼ out of 5
Daniel Craig as James Bond
Léa Seydoux as Madeleine
Rami Malek as Lyutsifer Safin
Lashana Lynch as Nomi
Billy Magnussen as Logan Ash
Ralph Fiennes as M
Ben Whishaw as Q
Christoph Waltz as Blofeld
David Dencik as Valdo Obruchev
Naomie Harris as Moneypenny
Ana de Armas as Paloma
Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter
Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga
Screenplay by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Cary Joji Fukunaga and Phoebe Waller-Bridge