Finally, after numerous delays and a global pandemic, Bond 25 aka No Time to Die is out for the world to see and it just so happens to be Daniel Craig’s final performance as the fiction MI6 secret service agent turned global action icon. He’s been Bond for 15 years, the longest tenured actor to play the role (Connery lasted 11 years, Moore lasted 12, and Brosnan lasted 7). And after that long excruciating wait, No Time to Die easily became one of the most anticipated films of 2021. No Time to Die is Daniel Craig’s swan song, his finest performance yet and the final time he will drink a sponsored product placed Heineken or his signature vodka martini – shaken, not stirred.
Craig’s version of Bond is the closest iteration to Connery’s iconic traditionalist Bond. But Craig differs from all others in one aspect – he gives Bond humanity and emotion. This era of the longest running franchise has been intimate, personal, and emotional in its reboot way back in 2006 with Casino Royale. And starting there, no other era has felt like a culmination of what came before it to that specific actor. Connery’s Bond surely had an overarching storyline with Spectre (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) and the number 1 Blofeld in stopping him from achieving world domination but Craig’s era has truly felt like one long story told over several films. Spectre – while tying up loose ends with connective tissue – retconned the previous villains to be included on the organizational chart.
All roads starting with Casino Royale have led to No Time to Die. From Vesper’s involvement to the hunt for Dominic Greene, to fighting back against an ex-MI6 cyberterrorist Silva to meeting the man behind it all, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), James (Daniel Craig) has been through it all and the emotion Craig brought to the character made everything feel personal. Every kill has been shot and framed to feel the struggle between Bond and his target.
Each film, though personal has grown in scale exponentially with No Time to Die being as the most ambitious of all 25 installments. Picking up right where Spectre left off, James is retired from MI6 in Italy with girlfriend Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) when Spectre interrupts their quiet life together. 5 years later and off the grid in Jamaica (Home of Ian Flemings James Bond Estate), Bond runs into old friend and partner Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) who brings Bond back into the game to capture MI6 scientist Valdo Obruchev (David Dencik) who developed “Project Heracles” a bioweapon engineered to kill millions with nanobots.
Remember when Goldeneye kicked off a modern age of Bond? That’s nothing compared to what Craig’s era of villains have done. Cyberterrorists, controlling the water supply and nanobots make these villains the most dangerous Bond has had to face in his time as an MI6 agent. Sharing a commonality, each villain, besides seeking global domination has gone after Bond’s heart. Madeleine Swann is the third time in 60 years that Bond has fell in love – the first being in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and followed up in Casino Royale. As notorious as a womanizer that Bond is, Craig’s Bond is the least focused on sex – using his charm and baby blue eyes to seduce women for Queen and Country. Every iteration of Bond before Craig tosses the Bond girl aside when they prove useless or are only relevant when Bond saves the day, and the Bond girl is the trophy.
None of the women in No Time to Die let alone the Craig era have felt like a trophy or reward for Bond in saving the day. Much of that can be attributed in this new film to the addition of Phoebe Waller-Bridge on the writing team with legacy writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Director Cary Joji Fukunaga also lends his pen to a script that resolves all the plot lines since Casino Royale. It hasn’t been the cleanest resolution but No Time to Die feels final, wrapping up a 15-year story that has pushed James to his absolute limit and breaking point.
The Bond formula for approaching these films has been altered in the Craig era – not following the template that has historically been cut and paste with different characters and archnemesis. Certainly, the opening sequence that leads into the theme song (No Time to Die by Billie Eilish) is key for establishing tone and pace, but the opening sequence takes its time to wrap up a storyline to then kick off the beginning of the end. No Time to Die is the longest Bond film in the franchise – coming in at 163 minutes, there’s a lot of ground to cover and Fukunaga does a brilliant job in telling this final chapter.
It may sound petty but what worried me the most going into No Time to Die was Eilish’s theme song and how it would fit in. Seeing it with the context of the film, the song works and it’s a good song, there’s no denying her and her brother Finnias’s talent but Adele’s “Skyfall” is still the best.
Scenes could have been trimmed or cut out entirely that would have sped moments up when exposition is being layed out.
Like many of the previous entries the villain, Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek) isn’t what was promised so many years ago when Rami was cast. He seeks revenge against Spectre for the death of his family which turns him into a mass murdering psychopath with a porcelain mask and scarred face. He’s not a Goldfinger or a Dr. No, Raoul Silva, or even Blofeld (any of the iterations) for that matter, Safin is a forgetting villain in the likes of Scaramanga or any other Moore era villain.
Besides the women who all are brilliant and badass, Daniel Craig is the standout of No Time to Die, it’s his best performance as Bond in an era that also includes Skyfall. Surrounding Bond is the usual suspects of reoccurring upgraded characters with some new faces added to the mix. All involved give brilliant performances in a convoluted story. There’s Gareth Mallory aka M (Ralph Fiennes), Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), Q (Ben Whinshaw) and Bill Tanner (Rory Kinnear). In Bond’s retirement a new 007 takes his place in Nomi (Lashana Lynch) and a brief ass-kicking sequence involving Paloma (Ana de Armas). If you think an Avengers film has a lot of characters think again – too many characters and not enough development to go around. I would love to see Paloma with more screen time or Nomi on a mission without the interference by Bond.
No Time to Die is not perfect, its overlong, convoluted and haphazardly paced but it takes a risk in its final entry of arguably the best actor to play Bond. Out of the five entries its better than Quantum of Solace & Spectre but not as good as Casino Royale or Skyfall. Daniel Craig proves why he’s many fans of the franchise’s favorite for the role and his baby blue eyes and humanity will be missed when the next actor is selected to play the fictional MI6 agent turned mortal action superhero who wears a subtle smile and an expensive tux. Oozing with style, a sleek aesthetic, full of danger and explosive choreography, action-packed, a ton of espionage and emotion, No Time to Die is the perfect end of an era.
If one thing is certain, the fully loaded vintage Aston Martin will never get old or go out of style, no matter how advanced technology becomes.
Written By: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, CaryJoji Fukunaga & Pheobe Waller-Bridge
Directed By: CaryJoji Fukunaga
Music By: Hans Zimmer
Cinematography: Linus Sandgren
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whinshaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Ana De Armas & Ralph Fiennes
Release Date: October 8, 2021
Running Time: 2 Hours 43 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%
My Score: 4 out of 5
Based On: James Bond By Ian Fleming