'No Time to Die': A Solid, Yet Overlong Swan Song for Daniel Craig's James Bond
Updated: Jan 24
After many delays due to COVID-19, No Time to Die, the latest entry in the James Bond franchise, is finally out in theaters. This was one of the first films to be pushed back due the pandemic, which only made the anticipation for Daniel Craig's final turn as the iconic character grow. I personally have been looking forward to this film for some time, and I am so glad that I was finally able to see it. While I wouldn't consider this my favorite Bond movie, it still manages to be a thrilling and fitting send-off for Craig, and a solid action blockbuster in its own right.
Before I continue my review, let me preface this by saying that I am not a Bond expert. I didn't get into the franchise at all until I was a senior in high school, roughly around when Skyfall came out. I have watched all of the Craig-era films, and have seen some of the Connery films, but I still have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to Bond as a whole. That being said, I'll be mainly focusing on how this fits into Craig's run as Bond and less on how it fits into the franchise at large.
Anyone can tell you that it isn't easy to end things, especially in terms of film series. You commonly see final entries in various series get harsher reviews, and are often not well-regarded (with some exceptions). With No Time to Die, there's no doubt that some people will feel let down. In my opinion, a lot of this has to do with how Bond has evolved over time. While the character has obviously changed a lot from the Connery days, there has been some evolution from Casino Royale as well. As Craig comes into the character, we see a different take on the character, that inches towards the sensibilities of this generation, while still retaining some of that classic Bond swagger we have seen over the years.
But it's not just the character that's changed, it's the film industry as well. While Casino Royale gave us a grittier, darker version of 007, what we get with NTTD is a bit different. You still get great action sequences, and some interesting spy elements, but there's a lightness to the film that truly surprised me. It has a much stronger emotional core than the previous films, which may rub some the wrong way, but I thought was handled rather well. It's not like the Bond films haven't dealt with tragedy or trauma before, but it is explored much more thoroughly here.
In regards to the filmmaking, I have to give Cary Joji Fukunaga some credit, as he ended up being a better match than I was expecting for the Bond franchise. Don't get me wrong, Fukunaga has proved himself to be a true visionary behind the camera, but I was unsure of how he would handle something of this scope. He ends up doing an admirable job, and handles both the action sequences and the more emotional aspects of the movie quite well. However, I can't help but feel he fleshes some things out a smidge too much, I have to admire how he lets everything unfold slowly, yet methodically. It does lead to the film feeling a bit too long, but I couldn't say exactly what all I would cut. Perhaps if I gave it another watch, I would be able to find specific portions that could have been cut or edited down, but who's to say?
I also have to shout out Neal Purvis and John Wade, who have had a writing credit on all of the Bond films since The World is Not Enough, as they have been a large part of crafting the overall arc for the past several films. It seems like they have the overall plot, and get help from other writers along the way. With this film, they collaborated with Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who brings her distinct voice to the world of 007. It may be a somewhat messy script overall, but it is still pretty strong overall, and ends up bringing everything together for a surprising, yet satisfying end to Craig's run as Bond.
Now, let's talk about the man himself: Daniel Craig. Craig was met with some skepticism when he was first announced to be the next James Bond, but he knocked it out of the park in Casino Royale, and has been consistently good ever since. He truly gives it his all here, and gives what might just be his best turn in the role. He brings his usual toughness and swagger to the role, but also has moments where he gets to be a little more vulnerable. It's honestly rather refreshing, and gives the character of James Bond some added depth. I will truly miss seeing Daniel Craig as Bond, but at least he went out on a high note.
I also was quite impressed with some of the supporting players, especially Léa Seydoux, who makes the most of her time on screen, and gives a rather poignant performance here. I also enjoyed Lashana Lynch's work here, and hope that this will help boost her career. I would gladly watch an action franchise led by her any day of the week. Ana de Armas is not in this as much as I thought she would be, but she delivers a scene-stealing performance and gets one of the best setpieces in the movie. Rami Malek isn't half bad either, although I wouldn't consider him a top tier Bond villain. Don't get me wrong, he's pretty good overall, but I found myself wishing that he was a little more menacing from time to time.
Other highlights for me would be the entire opening sequence, which both sets everything up incredibly, and features some of the best action of the franchise. I also quite liked the film's theme song from Billie Eilish, which I felt fit the film rather well. Linus Sandgren's cinematography is also quite solid, and Hans Zimmer's score is simply fantastic.
Your mileage may vary with this film, as some might not take too well to the more sentimental aspects of the film. It still has a lot of the traps and trimmings of a standard Bond film, but it still manages to stand apart a little from the other entries in the franchise. If nothing else, I had a blast watching this film. There were moments where the film dragged, and I began to lose interest, but it always brought me right back. It may be a bit divisive among Bond fans, but it's still a great sendoff for Daniel Craig's iteration of James Bond, and one of the better blockbusters in recent memory.