The James Bond series has gone through numerous differences over the decades and, shockingly, No Time to Die delivers things that have never happened in the series before. This ends Craig’s tenure as Bond with a definitive stamp, giving Craig’s five Bond movies a serialized, larger story feel. But this still works great on its own as a solid Bond outing that subverts a few of the Bond series tropes but also delivers what is expected. This has so much heart and spectacle and ends on a wow note that makes it one of the best Bond entries in the entire series.
James Bond (Craig) is living the good life with his love, Madeline (Lea Seydoux), that is disrupted by an attack by the evil agency of Spectre. Believing she is an agent of Spectre, Bond leaves her behind and retires. Years later, a deadly virus is stolen from a secret MI6 lab, much to the chagrin of M (Ralph Fiennes). The person responsible is the mad scientist, Safin (Raimi Malek), who wants revenge against Spectre and its mastermind, Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), who is currently incarcerated by MI6. Bond is recruited by his buddy, CIA operative Felix (Jeffery Wright), to find the weapon. However, things rapidly spiral out of control, leading Bond to reunite with MI6, a new 007 (Lashana Lynch), Blofeld, and, slightly more heartbreaking, Madeline. Now Bond tries to stop Safin before the biological weapon can damage the entire world.
This Bond is haunted by the loves of his life which was also true of George Lazenby’s Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. There are more than a few references to that film here, especially considering one of Bond’s first lines in Die is him saying he and Madeline have “All the time in the world” which was a song/closing line of Secret Service. Craig gets a few funny bits, like after he shoots down an entire building of goons he has a quick drink with the perky new agent, Paloma (Ana de Armas). When bullets start flying, she has a very impressive bit of physicality where she guns down three guys while lying on the floor in sort of a clock pattern; it looks really badass.
Craig’s Bond bleeds a bit more than the other ones and a theme of his movies is his broken heart. This was vaguely referenced in previous Bond films, a line from GoldenEye kind of nailed it with the baddie asking James “if you find forgiveness in the arms of all those willing women for all the dead ones you failed to protect.” No Time to Die makes this much more thematically explicit which is where the power of the movie’s final closing moments comes from. It’s right up there with the twist ending of Secret Service as something one would never expect to happen in a Bond movie, which is why it’s kind of perfect.
As Bond’s love, Seydoux adds emotional pathos. A riveting opening flashback features young Madeline being attacked at her home by Safin. Malik’s baddie Safin has a distinct Dr. No vibe as the private island and deformities and lust for revenge are all classic Bond baddie tropes. The bioweapon he threatens to unleash passes unknowingly from person to person which is eerily prescient in the pandemic era but it has a bit of a sci-fi twist involving nanomachines. One of the best moments Malek has in the film is when Safin is running away with a captive little girl and gives her a choice to stay or go and she promptly bolts.
MI6 is undergoing a few upgrades while Fiennes conveys that M is perturbed by the weapon he helped develop being used for terror. The fact that the new 007 has taken James’ number after his retirement leads to a few funny moments and Lynch has some good action beats like when she takes out an evil virus creating doctor. Perpetual Bond buddy Felix here and his final scene is impressively dramatic. Felix gets a sidekick played by Billy Magnussen and that character delivers some quirky twists. Spectre Mastermind Blofeld is kept behind bars but his influence still radiates out, and a chat he has with Bond ends unexpectedly.
Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (True Detective) the film looks very impressive. Fukunaga’s previous works often contained an elaborate single take action scenes which happens here as Bond fights up a flight of stairs. The opening action scene begins surprisingly explosively and features Bond driving the classic car from Goldfinger as Spectre agents emerge from the sleepy Italian village. The final moment between Bond and Madeline as he stashes her on a train and says she’ll never see him again adds a heartbreaking button that leads into Billie Eilish’s “No Time to Die” theme and moving opening credit montage. There’s lot of great action scenes, big spectacle like a party shoot out or a crunchy car chase in the woods, and the final close-quarters brawl between Bond and Safin is brutal.
No Time to Die caps off the Craig era of Bond with style and substance. It manages to hit the moments required in a Bond movie while also effectively subverting the standard Bond formula. With this, Craig cements his legacy as one of the best Bonds in the entire series as he goes out with a bang.
No Time to Die
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Starring: Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas and Rami Malek