Warning: This review may contain spoilers.
“No Time to Die” is the latest entry in the longest-running movie series in history, and it lives up to the giant legacy of the James Bond franchise.
As the final movie for Daniel Craig, who has played Bond for the past 15 years, it’s a somber farewell but one without any regrets. A franchise since the 1960s, James Bond is a series of movies that are constantly evolving with the times.
“That kind of change of the whole society in the global context is always reflected in the [Bond] franchise, very successfully and smartfully,” said Seung-hoon Jeong, an assistant professor in film and electronic arts at Long Beach State.
Starting with one of the strongest cold openings in the franchise, the audience is treated to the all too familiar opening shot of the Bond gun barrel sequence as it transitions into a snowy landscape.
A tense 20-minute opening plays out, starting with a flashback and ending with a bruised and bloodied Bond. It’s a phenomenal opening to the film and easily stands up with the other great cold openings the series has seen with Craig’s films, like the bathroom brawl in “Casino Royale” or the train fight in “Skyfall.”
Throughout the movie, the audience witnesses a spectacle of well-choreographed action scenes that showcase what Bond does best—fighting his way out of seemingly unwinnable scenarios.
Director Cary Joji Fukunaga, who directed the first season of the TV show “True Detective” utilizes some stunning camerawork, especially during the climax of the movie which is a feast for the eyes. This is Fukunaga’s first foray into the Bond franchise, and he nailed the trademarks of the series perfectly.
The action scenes don’t disappoint, as to be expected of a Bond film. But another area where the film surprisingly excels is character development.
Character development isn’t something that comes up often in Bond movies, but “No Time to Die” breaks that convention. Featuring surprisingly great development not just for Bond but for other characters as well, it’s a surprise to see characters change throughout the film.
Bond is much more vulnerable in this film, even more so than in “Skyfall.” Craig’s Bond is a very flawed character; a complicated blend of an emotional wreck combined with a ruthless killer, and “No Time to Die” finally brings his character arc full circle.
While he still embodies this chauvinistic macho male that he’s been known forever since “Dr. No,” this Bond is a much more complex and layered character than prior Bonds. Craig was the first to turn Bond human.
Craig’s performance here is amazing and easily one of his best. The movie also brings his character arc which began in “Casino Royale” with the death of Vesper Lynd to a satisfying close.
“No Time to Die” also distances itself from the misogyny and womanizing that’s expected of Bond films, representing them as equal to Bond.
The new 007 agent Nomi, played by Lashana Lynch, is the very first female and Black 007, and she gives an amazing performance. Her banter with Bond throughout the movie is excellent, and seeing their relationship evolve from begrudgingly working together to having mutual respect for each other throughout the movie was a joy to watch.
The main antagonist of the film Safin, played by Rami Malek also gave an outstanding performance. While Safin himself isn’t anything to write home about, he’s carried by the amazing performance we’ve come to expect by Malek and really brings the character to life.
While the actors gave great performances and the action scenes are amazing, the plot and main antagonist falter. The film sometimes feels like it invalidates the prior entry “Spectre” and Safin doesn’t compare to the likes of Raoul Silva in “Skyfall” or Le Chiffre in “Casino Royale” despite Malek’s performance.
Safin’s motivations are questionable at best and there’s never an explanation as to how he got his strength, wealth, or manpower.
The movie also does run long at nearly three hours. It tends to reuse some plot devices or moments, such as Bond kissing Madeleine Swann, played by Léa Seydoux, multiple times throughout the movie, and being treated as if it was their first time kissing.
The kissing scenes felt a little out of place and although it helped to showcase the evolution of their relationship, there were other ways to show that besides a dramatic kiss scene three times in a relatively short span of time.
Some of the action scenes also require a heavy suspension of disbelief. While it’s grounded and beautifully choreographed, for the most part, Bond gets struck nearly point-blank by grenades multiple times and simply shrugs it off, which looks jarring, to say the least.
Bond is certainly known for his death-defying odds, but shaking off grenades right in front of him is a little too much, even for him.
Overall though, the negatives don’t bring down what is an otherwise top-tier Bond film.
“No Time to Die” provides a satisfying conclusion to the Craig era of Bond and leaves the franchise wide open for anything. Whether Lashana Lynch or someone else carries the mantle of 007 or Bond is still up in the air, but the movie’s post-credits scene made one thing clear. James Bond will return.