After the events of Spectre, James Bond (Daniel Craig) rode off into the sunset, or at least he drove. He and Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) went in search of a more peaceful life. But they never found it, and five years later Bond is living a solitary retirement in Jamaica. That is until Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) shows up with a favour to ask, dragging Bond back into the world he has tried so desperately to leave behind.
This film is billed as the best movie opening of October 2021 for movie fans across the universe along with Venom: Let There Be Carnage which became the biggest hit in American cinema.
It’s hard to believe we’ve waited almost two years for No Time To Die to hit cinemas. Fourth release is the charm, I guess. And what a wait it has been; roughly two years spent wondering how this James Bond would bow out. Once again Daniel Craig shows us a different side to the super spy, as his relationship with Madeleine Swann becomes the central focus.
Drawing inspiration from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (an unforeseen but brilliant move, even if it does mean enduring Louis Armstrong’s ‘We Have All The Time In The World’), the movie delves into the psychological trauma they both have suffered, and the resultant trust issues.
Despite sharing an incredibly strong bond, the weak foundation their relationship was built on inevitably crumbles at the first hurdle, leaving Bond crushed. He’s very much like a wounded animal, except this time his wounds aren’t physical. With this complicated relationship mirroring that of so many couples (and potential couples) here in the real world, Bond and Madeleine’s inability to communicate is as frustrating as it is heartbreaking, a real first for the franchise.
In fact, No Time To Die does a few things that no other Bond movie has done before. For one, we have a female “00” in the form of Lashana Lynch’s ‘Nomi’. There are others but this is a spoiler free review. Lynch brings the perfect level of charm and attitude to the role, enough to give Bond a run for his money.
The banter and bickering between these two is hilarious. But it’s good to see that rivalry grow into a mutual respect – even if it does involve a cringey moment or two. This era ending instalment isn’t all about new relationships, however. The support team are back for one last mission.
Ben Whishaw’s more mischievous ‘Q’ is up to his usual tricks, as is Rory Kinnear as ‘Tanner’. It’s too bad then, that a reasonable amount of the incredible run time isn’t given to Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) – who despite a strong start in Skyfall, is given next to nothing to do – and ‘M’ (Ralph Fiennes), whose questionable choices have put many people in danger. His moral quandary and possible redemption is left pretty much unexplored as he and Moneypenny mostly watch from the sidelines.
Of course this wouldn’t be a Bond movie without some cool cars, beautiful locations and some insane action. Happily, No Time To Die doesn’t disappoint. The movie manages to traverse half the globe, bringing delightful carnage wherever it lands. Jamaica, Norway, Italy, and the UK are all on offer, and of course all look stunning. Seeing the Aston Martin DB5 back in action is fantastic – thanks to Q, the loyal car has a few new tricks up its sleeve – and it looks gorgeous doing it.
The V8 Vantage from The Living Daylights (one of my favourite Bond cars) also makes a welcome return, albeit gadget free. Oh to live in a world where you have Aston Martins conveniently stashed away. But it’s when Bond lands in Cuba that things get really fun, as Craig re-teams with his Knives Out co-star, Ana dé Armas. That incredible chemistry they shared is once again present, with Bond not knowing what to make of junior CIA agent ‘Paloma’, who is a bundle of nervous energy. That is, until she explodes into action, and the pair decimate a gathering of undesirables. It’s just a shame Paloma doesn’t have a bigger role.
For the most part, the story takes a much more grounded approach than the previous instalment. You can see how they’ve tried to move things back to Casino Royale’s level of reality. And for the most part it is. Including the epic finale in which Bond and Nomi covertly infiltrate the villain’s lair. A ‘back to basics’ Bond utilising his charm and whatever he can get his hands on to get the job done.
Which is exactly the order of business when Felix Leiter asks Bond to do some freelance work for the CIA. Seeing Craig reunite with Jeffrey Wright is pure joy. The two are perfect together as these world-weary old salts, and watching them reconnect is great fun, especially when Billy Magnussen’s ‘Logan Ash’ becomes the butt of all their jokes. Their relationship has developed quite a bit since their brief encounters in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, and the reunion definitely leaves you wanting more from the pair. It’s too bad we can’t have a better look at some of the work they’ve done together, not to mention all the trouble they’ve caused.
That gritty reality doesn’t last, however. In the second half the movie changes gear and begins to resemble something more like the Bond movies of old. Including a villain’s layer that would make Ken Adam proud. This shift seems to coincide with the path of the villain; Lyutsifer – yes you’re reading that right – Safin (Rami Malek). Safin’s presence is barely felt throughout the first half of the movie, and despite being a little odd, his intentions are clear – at first. But once he begins to step into the limelight, cracks begin to appear in this rather underdeveloped character. He manages to give big speeches without actually saying anything, and you reach a point where you have no clue what his motivations are for this dastardly plan.
This includes his much hinted at – and rather odd – relationship with Madeleine Swann. It might have been better if Blofeld had once again fulfilled the villain role. Despite Christoph Waltz’s interesting performance – both here and in Spectre – this new version of the classic Bond villain fails to impress, and No Time To Die could have been a good opportunity to change that.
Thankfully, an undercooked villain isn’t enough to derail Craig’s final outing. This was always going to be more about bringing this Bond’s journey to a close than introducing a new villain. The obvious question, then; was it worth the wait? Well in a word, yes. While not quite on par with Casino Royale or Skyfall, it is a fitting end for Daniel Craig. In some ways this is the most emotional of Craig’s movies.
Granted, all of his movies have had a reasonable amount of emotion to them, more than any other Bond ever has. But Craig has taken this character and humanised him. Possibly more so here than in any other of his movies. For the first time ever, Bond has a story arc of his own. Instead of being the same in every movie – only changing with the actor – we have watched him grow and develop through Craig’s tenure, from cocky new guy, to the jaded veteran looking for something more from life. Which is why No Time To Die works so well; it brings that arc to a satisfying conclusion.
No Time To Die is a fun and action-packed instalment in the Bond franchise. Despite a weak villain, this is still the emotional rollercoaster we’ve come to expect of Daniel Craig’s James Bond, and a fitting end to his story.
Don’t forget to check out new movie Dune 2021, in which I rewatch a variety of the actor’s movies from the last 20 years.