This review contains spoilers for No Time To Die.
After a pre-title sequence which takes place in the aftermath of Spectre, No Time To Die skips forward five years to follow a retired Bond enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. When his old CIA buddy Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wight) asks him to help rescue a Russian scientist from the clutches of Spectre, things take a turn which ultimately sees him back at MI6 – despite the fact that Lashana Lynch is now holding the Bond’s old 007 handle. Venturing back to once again face-off against Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld, Bond must embrace his past in order to defeat his current adversary, Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek).
Cary Joji Fukunaga‘s film breaks bold new ground for the franchise – not only does it give Craig’s Bond a daughter, but it also kills Ian Fleming‘s iconic character at the end of the film. It’s a monumentally brave decision which delivers a real punctuation point to the end of Craig’s 15 year holding of the licence to kill. No Time To Die simply wouldn’t have had the emotional resonance if the five Craig films hadn’t had connective tissue running through them. Fukunaga’s film will stand firmly amongst franchise entries such as Goldfinger, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Goldeneye and Casino Royale as films which indelibly changed the perception and the path of the James Bond films.
No Time to Die examines Bond’s relationship with Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann in a way which the franchise never has before – not even with Eva Green or Diana Rigg’s. Throwing into the mix a daughter, Bond has to face having a family for the first time. It could have been disastrous plotting, but Craig’s humanity as Bond ensures that it not only works – but that it feels like an honest plot point. Towards the climax you can actually see the character embracing the idea of fatherhood, something which makes his death resonate even more.
For all the drama within Fukunaga’s film, there’s also a tremendous amount of humour. Craig’s run as Bond hasn’t been known for its wit, but No Time To Die certainly sees the actor embrace the comedy within the role. A quick post shoot-out drink with Ana de Armas‘ CIA operative adds a real shine to a stand-out action sequence.
Speaking of action – there’s plenty of it in this 163 minute epic. It’s all beautifully staged and expertly handled in a way which lets you actually understand what’s going on. Fukunaga and company keep the CGI to a minimum so that things stay grounded no matter how big the set pieces get. Hans Zimmer’s score brings back some old musical motifs which echo George Lazemby’s only go as Ian Fleming’s super spy. Plus Billie Eilish‘s No Time To Die isn’t a bad Bond theme – it’s much better than Sam Smith’s aural atrocity from Spectre.
No Time to Die‘s weakest link is Rami Malek’s Safin. Muddled motivations aside, Malek just doesn’t have the intensity of a classic Bond. He’s got a great looking underground lair, but aside from some facial scaring, there’s nothing memorable about him. It’s a shame because Craig’s time as Bond has given us great bad guys in the shape of Mads Mikkelsen, Javie Bardem and Christoph Waltz.
A Bond film which will literally change the face of the franchise, No Time To Die includes all the classic elements from the James Bond franchise. However, this time around there a freshness which makes the film feel like more than just another sequel. It’s a Bond film which will vibrate throughout the franchise’s 60 year history and ensure that it’s now of the most talked about entries yet. No Time To Die may mark the end of Daniel Craig’s reign as 007, but one thing’s for certain – James Bond will return.