‘No Time To Die’ Is a Shaky, But Fitting End To The Grittiest Bond – Review
In No Time to Die, Daniel Craig’s swan song as MI6 agent James Bond, Craig gives his run as 007 a poetic finale. In the longest and one of the most expensive Bond movies to date, No Time to Die forces the titular character to reconcile with the past, embrace the present, and struggle with moving forward. Where previous Bond movies either leaned heavily into darker or more campy tones, Craig’s final film as Bond merges both elements to create a character that feels entirely its own.
Accompanied by returning cast members like Jeffrey Wright, Naomie Harris, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Ralph Fiennes, and Christoph Waltz, and newcomers Lashana Lynch, Ana de Armas, Billy Magnussen, and Rami Malek, the closing of this Bond chapter is a solid one.
After leaving the MI6 life behind, again, Bond and Madeleine Swann (Seydoux) have escaped to a romantic life in Italy. The honeymoon phase is cut abruptly short when the sins of Swann’s and Bond’s pasts come back to haunt them. Bond is forced to end his retirement and team back up with MI6 and CIA operatives to eliminate a mastermind threat, Lyutsifer Safin (Malek). All the while, he must question and risk the relationships he holds dear, wrestle with being replaced by the new 007 (Lynch), and learn how to move forward from a life that gave him a license to kill.
In the 25th Bond movie, director/writer Cary Joji Fukunaga, actor/writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge and team, take a deeper look into the legacy that Bond leaves behind. Previous Bonds have shown him as the charming, handsome, and impossibly polished playboy super spy. With Craig’s turn to carry on the name of James Bond, he brought to life a gem of an agent not yet polished. Him being rough around the edges added a depth to the main character that opened ground for a new sense of who Bond could be.
Craig’s rendition of Bond brought charming arrogance, grit, and emotion to the role that became a trinity needed to bring new life to a character that’s constantly reinvented. After five films, we see a fully realized agent who still seems to struggle with mixing his personal and professional life. Audiences are exposed to how it chips away at the soul of a man who can’t seem to leave the past behind.
Living in the past seems to be the common theme for each of the returning characters as well. What does it mean to be at peace with sins of the past and what do you do when they come back to haunt you? Not everyone has the answer to such questions and when they do, it still seems to lead to catastrophe. Nevertheless, while returners deal with that question, newcomers navigate the path that the legacy of agents of old leave behind. Besides Craig’s portrayal of Bond, this is where the movie shines.
De Armas is an overload of charm as CIA agent Paloma. Partnered with Bond in the beginning of the film, you can’t help, but focus on her and laugh with her as she charmingly (and effortlessly) navigates her first “big mission”. Lynch takes on the role of Nomi, the successor of the 007 moniker. She captivates as the ambitious, rising star of MI6, projecting Nomi’s strong sense of self and fierce determination into each scene. Where Bond was rough around the edges, Nomi is the polished 007 with the credentials to prove it.
Like most Bond movies, there tends to be a constellation of characters trapped within 007’s orbit, but for a purpose. This one follows a similar formula, but characters like Eve Moneypenny make you question why they’re there due to being underused and underdeveloped as a character, this time around. This is further felt in a film that feels a bit drawn out. At 2 hours and 43 minutes, the movie covers a lot of ground within its heavy-laden plot, but characters like Moneypenny don’t seem to be needed to push the story along, which is a misuse of the acting talents of Naomie Harris.
Beyond the constellation of characters, there’s always a menacing and enigmatic villain. We find this in Malek’s Lyutsifer Safin, sort of. Malek is known for providing a sense of eeriness to his characters, but here the creepiness borders on unpleasant as Rami completes drawn out monologues and stares with dead eyes into the camera. With villains in the previous installments of Craig’s Bond movies providing a maniacal charm, Malek’s character lacks charisma and exchanges it for an awkwardness that resonates heavily on film. Although Malek’s attempt at a grittier portrayal of his character is expected for this franchise, it unfortunately falls flat.
Although these elements are a bone to pick with the film, it shines in giving new perspectives on what Bond films can bring to the table. Women characters designed solely to fawn over Bond, are traded in for women characters with fully developed storylines who focus on kicking ass. A charming and playful 007 is exchanged for an emotionally fraught Bond peering through a well-dressed veneer.
The thrills, cool, and even camp still make their way into the film, taking a new dive into what this espionage franchise could become. Here’s to hoping that moviegoers will gravitate towards action movies with this type of depth and representation. Hopefully, film studios will recognize the merit in this as well.
No Time to Die delivers a grand finale to a new type of Bond and the legacy of 007 has been forever changed. Now, the door is open for even more conversation and change around who Bond could be. Craig’s rendition pushed those limits and now they can be further knocked back with the next person carrying the mantle of MI6’s best agent. Whoever they may be, they will have big shoes to fill. But they will be able to bring another piece to the mosaic that makes up the illustrious persona of James Bond.