Movie Review: No Time to Die
Plot: Shortly after the capture of Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Dr Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) retreat to Italy for a well-earned vacation. However, their respite is short-lived when agents of Spectre attack the pair. Believing Madeleine has betrayed him, Bond deserts her and leaves MI-6 entirely. Five years later retired in Jamaica, Bond’s friend, and CIA operative Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), unexpectedly contacts him, enticing him to retrieve a Russian ex-pat scientist in Cuba who has developed a deadly bioweapon codenamed “Project Heracles.” Intrigued, Bond accepts Leiter’s invitation. What follows is a web of deceit, espionage, and intrigue that draws James Bond back into a life he though he’d left behind. Along with new double-O agent Nomi (Lashana Lynch), Bond must uncover and foil a far-ranging global plot headed up by the mysterious terrorist leader Safin (Rami Malek).
Review: Daniel Craig’s fifteen-year stint as James Bond has run the gamut when it comes to film quality. We’ve had spectacular (Casino Royale, Skyfall), forgettable (Quantum of Solace), and bloated (Spectre). With phenomenal director Cary Joji Fukunaga helming Craig’s last go ‘round, the question on everyone’s mind was whether Daniel Craig’s turn as the titular super spy would end on a high note. I’m happy to report that No Time to Die is a very good, if not great, entry into the Bond franchise, and a fitting caper to the Daniel Craig era of Bond films.
Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (who together have worked on seven total Bond movies) deliver a top-notch screenplay rounded off by both Fukunaga and the highly talented Phoebe Waller-Bridge. The latter’s sharp wit and character development shine through the women characters in No Time to Die, particularly Lashana Lynch’s Nomi and Ana De Armas’s CIA agent Paloma. Witty, intelligent, brazen, and sarcastic, Nomi proves to be the ultimate foil for Bond. The two work together somewhat grudgingly but have excellent chemistry. However, it was De Armas’s Paloma that really impressed me. Though only in a few scenes, the Cuban actress goes toe-to-toe with Craig’s Bond. She dazzles, with Paloma being equal parts sexy, funny, and formidable. I wouldn’t mind watching a spin-off movie just about her.
Furthermore, the writing talents involved are able to create some real stakes in No Time to Die, with one well known character receiving a lethal ending. In addition, director Fukunaga and company make an extremely bold choice in the third act of the film that could possibly have massive ramifications on the future of the Bond franchise. Not all fans of the storied spy will be pleased with the choice, but it is nothing if not provocative.
Despite being known mostly for smaller works on the big screen like Jane Eyre and Beasts of No Nation, director Fukunaga attacks big budget action with confidence and aplomb. Fukunaga employs a deft hand with several excellent action set pieces including an early car chase that stacks up against anything in the franchise. Bond and Paloma’s retrieval of a Russian scientist is just as riveting, and the third act is pure James Bond joy. Fukunaga clearly loves and idolizes the franchise, paying honor to the past but also putting his own particular spin on the brand. I sincerely hope he comes back for another round.
No Time to Die does fall short of being a stone-cold classic however. At almost three hours, the film could have trimmed at least twenty minutes off the runtime. The middle act of No Time to Die dragged in spots, particularly Bond’s confrontation with Blofeld. Additionally, Linus Sandgren’s cinematography was inconsistent where normally he is rock solid. Sandgren overutilized the “shaky-cam” effect quite a bit, making some of the fight scenes difficult to watch. No Time to Die also suffers from a slightly weak villain. As great as Rami Malek’s was while onscreen, his Safin doesn’t get nearly enough screentime and is somewhat underdeveloped as a character.
Fortunately, everyone is on-point from an acting perspective in No Time to Die. Ralph Fiennes’ M comes off much more cowed and worn down than in previous installments whereas Waltz Blofeld is much more interesting than he was in Spectre. Ben Whishaw once again makes for an excellent Q, outfitting Bond with some excellent gadgets. A miniature EMP device Q gives Bond sets up an excellent villain death late in the film. Jeffrey Wright also makes a concerted effort to play up the Bond/Leiter friendship with profound results. Perhaps the most surprising was Lea Seydoux’s performance as Madeleine Swann. Vulnerable yet fierce when needed, I really felt the chemistry between her and Craig, something that was severely lacking in Spectre.
As for Craig, he’s fully invested here as James Bond. Not once does he phone in a scene and invests the character with more gravitas and pathos than he has before. Even at age fifty-three he still kicks ass on the big screen with his action and set stunt pieces being some of the best of his five-film tenure. He’s able to imbue Bond with a sense of humanity and a realism that underscores Bond’s past trauma. Which isn’t to say that Craig undercuts the essence of Bond. He’s still sleek, stylish, and sexy, able to kill a man one second and down a Martini the next before bedding a beautiful woman. I will sincerely miss Daniel Craig as James Bond.
Compound all the aforementioned with a pulse-pounding score from the peerless Hans Zimmer and a surprisingly excellent theme song from Billie Eilish and it all adds up to a beautiful thrill ride and fitting farewell for the Daniel Craig era of James of Bond.
1 God Awful Blind Yourself With Acid Bad
2 Straight Garbage
4 Sub Par
8 Very Good
10 A Must See
No Time to Die: 8/10