‘No Time to Die’: Loving Victory Lap

The movie’s called No Time to Die and has a runtime of two hours and 43 minutes. Someone, somewhere, is having a laugh. But not James Bond, who, for as long as Daniel Craig has been playing that iconic Ian Fleming creation (especially in the most recent films of his 15-year tenure) has tended to be a somber sort.

Yet rarely has he seemed overly excited about the business of being MI6’s number one man. Loss, or something like it, seemed to trail him from the start. In a way, from 2006’s Casino Royale onward, the movies have been catching up to the performance.

This has remained true even as all five of the actor’s turns in the role have reveled in the usual pleasure principles of 007 adventures. The globetrotting locales, high-end cars, and spy-craft fetish objects; the gorgeous femme fatales and one-night stands and even genuine loves. Craig once said he would rather “slash [his] wrists” than be in another Bond film.

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As a movie, Bond-related or otherwise, it’s just fine: sometimes intriguing, sometimes not, sometimes boring, sometimes not. It’s a bit more successful if we think of it instead as a tribute to the Craig era, and to the star himself, whose 21st-century Bond will endure as a complicated man along for the ride in the franchise’s otherwise formulaic schemes. It’s like the movie has this in mind, reviving old characters and tropes, giving Bond devotees a bit of what makes the franchise a familiar comfort, while adding a dash of melancholy and a grimness — down to its visual palette and the journeyman staging of much of its showpiece scenes — that even gives the action a twinge of heaviness.