One of the original films to postpone its release due to the pandemic last year, No Time to Die was set for a March 2020 release and subsequently since then has jumped around multiple release dates. But thankfully Daniel Craig’s swan song as Bond finally sees the light of day.
Following the story on from Spectre (2015), No Time to Die gives its leading man a finale like no other has had in the franchise’s history. An actual sense of a real ending. Each Bond that has come before him have just been waved off when curtain has been called, with no satisfying conclusion or solid closure. Craig’s farewell however feels gratifying, earned and most importantly, respectfully handled.
With a whopping 2 hour 43 minute runtime (which officially becomes the longest in the series), there’s an awful lot of No Time to Die to digest. Perhaps most importantly would be its story. Being the first Bond era to tackle a continuous narrative, this leaves this latest outing with a lot to wrap up. With story arcs leading back to Casino Royale (2006) and creating plenty of new ones in the process. Not everything gets answers, and not every plot point feels conclusive, but what it manages to get right works wonderfully. Culminating in a Bond film that is bold, brave and begs to be different.
At the centre of it all is an incredibly fleshed out Bond. As expected of course Craig has the most work to do, but to the extent of which was still somewhat surprising. Being able to leave it all out there for his last ride though, allowed Craig to pour the last of his passion into the role. And the result of which becomes Craig’s finest performance as Commander Bond.
Others returning to reprise their roles consist of Léa Seydoux as Madeleine, Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter, Ralph Fiennes as ‘M’, Naomi Harris as Moneypenny, Ben Whishaw as ‘Q’ and Christoph Waltz as Ernst Stavro Blofeld. With newcomers Rami Malek, Lashana Lynch, Ana De Armas and Billy Magnussen being given the highest billing in supporting roles.
With the exception of Lashana Lynch however, many of these new characters in play are sadly given little to do. Playing an exciting, plucky new double 0, Lashana is involved in many of the movie’s more memorable moments. A great accompaniment to Bond, and gives a whole new meaning to the term Bond girl with her performance.
Where this film suffers most is in the writing of its villains. For the time that we see Rami Malek as Lyutsifer Safin, he poses as a genuine threat to Bond and provides him with stakes and circumstances to levels we’ve not seen in the franchise before. It’s just a shame he’s offered only the slimmest of screen time to really work with the character. You’d be thinking that this could be a result of an emphasis on the return of Christoph Waltz as Blofeld, but sadly that also isn’t the case.
As for Ana De Armas, the fifteen or so minutes she appears is arguably the film’s strongest sequence. A stunning showdown set in Cuba, that see’s her pairing up with Bond in a brilliantly shot and well executed set-piece that provides for a wonderful break away from the slow pace that occupies a big portion of the movie’s middle act.
From some of the creative choices, visual cues and incredible soundtrack provided by Hans Zimmer, No Time to Die pays tribute to some of the Bond’s that came before it. Some references and throwbacks are a little too on the nose, and it can often feel like No Time to Die struggles to keep an identity of its own. But for those that have followed the franchise and continue to show interest each time Bond steps into frame, there are plenty of moments that will make you feel some level of nostalgia for other periods of this long running franchise.
A huge amount of pressure on the shoulders of first time Bond director Cary Joji Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation, Jane Eyre), who has the tough task of wrapping up Craig’s tenure of the character. But every action sequence boasts intense and gripping displays, many of the characters get a deserved and well rounded send off, and despite what the runtime may suggest, it didn’t feel as long and drawn out as perhaps you would believe.
No Time to Die is an almost perfect finale for an almost perfect Bond. This really is Craig’s movie and he barely falls out of frame throughout its entirety. For a runtime of its size though it certainly doesn’t always utilize its time to further bolster its plot, and leaves some of its characters feeling underdeveloped or misused. From its alluring opening sequence to its audacious finale however, No Time to Die feels effortlessly entertaining, which is what a Bond film should strive to be at the bare minimum.
We’ve been expecting you Mr. Bond, and after a year long wait we finally get to see you off, and a deserved and enjoyable send off this certainly is.