No Time to Die
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Starring: Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas. Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, Jeffrey Wright, Billy Magnussen, Christoph Waltz, David Dencik, Dali Benssalah
Runtime: 163 minutes
Some Spoilers Follow:
James Bond is too cool to care. It’s a big part of his enduring appeal. He’s a ruthless secret agent who has few qualms about killing bad guys and routinely ignores his superiors. He sleeps with dozens of gorgeous women, readily moving onto the next when many of them inevitably betray him and or get killed. But Daniel Craig’s version of the character is different. Craig’s Bond, who makes his fifth and final appearance in No Time to Die, ending the actor’s fifteen-year tenure, is much more human. He grows and, perhaps more importantly, fails to grow across a group of films that feature much more serialized plot and character development than is common for the Bond franchise. No Time to Die recognizes this and gives him something many viewers probably imagined they would never see for the character: an ending. And an exceptionally emotional ending at that, which draws its power from demonstrations of just how deeply this Bond does care.
Following the events of 2015’s Spectre James is retired from MI6 and on a romantic getaway with Madeline Swann (Léa Seydoux), a psychiatrist and his love interest from the earlier film. But as they attempt to build a future together James is attacked by agents of the Spectre criminal organization claiming to be in league with Madeline, whose father was a high-ranking member of the group. After escaping, James, whose trust issues stem from the betrayal and subsequent death of his first love, Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd, way back in Craig’s first film, Casino Royale, cannot believe Madeline is innocent and says he hopes never to see her again. Five years later he’s living a quiet life when CIA friend Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) recruits him to stop a terrorist plot to unleash a biological weapon. The mission brings him into contact with Madeline, his old MI6 team, imprisoned archenemy Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), and the even deadlier new menace Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek). Along the way James must reconsider his beliefs about life, love, and family.
Ending the Craig era seems to have ignited extra passion in everyone involved and they all bring their A games. Newcomers like Malek, Lashana Lynch, who plays Bond’s successor as Agent 007, and Ana de Armas, as rookie CIA agent Paloma, are joined by every member of Craig’s regular supporting cast whose characters are still alive. Of these Wright’s return as Felix winds up being the most affecting thanks to his lively performance and the humorous, brotherly dynamic the character shares with James. Of the MI6 crew only M (Ralph Fiennes) gets a meaty part as his morality is questioned but Q (Ben Whishaw) and Miss Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) are as charming as ever, with Harris making Moneypenny’s affection for James shine through in adorable ways. Malek makes for an effectively unsettling villain and de Armas is a bubbly delight, who leaves the viewer wanting more. The script, credited to Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and director Cary Joji Fukunaga features a complicated plot full of double-crosses and other surprises, but everything is handled clearly enough. That said, knowledge of Casino Royale and Spectre is essential and there are references to Quantum of Solace and Skyfall as well. This definitely risks confusing casual viewers, but it makes for a rewarding experience for those who have watched Craig’s series closely. The action scenes are elaborate, exciting, and rippling with intensity thanks to fast but clear camera work. Highlights include Bond’s team-up with Paloma set to upbeat Latin music and a later fight in which he shoots his way up a staircase full of bad guys, shown in a long tracking shot. But James’ personal journey is just as thrilling.
None are more invested than Craig himself and the result is an exceptional, moving performance. He captures James’ flaws, including his anger and paranoia, as well as his virtues, those being loyalty, determination, love, and humor with equal skill. Craig constantly conveys the character’s steely resolve to get the job done but we also see the emotional strain everything is having on James and how much he’s softened and grown since Casino Royale and this is best displayed in scenes he shares with Madeline, in which Craig and Seydoux are consistently electrifying together. Her individual work is also great, conveying both enigmatic strength and tender vulnerability and her performance benefits from the increased depth given to Madeline, which turns the love story between her and James into a moving star-crossed affair. There are problems with the film, such as Lynch’s role being a halfhearted attempt to reckon with the franchise’s history of sexism. But the central story and exploration of James Bond as an actual person make No Time to Die a powerful example of blockbuster filmmaking at its finest that gives Craig a suitably epic farewell.
No Time to Die
No Time to Die is blockbuster filmmaking at its finest, a thrilling and emotional adventure that gives Daniel Craig's James Bond the ending he deserves.