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‘No Time to Die’: a solid, chaotic goodbye to Daniel Craig’s James Bond

‘No Time to Die’: a solid, chaotic goodbye to Daniel Craig’s James Bond

‘No Time to Die’: a solid, chaotic goodbye to Daniel Craig’s James Bond
October 14
12:00 2021

“We have all the time in the world.”

All good things must come to an end. For Daniel Craig’s 15-year run as famed secret agent 007, aka James Bond, that time has come. Plagued with pre-production troubles and delayed for 18 months since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, “No Time to Die” has finally surfaced in theaters with the objective to end Craig’s five-film tenure on a high note.

For this, franchise owners Eon Productions have enlisted Cary Joji Fukunaga of the first season of “True Detective” and “Beasts of No Nation” and writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge of “Fleabag” to weave one last mission for Bond. This go around, Bond comes out of retirement to deal with the nefarious Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek), who has kidnapped a Russian scientist for some nebulous evil scheme involving longtime foe Spectre. To get to the bottom of things, Bond must cooperate with new 007 Noemi (Lashana Lynch), his old mates at MI6 and his second true love, Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux). This time, the stakes are both personal and cataclysmic. 

For the task at hand, Fukunaga and Waller-Bridge pleasingly succeed with vigor for the most part. 

Fukunaga is in top shape as director, carrying over his action chops from “Detective” while ratcheting up the spectacle. The car chases, hand-to-hand combat and shootouts are all done with expertise and aplomb, delivering thrills with superb stuntwork and clarity with precise camerawork and editing. 

Neither is he lacking in the visual department, working with “First Man” and “La La Land” cinematographer Linus Sandgren, in what is easily one of the franchise’s best-looking installments yet. Not only are the establishing shots of Jamacia, Italy, Norway and further exotic locales just breathtaking, the color contrast of darker blues, greens and oranges are pleasing to the eye. This is a beautiful movie. 

Of course, none of that matters if the actors in these scenes don’t engage, which they do. Craig basically has his take on Bond down to a T at this point, though he mixes his more pessimistic side with some surprising levity while maintaining a simmering humanity throughout. 

The supporting cast is also great with Seydoux standing out as Swann, her arc and considerably improved relationship with Bond providing a hefty heart for the adventure at hand. The old MI6 crew is as fun to watch as they were previously, with the new 007, Lynch’s Nomi providing a wonderful rival to Bond. And, of course, Ana de Armas absolutely steals the entire show as one-scene wonder Paloma.

For the composer, Hans Zimmer is on music duties, and this is a goddamn proper Bond score. Zimmer largely focuses on a more classical, orchestrated sound for this Bond, even carrying on the lost tradition of threading the title music, Billie Eilish’s chilling theme, through different tracks. There are even some audio callbacks to the older “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” connections which will prove to be thematically resonant for long-time fans.

Now, the writing is where the quality dips a bit. While Waller-Bridge very much wrote the screenplay, she also shares credit with director Fukunaga and series staples Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Waller-Bridge brings her eye for dialogue to the conversations and she and the other writers make some genuinely involving emotional beats for Bond with a pretty major twist for the character in the second act.

However, it takes time to resolve several loose threads from the previous installment “Spectre,” and the opening act suffers for it.  The pacing especially takes time to get going after the cold open, though the set pieces roar when it does. This comes at Malek’s expense as villain Safin. He has this palpable creepiness, but he isn’t actually present for much of the actual story and his motives remain elusive even after the end credits. An absolute sin for a Bond movie.

The ending is also simultaneously fitting yet doesn’t fulfill its potential. While it is a decent finale, there are also maybe a handful of more fascinating potential directions for Bond’s arc to take, especially given the aforementioned second-act twist. Still, it is satisfying.

Even at its absolute messiest, “No Time to Die” is a fulfilling send-off to Craig’s era of Bond and everything before it. It may not be the end for Bond altogether, but it is as good an elegy a cultural juggernaut can get. Of course, even if he sounds and acts distinctly different, James Bond will return some way, somehow. 

Will’s final rating: 3.75/5

Image source The Hollywood Reporter

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Will Tarpley

Will Tarpley

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