No Time to Die offers thrilling entertainment as Daniel Craig signs off following his five films starring as Ian Fleming’s James Bond.
It’s hard to say what the future offers for the James Bond franchise although there’s no shortage of potential contenders. What is known for sure is that this is it for Daniel Craig. It’s been a beautiful ride over the past sixteen years and this film is no exception. Cary Joji Fukunaga’s directorial outing is among the better of the five Craig films and certainly tops Spectre. It’ll certainly be hard for any film to top the pre-titles sequence anytime soon. I like what they do with this one and it plays into a larger story. The film is right up there with Casino Royale and Skyfall. It certainly offers up all the emotions. If you’re look me, you might even leave the theater with a tear in your eyes.
I said it when I wrote about Spectre but getting the rights back really changed the future for the Bond franchise. What we have here is a film that, once again, plays into a larger picture. The five films work together as an arc that ultimately culminate with No Time to Die. This approach plays differently than previous outings since those were more of standalone adventures. And again, this is exactly why you want a new actor starting out in their early-to-mid 30s. It allows for a larger story being told on screen over the course of 15 years. It is what works best with the Daniel Craig films and what makes him one of the best James Bond actors on screen, if not the best.
Following a brief prologue, we meet James Bond and Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) shortly after they drive off in the Aston Martin DB5. Cut to a five-year time jump and the events of No Time to Die start playing out. During this time, Bond is enjoying his retirement in Jamaica. GoldenEye, maybe? Anyway, a meetup with CIA agent Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) gets Bond right back into the game. This wasn’t a matter of if but when! However, it’s a much different world than the one he left. Spectre is still at it and Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) has his own agenda–one that, perhaps, MI6 isn’t doing enough to keep an eye on.
Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) sneaks around M (Ralph Fiennes) and takes Bond to see Q (Ben Whishaw) in one of the more humorous scenes. We also have the mysterious Safin (Rami Malek), who is definitely not Dr. No despite some of the fan theories. The less you know about him, the better.
The relationship between Bond and M is different from the past two films. In part, this is because of some of M’s mistakes and what they mean for the larger picture. M might think he means well but his actions come with consequences. Consequences that have a drastic impact on the main players. Trust has been a key theme in recent years and this relationship is no exception.
00 agent Nomi (Lashana Lynch) is one of the newest additions to the franchise. I won’t get into many of the specifics but she’s a central character to the film and makes for some of the film’s humor, too. After a slow start, she works well with Bond so I’ll be curious to see what happens with her character now that Daniel Craig is retiring from the role. Will she stick around or will producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson restart things again? These are questions that I’d like to see get answered sooner than later.
While I ultimately enjoyed the film, if I have a bone to pick, it’s underusing Ana de Armas as the newest Bond woman, Cuban CIA agent Paloma. I love Knives Out and it’s clear that the two actors have chemistry. But once this particular sequence is done, we never see her on screen again. No clue if a spin-off is possible but this is a character that I would love to see again. Or maybe another film starring Craig and de Armas. She’s a small part in the film’s larger story but still important nonetheless.
When I look at this film, I look at how it stands on it’s own and into the larger storytelling. No Time to Die picks up on the same themes that keep driving the Daniel Craig films: secrets, betrayal and trust. This is especially something that is key to Bond’s relationship with Dr. Swann. The other thing is where does his feelings for Vesper Lynd fit into the picture? After his experiences with Vesper, can he fall in love with anyone again? And if he does, there’s the issue of trust. Bond is historically quite the seducer but there’s something about the Daniel Craig films and reinventing him for a new century. Vesper’s shadow is all over the Craig films but Swann figures prominently in two films for a change. This is not your Sean Connery James Bond picture!
If you’ve ever wondered what Hans Zimmer would do when given the keys to composing a James Bond movie, the answer is one of the best scores of the year. Zimmer is a musical genius and I absolutely love his approach. He even includes a few throwbacks to previous Bond outings. Any longtime Bond fans will certainly appreciate Zimmer’s touch–he makes it his own in a way that is also respectful of what came before–especially John Barry. Zimmer works on the film with Steve Mazzaro and The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr. For the opening titles, we have Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell’s song, “No Time to Die,” sung by Eilish.
Linus Sandgren knows his way around the camera and his work on this film is no exception. His skills translate quite well to big budget action films. There are so many set pieces in this film between Italy, Cuba, Norway, Jamaica, and elsewhere–all beautifully shot, of course. The action scenes are among the best I’ve seen this year without a doubt.
Mark Tildesley takes over duties as the film’s production designer. This is a role that brings about a lot of history especially with Sir Ken Adam’s work on the early Bond films. There’s a lot of Ken Adam-esque work to appreciate in watching No Time to Die. This is especially true once we set our eyes on Safin’s layer. Ken Adam would be proud!
There is a lot more that I would love to say about the film. However, this would approach spoiler territory so I’m not going to go there. What I can tell you is that I did not look at my watch once. This speaks to the film’s quick pacing over the almost-three-hour run time. Listen, this may be the longest Bond film starring Daniel Craig but it doesn’t feel like it. Granted, I’m also saying this while having drunk a large Sprite Cherry Zero. Let me say this in closing: No Time to Die is the type of film that needs to be seen on the big screen. No Time to Die truly is going to go down as one of the best pictures this year. It was truly worth the multiple delays to be able to finally see the film on the big screen!
DIRECTOR: Cary Joji Fukunaga
SCREENWRITERS: Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Cary Joji Fukunaga and Phoebe Waller-Bridge
CAST: Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, David Dencik, Ana de Armas, Billy Magnussen, Dali Benssalah, with Jeffrey Wright, with Christoph Waltz and Ralph Fiennes