Movie Review: ‘No Time to Die’

Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga

Cast: Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux, Rami Malek, Lashana Lynch, Ben Wishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Billy Magnussen, Ana de Armas, David Dencik

Plot: James Bond and Madeleine Swann attempt to leave their pasts behind, but find that they can’t trust each other. Instead, Bond gets lured back into the field by close ally Felix Leiter to retrieve a lost MI6 asset and deadly bioweapon.

Review: This is a difficult to approach without taking into consideration the hefty baggage this film is bringing with it. Whilst this 25-movie long 007 movie series is typically a run of stand-alone adventures, the Daniel Craig era challenged the formula by building a running and contained narrative. This has had mixed results, with much of it landing flat on its face with Spectre, a ridiculous film that clumsy tied all previous events together and left loose ends hanging, meaning the next film will have to acknowledge this story decisions. James Bond (Craig) has resigned and is starting a new life with Madeleine Swann (Seydoux), but they both have pasts that put them at risk.

What works is that Bond and Swann are separated for plot reasons, rather than her being hastily written out, and she returns later to provide extra motivation for Bond in the final act. The other big anchor connecting the previous film is the presence of Spectre and the imprisoned Blofeld (Waltz), somehow still pulling the strings. Rather than continue with these characters as the villain, the Big Bad of the piece is Lyutsifer Safin (Malek), a poisons fanatic who wants to use DNA targeting nanabots to wipe out his enemies. Enemies that happen to include Spectre. The way Swann gets linked to all this business is awkward, almost like they forgot to bring her into the story and had to do a quick edit.

Bond is recruited to this mission by his CIA ally Felix Leiter (Wright), but this puts him at odds with an MI6 agent carrying the codename ‘007’. Nomi (Lynch) is a no-nonsense agent who is clearly on par with Bond, but carries a different set of skills. When the theft of a nanotech virus that uses DNA data to pick targets comes to light, Bond approaches Moneypenny (Harris) and Q (Whishaw) to pool their resources, finally coming face to face with Swann and Blofeld once again.

Clearly, there’s a lot going on in this movie. Whilst the story is engaging, the narrative can feel a bit jarring as the visuals of the set-pieces can make dramatic shifts in tone and style. In one instance with go from a wide, sprawling mountain area and to a deep, misty rainforest in the space of a quick drive. We get a few moments where we’re left to notice some key details, like a toothbrush turning up in an unexpected place, without having everything spelt out for us. That’s fine, we can pay attention, but when it’s put together with the sudden shifts in tone it makes the pacing a bit bumpy.

The outsider perspective of this mission does work well. It’s only because of a shared enemy does Bond fit into the story, and we only learn of key figures and events as Bond does. With this kind of movie, we don’t mind being left in the dark for parts of it.

The support cast really help move the adventure along. The dynamic between Bond and Nomi is fun, as is Bond’s verbal jabs at M (Fiennes). Ana de Armas pops up in one extended sequence as a rookie support agent to Bond, and her performance adds some welcome brevity to everyone trying to out-cool each other. Ben Wishaw is leaning into a comic relief role more than ever before, and even gets Disney-outed, as in it’s very briefly mentioned and quickly moved on from.

One thing that only occurred to us later after the movie is that No Time to Die may be the only Bond movie where he doesn’t hook up with random women, the steamy sex scene being with a returning love interest.

It’s a pity that some of these characters and conflicts hadn’t been introduced earlier in the series, as one thing they do well is tying up all the ongoing stories in time for the series to be recast once more. It’s well expected that Craig will be handing over the reins after this fifth entry, and they make a point of concluding the story of this Bond. Some parts of this era of 007 worked, and some didn’t, but they have gone out on the stronger side. It manages to get a good balance between the Craig style and the more formulaic Bond tropes.

Rating: EIGHT out of TEN