Review by Aaron M. Crilly
No Time To Die, the fifth and final film of the Daniel Craig era in EON’s James Bond Film franchise, attempts to do something that has never been done before in the almost Sixty Year History of the Series: To Give the James Bond closure in his character arc, and it works…. Mostly.
The film, which is directed by Beasts of No Nation’s own Cary Fukugaga, picks up where the previous film in the series, 2015’s Spectre leaves off with James Bond and his lover living peacefully in retirement in Italy before finding themselves being dragged back into the world of espionage and terrorism when the mysterious Safin steals a “designer virus”; a virus that is modified to kill people who share certain DNA traits so that it can be used in a mysterious and possibly world ending plot.
Right off the bat, the audience enjoys not just one beautifully shot sequence, but two. One set in the snowy Artic, the other set-in sunny Italy, these two scenes (which take place before the main title sequence) shows off both Fukugaga’s talent for direction and the film’s cinematographer, Linus Sandgren’s, talent for lighting. Both men bring their A-Game to this production and helps Fukagaga to secure his place as one of the franchise’s most ingenious directorial hirings.
The actors too bring their A-Game to this film; Craig has never played Bond better. He brings with him the more relaxed and reflective characteristics he gives to Bond compared to the gruff, anti-social action man that we enjoyed back in Casino Royale; it helps to reinforce the idea that his Bond is the first Bond to have their own character arc. His performance in this film solidifies my belief that he stands alongside Connery and Dalton as the best iteration of the Bond character on screen.
Rami Malek too is phenomenal as the movie’s villain Safin. He’s chilling, he’s calculated, and he’s actually a little bit charming; it’s good to see Malek work with great material and an interesting character again after his “Stars In Their Eyes” level impression of Freddie Mercury in 2018’s overrated Bohemian Rhapsody, and return him to his true acting talents as previously seen in Mr Robot.
The supporting cast are also amazing. Ana de Armas is especially good as one of the film’s Bond girls, the charming CIA agent Paloma, her chemistry with Craig (which no doubt was already solid with their prior work together in 2019’s Knives Out) electrified the screen. While Lashana Lynch in the role of “Nomi”, who was one of the biggest talking points of the trailers for the film as the first female 007 in the series history, gave a superb performance and I enjoyed the mixture of professional respect and platonic teasing she has with Bond; there is no need for a female James Bond when it has great female characters such as “Nomi” who could easily be the focus of their own film.
Turning to the Music, Billie Eilish’s theme for the film, again named “No Time To Die”, may not be the Craig era’s best (that crown still belongs to the late Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name”) but the song itself suits the film perfectly; especially the twenty minutes that precede the title sequence. The song haunts the opening credits and puts the previous Bond theme, Sam Smith’s bog standard ballad, “Writing’s on the Wall, to shame with its beauty and character.
But in terms of plot, that is where the film’s weakest points show up.
When the Craig era kicked off back in 2006, we were promised by the producers, EON Productions, that it would mark a more grounded back-to-basics approach to the series after 2002’s Die Another Day with it’s invisible car and horrible CGI icebergs; for the first three Craig films they kept their promise. But with Spectre, as well as this film, one cannot help feel that the series has returned to the bad habits of the Moore and Brosnan eras by jumping the shark; especially in regards to the abysmal Blofield/Bond family links in Spectre, which I’m sad to report is brought up again in this film. No Time To Die’s DNA Hunting Designer Killer Virus to me is too sci-fi for this grounded Bond approach.
Another sin of the film is the lack of material for the supporting cast, especially in regard to the women of the film. Before this film’s production, the filmmakers promised that it would be the first “MeToo Era” Bond film, with no mistreatment of the female characters that was seen in the majority of the previous films; whilst they have kept that promise, one feels that you could easily take out female characters like de Arma’s “Paloma” and Lynch’s “Nomi”; it would have no effect on the film’s plot at all. This is a shame because I enjoyed both of those character’s and their actors, I just wish they were given proper arcs and better material to work from.
But still without going into details, I must say I agree in the manner of which the filmmakers have ended the Craig Era. That ending was the only suitable ending for Craig’s Bond, but I just wish they handled it better.
All in all, whilst No Time To Die is better than Spectre and Quantum of Solace, it’s not as good as Casino Royale or Skyfall. However, it still ends Craig’s Bond on a good note and helps proves that the Craig era will go down as a high mark in the franchise’s history.
I can’t wait to see how they reinvent Bond next…. Maybe with Riz Ahmed as the man himself… I’m just saying.
3.5/5 stars from me.