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It’s appropriate that No Time to Die got held back until the COVID-19 pandemic was under control to the point we could return to cinemas. The long-running franchise belongs and deserves to be seen on the big screen.
People sit up and take notice when a Bond movie comes out. Even more so with this latest one as it marks the departure of Daniel Craig from the titular role.
Craig is leaving after five movies and No Time to Die does everything in its power to not only give Craig his swansong but to also remind audiences of the franchise’s grandeur.
No Time to Die ultimately tries to stir their emotions rather than shake them, and despite some nitpicks here and there, it succeeds mostly thanks to its action and cast. This is a fun one to watch.
What’s James Bond up to in No Time to Die?
James Bond is retired from service. Five years following a violent separation from psychiatrist Dr Madeleine Swan (Léa Seydoux), he is led back into the field by CIA agent Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) after a world-ending weapon goes missing.
All evidence points to Bond’s nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), former leader of crime organisation Spectre. But more mystery floats to the surface in the form of terrorist leader Safin (Rami Malek).
It’s up to Bond to find the weapon and Safin, all the while dealing with the fallout of returning to MI6, his boss M (Ralph Fiennes), and the newest 00 agent on the block, Nomi (Lashana Lynch).
Bond movies must feel royal and epic
During the last two decades, MGM has had to work hard to distinguish James Bond from all the other action franchises out there.
Except for Quantum of Solace (a Jason Bourne movie in disguise), they succeeded through and through. Both Skyfall and Spectre are action and aesthetic standouts that kept the focus on 007 and his trademark mannerisms.
No Time to Die harks back to the Bond films prior to their reimagining in the 2000s. James is armed with an arsenal of bad puns. He deploys machine guns from the headlights of his Aston Martin DB5. The colourful cast of MI6 is there is back him up on an adventure that threatens the entire world.
The movie never stops reminding you you’re watching a Bond movie and that results in a larger-than-life theatrical experience.
At the heart of that experience is Craig’s performance. Despite the plot’s antics, he portrays a very grizzled and tired man done in by years of explosions and betrayal. The plot gives him substantial moments of reflection and the stakes are more personal than ever. It’s a more-than-appropriate performance to end his five-movie tenure.
Craig’s also got back up from an excellent cast. While it’s easy to praise Lashana Lynch’s Nomi as being a wonderful and sharp foil to Bond, the real star of the supporting cast is Ana de Armas playing a CIA agent that comes to Bond’s aid in Cuba. Both De Armas and the audience are having a ball by the end of the action sequence and here’s hoping she will return in future movies.
Ben Whishaw and Naomie Harris also both return in their roles as MI6 officials Q and Moneypenny and they are also pleasant to watch.
However, the weakest chain in the movie is sadly Rami Malek’s Safin who is held back by lackluster writing and character development.
Malek works hard to distinguish himself as an egomaniacal Bond villain. But while his connection to the other characters is made clear, it comes off as insufficient when connected to the stakes of the plot.
It’s by no means bad acting, but his diabolical plan gets away from him early on in the movie.
Action, music, and competent directing
Director Cary Joji Fukunaga, entrusted with this Bond movie after Skyfall and Spectre director Sam Mendes did not return, has done a good job of keeping the wheels greased on this franchise.
Fukunaga knows how to block an action sequence. The editing is smooth. It has the right amount of cutting and wide-angle shots that let you see the full scope of the fights and chases. There are plenty of action sequences from the get-go in a diverse range of environments.
The film does feel too long, though. Running at over two-and-a-half hours, the drag is felt in the middle act of the movie. It’s a lot of extended scenes with exposition. A huge chunk of that is also tied to Spectre and Waltz’s connection to the plot.
Hans Zimmer takes over from Thomas Newman on music score responsibilities and his work is very subtle. Music in this movie is used with caution and does little to intrude on the interactions of the characters.
The Billie Eilish theme song is subject to personal taste, let’s just leave it at that.
No Time to Die review verdict
No Time to Die is a fun movie, worth the wait to return to cinemas to enjoy it.
The villain is unfulfilling. There is a lot of potential with Rami Malek but it’s squandered quickly. The movie also sags in the middle thanks to a flood of dialogue.
However, Craig and his cast right the ship easily. Director Fukunaga’s overall execution does the material justice and the action sequences are entertaining and diverse. It’s a strong and emotional farewell to Craig while the future of the franchise looks bright.
Featured image: Nicola Dove/MGM