Directed by Cary Joji Fukanaga, No Time to Die marks the 25th film in the James Bond franchise. Starring Daniel Craig in his last outing as James Bond, the film follows the retired secret agent as he is enlisted to search for a missing chemist, only to encounter a foe with mysterious ties to his girlfriend Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux).
Entering development in 2016, No Time to Die has been a labour of love. The departure of British filmmaker Danny Boyle as director only two years into the project left the door open for Fukanaga to take on his first directorial project since the 2015 war drama Beasts of No Nation. Combined with the multiple delays due to the COVID pandemic, there was an uncertainty as to whether audiences would finally get to see Craig in his final performance as Bond on the big screen. Now, almost two years after its original release date, No Time to Die is finally getting its theatrical release.
The growing web of secrets driving No Time to Die feeds Bond’s weariness and paranoia, so it is no surprise that he is doubting everyone. Madeleine is haunted by her childhood demons, which are teased in the bleak opening, and Bond is out of MI6 so he doesn’t know half of what is going on. Eventually, the plot becomes a matter of who is controlling whom – with all the expendable side characters leading to the film’s main antagonist, the softly-spoken Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek). Despite being a chilling presence, the occasionally unclear motives and the all-too-familiar trope of world domination mostly underwhelm his power as a villain (although the underlying concept of unseen infections is a timely plot device, given the COVID pandemic). The ever-growing plot and number of extra characters result in an inconsistent narrative, not to mention a lack of urgency for Bond to save the day. Instead, any thrills and tension within No Time to Die are tied to the emotional journey that started with Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale (2006). In a way, No Time to Die is an endeavour to salute Craig’s legacy in the series while tying up loose ends, especially those created in Spectre, to move the franchise forward.
With this in mind, the collaborative screenplay does this beautifully with a blend of poignancy, punchy dialogue and nostalgic touches. Behind the camera, Fukunaga’s confidence and mature direction ensure a consistent pace amid Linus Sandgren’s grand and visually sublime cinematography. Performance-wise, it is a mixed bag – Craig dives into his final outing with gusto, who conveys brutality and intense emotivity behind his character’s weathered exterior while Malek’s unsettling quietness allows him to shock audiences with the film’s biggest emotional punch. Although Seydoux brings depth and sophistication, the standouts in No Time to Die are easily its latest female additions – Lashana Lynch’s confident ’00’ agent Nomi is the perfect foil for Bond and provides healthy competition for the retired secret agent while Knives Out‘s Ana de Armas is disarmingly charming in a short yet memorable performance as CIA agent Paloma.
However, the additional supporting cast, which ranges from Jeffrey Wright to Ralph Fiennes, brings another level of pathos as they continue to enforce a level of continuity rarely seen during the nearly 50-year-old franchise. With appearances dating back to Casino Royale, audiences have seen them alongside Bond from his first mission as a double-O agent, his personal loss in Skyfall to his heavy-hearted exit from MI6 in Spectre. Their respective appearances in No Time to Die are fleeting but their return not only ties them to the protagonist’s ‘roots’ but also nicely help to celebrate Craig’s legacy within the franchise.
With a runtime of 163 minutes, No Time to Die is a lengthy but emotional conclusion to Daniel Craig’s tenure that, despite some inconsistencies, is not afraid to wear its heart on its sleeve. With a bold direction and epic visuals, No Time to Die not only reminds audiences of how good Bond films can be but also paves a new and modern path for 007.
Director: Cary Joji Fukanaga; Neal Purvis, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Robert Wade (co-screenwriters)
Stars: Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas, Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes
Runtime: 163 minutes
Country: UK, USA