Review: No Time To Die is a grand finale for the quintessential Bond
We’ve been expecting him, but is Mr Bond’s 25th outing worth the wait?
In fact, fate’s delays may have helped No Time To Die land a lot more memorably than had it been pushed out during the past 18 months.
This has everything you could want – action, thrills, humour, romance, emotion, henchmen, tension – all wrapped in a stunningly beautiful film with some excellent sound design.
It's bold (some big choices are involved), yet it exudes confidence and moves with such drive, you do not feel most of its admittedly long 163-minute running time.
This is arguably the smartest Bond film to date, with possibly the most rounded portrayal of the character.
An older, not wiser, but more relaxed Bond.
In fact, the line between Daniel Craig and James Bond blurs.
Bond’s humour here feels very much like Craig's, but then this is his show after all.
No Time To Die is the film Craig’s Bond deserves to finish on. The actor has brought more to the role from the off, imbuing 007 with more depth than that of a suave, bed-hopping sociopath with a quipping addiction.
For me, there is no question. Craig IS Bond – and then there are the other blokes. And I say that as a lifelong fan of the franchise, which he changed for the better.
That said, there have been faults. They won’t admit it, but Spectre’s silly retconning third act capped with an abrupt drive into the sunset was not the way to end things.
While No Time To Die has to acknowledge its 2015 predecessor, it is thankfully not vital that you need to recall all of its plot points.
It is Madeleine (Lea Seydoux) and Bond’s relationship – however fractured – that proves to be key to this story.
As the Marvel movies realised, action set pieces are fine, but it’s what happens in the quiet moments that really matter.
And it's here where you become thankful we have an actor of Craig's calibre in the role. He sells the emotion like nobody else.
This might make it sound dour, but rest assured, there’s plenty of action.
A sequence with Ana de Armas (as a CIA agent assisting Bond) and her frankly physics-defying evening gown is a standout, as is a misty forest skirmish.
The inclusion of Phoebe Waller-Bridge as a screenwriter has not, as some moaned, turned this into a manifesto of wokeness. But she has added more heart, emotion and vulnerability to the characters in a way that elevates the whole experience.
I dread to think what this film would have been with an all-male writing team. There are some elements that would be disastrous without Waller-Bridge's brand of pathos.
You can also see where she has honed the sniping between Lashana Lynch’s Nomi – the new 007 – and Bond, and some humour is at Bond’s expense.
Both de Armas and Lynch deflate some Bond tropes – such as despite his obvious expectation that they’re dying to get some Bond action of their own, he’s over 50 and these women 20 years his junior are there for the mission at hand and just don’t see him that way.
Time – and age – marches on, Mr Bond and as the classic admonishment goes: “Do grow up, 007...”
It is the power of the more emotional moments – with Bond no longer the blunt instrument Judi Dench’s M described him as in 2006’s Casino Royale – that make this sequel stand out.
That said, this is still a Bond film, and some outlandishness is expected.
No Time To Die is close to science fiction in parts and some elements seem straight out of Mission: Impossible, though not egregiously so.
It's not entirely flawless. The pace of the final act feels off due to trying to spin too many plates.
And it has to be said that Rami Malek’s Safin could have workshopped his motivations more. For a Bond villain, he feels neglected of screen time or indeed of things to do.
Yes, there are secrets, and I urge anyone seeing it to adhere to the hashtag #NoTimeForSpoilers.
This is a grand finale. Watch it, discuss it, relish it. Just don’t ruin it for others.
FILM: No Time To Die
STARRING: Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Rami Malek, Lashana Lynch, Ralph Fiennes, Ana de Armas, Ben Whishaw
DIRECTOR: Cary Joji Fukunaga
THE SKINNY: James Bond’s retirement is interrupted by sinister forces, setting him on a collision course with a lethal new technology.