No Time To Die
Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga
Screenplay by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, & Cary Joji Fukunaga
Starring Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux, Rami Malek, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes
With every new actor who plays the role, fans of the James Bond film series know that all good things will certainly come to an end.
Daniel Craig was an interesting choice to take over Ian Fleming’s creation back in 2006. He did not fit the look and feel of the actors who previously played the character. Craig was a bit shorter, and he was blonde. When announced, fans were skeptical of the change, but the actor turned out to be an excellent 007. His portrayal is more modern (sometimes to a fault), as the writers and directors of today gave him too much of a “Jason Bourne/Ethan Hunt” sheen.
Dour disposition and lack of humor aside, Craig is a fantastic James Bond and the fans who consider the actor their favorite (they are legion, as many believe his portrayal recharged the character and the series), knew the day was coming where they would have to bid farewell.
After release delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have come to another end of an era for a Bond actor. “No Time to Die” is Daniel Craig’s fifth and final time playing the legendary 007 and it is a great send off, though one riddled with final act issues.
While it works a great deal, Craig’s final bow feels as if the screenwriters felt too obligated to please the fans. The film reaches back throughout Craig’s Bond films and seems to try and close all accounts. While I liked how this film wrapped up a few things from Craig’s previous Bond outings, it seemed to be fan service in the finality of it all. While spoilers prevent me from listing many of my issues, I will say that this one fell prey to the old cliche of “written by committee”. The Craig Bond’s that followed his dynamic debut in 2006’s “Casino Royale” became overstuffed with plot. Even the modern 007 classic “Skyfall” was victim to being subplot heavy. Hence screenwriters Neil Purvis, Robert Wade, Phoebe Waller-Bridge(yay!) and Fukunaga were left scrambling to bring a closure to so many things. But make no mistake, this is one hell of a James Bond film for much of its run time.
Director Cary Joji Fukunaga dazzles us with a bravura pre-credit sequence where Bond and his girlfriend(!) Madeline Swann (Léa Seydoux) escape from SPECTRE assassins out to kill them.
The scene features some truly fantastic stunt choreography and stunning motorcycle action, as Bond eludes his attackers through the tight stone streets of a small Italian city.
It ends with a goosebump raising finale where James Bond fans get to see the iconic Aston Martin DB5 in full action!
Five years later, a weaponized virus that can target a person’s DNA is stolen. Bond is living in retirement until his old friend from the CIA Felix Leiter (the always reliable Jeffrey Wright) lures him back to help retrieve the dangerous weapon.
At MI6, Bond has been replaced by an agent named Nomi (Lashana Lynch). Much has been made of the character and her place in future films. While I fear the character exists as a response to the silly controversy regarding a reimagining in the casting of Bond, Nomi is a great addition to the series. She is smart and sexy and tough and refuses to deal with her predecessor’s ego. Nomi is out to make her own mark. Lynch does very well and announces herself as an exciting action star. If the screenplay could only have given her a bit more to do. Still, the actress makes her mark.
Bond no longer trusts M (the great Ralph Fiennes). He feels that his old boss knows more than he is letting on regarding the stolen weapon. However, Q (the delight that is Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (a wasted Naomie Harris) are still on his side and do what they can to help him on his secret and unsanctioned mission.
The existence of Seydoux is vital to the plot, and I loved what they did with her arc. The issue with her as an actress is that she has zero chemistry with Daniel Craig. While Bond looks at her with puppy dog eyes, Swann’s face is emotionless. Is she in love, confused, or bored? There is not an ounce of heat between the two actors, and this is a sin for a James Bond film.
As Bond heads to Cuba to find a crooked scientist who is involved in the theft of the weapon, Ana de Armas enters the film as Agent Paloma who, while a “newbie”, proves to be as deadly as 007 himself. Paloma is a funny and endearing character but is whisked away from the film much too soon.
The massive shootout at a SPECTRE shindig where Bond and Paloma seem to take on everyone is a sight to see! It is a precisely controlled explosion of bullets and gunfire that moves like a deadly ballet thanks to the crisp editing from Tom Cross and Elliot Graham.
With Christoph Waltz making an appearance as Blofeld (his presence is more than a cameo, as his character is a big part of the plot), it is Rami Malek who leaves the biggest impression as the film’s main villain, Lyutsifer Safin. His face is scarred, he speaks with an accent from “somewhere”, and he wants to do great harm to many people.
Safin is a welcome return to the type of James Bond villain of films past. It has been a long time since we had a nemesis styled like this. Motivated by revenge, Safin has bigger plans for mass murder on a global scale. Costumed as a nod to Joseph Wiseman’s Dr. No, Malek has the right menace and cold dangerous demeanor. His is a welcome old school Bond adversary. And he has a lair on an island! It has been too long since a Bond baddie had a lair.
Everything is shot very well by Linus Sandgren, although the artful images of Roger Deakins (“Skyfall”) and Hoyt Van Hoytema (“Spectre”) are missed.
Hans Zimmer’s score is solid enough. The composer has an infectiously fun time weaving in music cues from a few other Bond films and allows a full-on callback to “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. His score is properly lush and exciting during many moments. Zimmer falters only when he allows his trademark sound to overpower the Bondian feel created by John Barry’s original scores for the earlier films. In the big finale, overly familiar music cues from many of Hans Zimmer’s scores (specifically the Nolan Batman films) tend to distract rather than compliment the action.
Billie Eilish. I do not claim to be a fan, but her title song is okay enough. I dislike the whispery style she uses, as it is not proper for a Bond theme and the song never goes as big as it should. Hey, not everyone can be Shirley Bassey but let us not pander to the younger fans. Play to the loyal followers. A “passable” Bond theme has no spark. Eilish’s song is passable.
I am beyond shackled by spoilers that I would never share so it is difficult to express my issues with certain dramatic beats within the film and I cannot speak of my extreme dislike for the final half hour. Safe to say that getting to the heart of James Bond just did not work.
Many fans and critics have praised the Craig era for humanizing the character. His Bond falls in love and gets emotionally close to too many people. You would think that being a “Double-O” (who are all assassins) one would be cautious to avoid serious personal relationships.
For this film, and for Craig’s entire run, the character is humanized so completely that a case can be made for returning James Bond to his purist and most basic levels that filmgoers had known from 1962 up to Craig’s beginning in 2006. Let him roam the world on assignment. Let him drink. Let him be a philanderer. Don’t give him a girlfriend. Let him be James Bond. It is okay to not force the character into such a PC world. Bond is fictional. Let him continue to be unique. It is what makes the character iconic.
Daniel Craig was an excellent James Bond. He was one of the best. At fifteen years, Craig had the longest run. With five films, the actor left his unique imprint on our beloved 007. I shall miss him.
Barbara Broccoli announced that the search for the new James Bond will begin in 2022. Hopefully it won’t be a long stretch until the next film.
“No Time to Die” is a flawed but fitting send off to the Daniel Craig era. Problems aside, it is a hard-edged and action-packed Bond adventure that is fun and exciting.
As the end credits rolled, the audience was silent and waited to see those final words that have excited Bond fans for over 50 years. When they came onto the screen, the auditorium erupted in cheers. There they were. The promise that will carry fans on to another day. “James Bond will return.”
Return he will and I cannot wait.
PG-13, 163 Minutes, MGM Pictures, Universal Pictures, Eon Productions