After a year and a half of delays, James Bond is finally back. No Time To Die is the 25th movie in the series, but most notably, it’s the fifth and final film for Daniel Craig since his first outing in 2006 with the franchise-best Casino Royale.
Each Bond entry since then has built on top of the previous one, an attempt at serialization that makes the Craig era unique in the franchise’s history and gives this final film even more dramatic weight than it would have otherwise. In hindsight, its predecessor Spectre got caught up in the same trap that Warner Bros. did with Justice League in trying to match the intertextuality of the ever-elusive Marvel Cinematic Universe without organically leading up to the climax. No Time To Die gets bogged down with canonical calculations but works best as a standalone piece of popcorn cinema.
An extended cold open reacquaints us with Bond and Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) as their picturesque Italian vacation is violently cut short by Spectre assassins. Feeling that Swann must have betrayed him by tipping them off, Bond sends her away and retires from MI6 to Jamaica, only to be pulled back in five years later at the appearance of his old CIA buddy Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright). He’s looking for a scientist who was kidnapped in the process of building a highly-targeted bioweapon and Bond suspects that his nemesis Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) is behind the plot. Aiding Bond in his mission are old MI6 colleagues M (Ralph Fiennes) and Q (Ben Whishaw), alongside Nomi (Lashana Lynch), a new agent who undertook Bond’s 007 alias after his retirement.
When No Time To Die’s release was pushed last year from April all the way to November, it was thought that it was due to anticipation that movie theaters would close due to the pandemic. While that is still most likely the case, part of me wonders if the plot of the movie, which hinges on an invisible infectious virus, was one of the reasons behind the film’s initial delay.
But timing is one thing and planning is another. Looking back on this five-film arc, it’s clear MGM could have planned things a bit better. Blofeld being unveiled as the big baddie in Spectre was premature and if development had gone differently, No Time To Die could have served as a much better precursor to Spectre.
For those who don’t care about these interwoven plot threads and just want a fun blockbuster to herald the return of the theatrical experience, the film delivers. The marketing has highlighted the action in Italy during the enjoyable, albeit overly long, prologue, but there are several other setpieces that match its quality. A detour in Cuba reunites Craig with his Knives Out co-star Ana de Armas, who charms as an inexperienced CIA agent who gains experience by kicking henchmen in the face with high heels. A foggy jungle-set sequence in Norway shows an outgunned Bond using field smarts to fend off a caravan of assassins. But the most visceral action scene is saved for the third act, in which director Cary Joji Fukunaga flexes the one-take muscles he built during the first season of True Detective to satisfying effect.
While the quality of Bond films that Daniel Craig has starred in have been up and down, he’s given everything to this role and his dedication to the performances has never been in question. For a new generation of Bond fans, he has redefined who the character is and made it almost impossible to imagine someone else taking the reins from here on. Where the franchise goes from here will be the subject of thousands of think pieces and forum posts until MGM (which is, sadly, set to be acquired by Amazon) makes their next move, but I’m looking forward to Craig’s post-Bond career. He did excellent work in films like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Logan Lucky even during his time as Bond. Whether you view it as a season finale or a standalone episode, No Time To Die has all the time in the world to entertain and inspire.
New Movies Coming This Weekend
Playing in theaters and streaming on paid tiers of Peacock is Halloween Kills, a slasher sequel starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Judy Greer that follows the women in the Strode family as they defend themselves against the masked killer Michael Myers.
Exclusively in theaters is The Last Duel, a historical drama starring Matt Damon and Adam Driver about a trial by combat ordered by King Charles VI in medieval France between a well-regarded knight and his squire.
Streaming on Apple TV+ is The Velvet Underground, a documentary which explores the multiple threads that converged to bring together one of the most influential bands in rock n’ roll.