Film Review: ‘No Time to Die’ is a Thrilling and Engaging James Bond Finale for Daniel Craig

Film Review: ‘No Time to Die’ is a Thrilling and Engaging James Bond Finale for Daniel Craig
James Bond (Daniel Craig) prepares to shoot in NO TIME TO DIE, an EON Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios film Credit: Nicola Dove © 2021 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

When a franchise reaches its 25th installment, it’s fair to say that expectations have been set and audiences have a general idea of the experience that will be offered. It’s also very true that target demographics will have shifted since the beginning of a series, in part because audiences themselves have aged over the years. Among the most classic and dependable film franchises is that of secret agent James Bond, also known as 007, which celebrates a milestone entry with No Time to Die, marking the fifth and final film featuring Daniel Craig as the title character.

No Time to Die picks up after the events of Spectre, with Bond (Daniel Craig) and Madeleine (Léa Seydoux) leading an idyllic life free from criminals and guns. Their happiness is short-lived as skeletons from the past emerge and secrets are revealed, sending Bond into a self-imposed retirement. He is drawn back into his old world when he is approached by his friend, CIA operative Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), about a new threat involving a deadly plan to create a massively dangerous targeted weapon. His mission puts him in contact with an old foe, Ernst Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), a new enemy, Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek), and the agent, Nomi (Lashana Lynch), who has officially taken over his 007 designation.

No Time to Die
James Bond (Daniel Craig) in discussion with Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) in NO TIME TO DIE, an EON Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios film. Credit: Nicola Dove © 2020 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

There are certain givens with James Bond movies, like the signature score, complex opening credits sequence, moody original track by a popular artist, and a whole lot of guns and car chases. All that can be found here, and in higher quantities than ever before. The 2 hours and 43 minutes this film runs is the longest Bond movie on record, outpacing the previous holder of that honor, Spectre, by a full fifteen minutes. While it is a large chunk of time to spend in a movie theater, the only venue in which to see this long-delayed blockbuster, it doesn’t feel excessive or overstuffed, instead inviting audiences along for an intensive and immersive ride that could probably have even been longer and still proven enjoyable.

This film is notable because it is Craig’s last appearance as the veteran spy. He is officially the longest-running Bond, with a full fifteen years between his first outing in Casino Royale and this entry. In a good way, little has changed since he first took on the role, and he still emotes a token swagger and effortlessness to his craft that makes him endearing and a joy to watch. Even when he’s living off the grid and presumably not taking care of himself, he still boasts an almost ceramic body and an ability to spring back into action at a moment’s notice when he spots a tail. This departure has been a long time coming, and while it’s a fitting finale, it’s not as if he’s squeezed all he can out of the part. He honed the character in Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, and Spectre, and he’s showing off his best work in this swan song effort.

No Time to Die
James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Paloma (Ana de Armas) in NO TIME TO DIE, an EON Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios film. Credit: Nicola Dove © 2020 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Craig is in remarkably good company with a padded ensemble, one that includes returning faces and new players. Seydoux is terrific, demonstrating Madeleine’s resilience and amplifying her compelling backstory, and her scenes with Craig are electric. Malek makes for a competent, scenery-chewing mastermind who is a true believer in his cause – and that he is the hero just as much as Bond. Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, and Wright are a blast to see back as Bond’s work colleagues, and Lynch is a fantastic and witty addition, as is Billy Magnussen as an overager CIA operative. Best in show, despite a small role, is Craig’s Knives Out costar Ana de Armas, who is absolutely superb as Paloma, a contact sent to aid Bond who nervously advertises her three weeks of training before completely stealing all her screentime with a highly entertaining and action-packed turn.

Though the decimation of the world population is a key plot point and many innocent lives are lost, not to mention the questionable timing of showcasing a targeted pathogen that can spread even more easily and quickly than a real-life virus the world knows all too well now, this film works best because it’s fun. There is a great deal of humor present in Bond’s interactions with all the different people – friends and foes – in his life, and it helps to drive a relatively standard narrative that fits just fine in the overarching Bond framework. Contributions like those from director Cary Joji Fukunaga, co-screenwriter Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and singer-songwriter Billie Eilish enhance a functional film that should delight and enthrall Bond fans, both delivering what they want to see and keeping them on the edge of their seats.

Grade: B+

No Time to Die opens exclusively in theaters on Friday, October 8th.

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