It is the end of an era. No Time To Die, the 25th entry in the James Bond franchise and the last to feature Daniel Craig as the titular superspy, is finally here after several pandemic related delays. It has been a long time coming; in fact, this has been one of the most prolonged periods without a Jame Bond film since the franchise began back in 1962. The question then becomes, “Is this film worth the wait?” and the answer to that is a resounding “yes.”
Ed. Note: As of this writing, there have been approximately 4500 cases of COVID-19 reported in the last seven days here in British Columbia, where I live. While I firmly believe that the big screen is the best place to see a movie, please remember that no movie is worth endangering your own life or anyone else’s. So please get vaccinated, wear a mask and maintain social distancing, and if you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, the movie will be out on-demand before the end of the year. Safety first, friends!
As the film opens, we find Bond (Daniel Craig) in a small Italian town with his love, Madeleine (Léa Sedoux). They are enjoying their time away immediately following the end of the previous film, but the circumstances of Bond’s life come back around again, of course. After a thrilling chase sequence, they are separated, never to see one another again (until, of course, they do). Five years later, now retired and living alone in Jamaica, Bond is visited by his old friend Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) and recruited to do a job for the CIA. The re-appearance of Spectre complicates this simple extraction, and another spy, a British agent called Nomi (Lashana Lynch), designated the new 007.
From here, the globe-trotting adventure begins anew, with Bond reconnecting with M, Q, Moneypenny, Tanner, as well as Blofeld and Madeleine and embarking on a mission to stop Safin (Rami Malek) from destroying the world.
I won’t mince words here: there is a lot to do with the plotting and motivations in this one that has been explored before in Craig’s previous outings. We somehow learn even more new bits of backstory for Bond that didn’t come up in Skyfall or Spectre because of … reasons, I suppose. The film explores whether the 00 program and James Bond himself can even exist in a modern world, something at least four of Craigs five outings has done. Hell, this one even takes the ending of the last one and says, “wait, not so fast!” which all of them except Casino Royale did.
For myself, though, all of it worked for me despite all of that. If you haven’t enjoyed the Craig outings to this point, you probably won’t enjoy this one, but if you have been enjoying them, then this is easily the best one since Casino Royale. Craig remains exceedingly well cast as this version of Bond, a bruiser stuffed into a tuxedo rather than a playboy who has taken some boxing classes, and the supporting cast don’t let him down either (even when the script is letting them down).
Lashana Lynch is solid –if underutilized– as the inheritor of the mantle of 007. She has the chops, but because the film is so dedicated to Bond’s story, she doesn’t get to shine at any point. The film’s real highlight is Ana de Armas as a feisty CIA agent who meets up with Bond in Cuba for one mission. Her chemistry with Craig and bubbly personality makes her an excellent foil, but when her mission is over, she disappears, and you miss her for the rest of the movie. Whatever happens with the franchise from here, I hope we get more movies with these two.
The rest of the good guy team is fine as well, even if Ralph Fiennes M acts a little out of character. Rory Kinnear is the unspoken MVP of this entire franchise for effectively being Basil Exposition, but he at least gets a few good jokes in too. The one problem character in the film is Rami Malek’s Safin, but it’s not that Malek himself is bad; Safin is boring. His reasons for wanting to destroy the world aren’t clear, and the plan itself is cribbed from Thanos, and there’s not enough going on there to care about any of it.
Cary Joji Fukunaga has a lot to live up to as the first-ever American to direct one of these things, but those who have seen his work will know that he has the chops, and the action sequences are all fun, unique, and different. In particular, there’s an excellent hunt through a misty forest and an excellent single-take fight up a flight of stairs that pays off multiple times, and the opening chase sequence might be an all-timer opening for the series.
More than anything, though, it is Craig himself who carries the story and the film, and you can tell he is invested in the role in a way that he hasn’t been since the beginning. Everything I said above, I believe, but while Lynch and Armas as underused and the villain is about as interesting as dry toast, the relationship between Bond and Madeleine is exciting and deeply felt. When this film gets around to its final moments, you will find that No Time To Die is the most moving James Bond movie of the modern era.
No Time To Die is in theatres now.
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