NO TIME TO DIE Review
In these (ahem) unprecedented times, time has slowly lost all meaning. Days and months and years have merged together as our lives stagnate in a limbo of case numbers and lockdowns. Amongst it all there has be one constant, the ever-changing release date of the latest James Bond film. Days out from its premiere, the film was delayed 9 months as a result of the emerging pandemic, which many naively judged for being an extreme response. Then every film followed suit, including No Time To Die itself shifting release again by a full year. Now, 1 year and 9 months since its intended release date, it is time to die. And it has been worth it.
Daniel Craig's final (definetivley this time) outing as the gentleman spy sees Bond pulled back from retirment when, in true Bond fashion, a megalomanic threatens world domination and targets those closest to Bond.
Craig, through no fault of his own, holds the record for longest career as Bond. Starting in 2006's Casino Royale to today, he has played Bond for 15 years, three years more than Roger Moore, the second longest. This is a fitting send off for his Bond, and potentially his best. Over time, it may even become a series best.
This is easily the best Bond action movie, with creative settings and exectuions and an immense amount of care put in by the stunt team and director Cary Joji Fukunaga in capturing them. An opening car chase is exciting and a thrill to see in cinemas as every tire screech and gunshot rings in your ears. Then it just escalates to a shoot-out in Cuba which is full of fun, classic Bond moments like him taking the time to pour himself a drink as bullets wizz by his head. The climatic 'storming-of-the-castle' is a tense, ticking-clock situation that pulls of enduring, close quarters gunfight up a stairwell that is reminiscent of the John Wick franchise. Craig's Bond mimiced the actino franchises of the time, namely Jason Bourne and ends taking inspiration from the current trendy action franchise.
Craig's modern Bond changed the Bond franchise and mythos to fit modern cinema sensibilities. Villains and actors returned or played into a larger narrative which carried over the films. Here is no different with Christoph Waltz's Blofeld being put to minimal but effective use compared to last time. The series' changes may have been jarring for fans and here there are some big swings in terms of franchise firsts, but they set up an exciting new direction for the franchise to maintain its popularity into the 21st century. Craig's Bond was all about bringing the gentleman spy into the modern day, and this movie continues and furthers that promise.
No Time To Die holds another franchise first for having a female writer involved with Fleabag's Phoebe Waller-Bridge co-writing the film. Her style of writing is clearly evident for those familiar with her works, most notably in Ana de Arma's Paloma who arrives as a classic Bond Girl before turning and showing a young, excitable agent who is a blast to watch. All the new and returning supporting characters are as entertaining to watch as Bond, which makes potential return appearances (or even team-ups) all the more exciting to see.
Unfortunately, the exception to this is Rami Malek's villainous Safrine. He is classic Bond villain; deformed and hell bent on world domination. His methods are uncomfortably close to home for audiences living with awareness of viruses. Sadly, his overall motivations and backstory are mudled that at points towards the later-half of the film, it become unclear why anything was happening. Malek is also flat in his delivery, whispering his lines and never demonstrating emotion beyond indignation or smugness. It is a shame given how exceptional everything surronding him is, including henchmen which are more memorable than him.
Casino Royale modernised Bond and also humanised him, showing an inexperienced Bond following in love before having his love, heart and trust broken. We see the motivation for how he becomes so cold and misogynistic towards any woman that crosses his path. Here we see a similar story play out, with Bond dipping his toe into love and affection before retreating back into his bottle. No Time To Die is first time we see an emotional Bond, one who isn't motivated by Queen and Country, but shows genuine care for his friends and loved ones and alos a general interest in protecting the rest of the world. A simple line deliver from Bond in the final act, "If we don't stop him, there'll be nothing left to save", reads as generic action hero line, but Craig pleads this line that you feel Bond be shaken by what is at stake. It is a new and welcome perspective on the character, like much of the movie.
For the 25th installment, and Craig's farewell, No Time To Die is an intense, exciting, heartfelt and invigorating Bond film that is a franchise best and sets-up a unpredictable and fresh future.