Review: 'No Time to Die' an exciting, definitive end to the Daniel Craig era of Bond
Talk about a sight for sore eyes. "No Time to Die" - the 25th overall James Bond film and the fifth (and final) one starring Daniel Craig as 007, was originally slated for theatrical release nearly two years ago, back in November of 2019. It was delayed into February of 2020 and then into April...and on and on, finally landing in theaters this weekend.
The film was delayed for so long, that some of the in-movie product placements had to be updated...you can't have Bond traipsing along using outdated tech, can you? But now that it's finally here, we're reminded of the charm and the allure of this character, that has persevered for nearly 60 years on the big-screen. He's a timeless hero, tweaked for the times.
"No Time to Die" has an epic feel to it, with some stellar action sequences, gadgets and thrills like we've come to expect from the franchise. It has its shortcomings for sure, but by and large, this is a Bond film that was worth the wait.
This is most definitely the final Bond film of the Daniel Craig era, and it definitely feels like a wrap-up in that it works to tie up nearly all loose ends from the previous four Craig films. Craig has been our Bond...James Bond...since 2006's "Casino Royale," and his journey peaked with the brilliantly executed 2012 chapter, "Skyfall" (this film, wedged between two agreeably "lesser" Bond films, "Quantum of Solace" and "Spectre"). "No Time to Die" is a good Bond movie, even if it falls short of greatness.
In this final Craig chapter, we find Bond finally enjoying life with his most recent sweetie, Madeleine (Léa Seydoux), and on the verge of - finally, after years as a legendary playboy - settling down. But we have been conditioned to believe that his happiness can only be short-lived. He gets wrapped up in a plot involving a deadly bio-weapon that can pinpoint the DNA of its target, killing with literal unique precision.
The Bond villain this time around is Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek), who has ties to Madeleine's past. The old gang is all back, including now imprisoned former (and current?) Bond adversary Blofeld (Christoph Waltz). There's M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and CIA Agent Felix (Jeffrey Wright, not seen since "Quantum of Solace"). New to the mix is a new double-oh-agent (Lashana Lynch), a one-eyed assassin (Dali Benssalah), American agent Logan Ash (Billy Magnussen) and a dynamite new character named Paloma (Ana De Armas), a supposedly "green" field agent who helps Bond on a particular mission. Her scenes - while limited - crackle with energy and lead to the most enjoyable portions of the movie.
There is deep emotion running through the veins of "No Time to Die." Themes of time slipping away and making the most of one's life are dominant. There is action, to be sure, but the recent Bond movies have worked so well mainly because they are character-driven. Here, the plot is well thought-out (if very "Bond-sy") and the characters push the story forward. It all leads to a satisfying conclusion that will leave many hardcore fans weeping.
There have been some amazing, iconic Bond villains over the years, and Lyutsifer Safin is definitely not one of them. He is by far the weakest link in the new film, made evident when Blofeld returns to the forefront. And at 2 hours and 43 minutes long, "No Time to Die" has a lot of unneeded exposition in its middle-third, which works against the momentum that it builds from the very beginning (the classic Bond opening number by the way, is sung by none other than Billie Eilish).
Daniel Craig was a great James Bond, adding depths and facets that previously did not exist within the character. His will be big shoes to fill, for sure, and it's still unclear what the future holds for the character and this universe. Will we be treated to a fresh reboot? That's going to be a tough sell. Can they simply continue on this story with a re-cast Bond? I doubt that would be a popular move.
As MGM and the Broccoli family have done since the 1960s, I'm positive that Bond will be treated with care and love moving forward. I'm sure whatever and whoever Bond becomes in his (or her?) next incarnation, it will leave us wanting more, just as "No Time to Die" does, even though it really feels like the end of something.
If the next Bond is even half as effective as Daniel Craig has been these past five films, it'll be a pleasant surprise. Craig's dedication to the role has left us both shaken AND stirred, which I guess, is only fitting.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller.
Run Time: 2 hours 43 minutes.
Starring: Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas, Léa Seydoux, Rami Malek, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Lashana Lynch, Billy Magnussen, Rory Kinnear.
Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga ("Beasts of No Nation," "Jane Eyre").
"No Time to Die" is in theaters on Friday, October 8th, 2021.
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