Review: No Time to Die

After much delay, we finally get Daniel Craig’s final bow as James Bond.

After the events of Spectre, Bond finds himself settling down with Madeleine, with his nemesis imprisoned. But when Spectre agents track him down, as well as a mysterious third party, he abandons Madeleine and disappears.
However, when the CIA and MI6 track him down after five years, Bond finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy of global consequences…

With 2012’s Skyfall basically defining Daniel Craig’s tenure as the titular character, as well as the styling of his movies, 2015’s Spectre was a dubious attempt to not only remake previous storylines for the first time in the franchise’s history, but also manufacture an overarching storyline across all of Craig’s movies. Breaking the franchise’s styling of anthology movies for the first time. It was… somewhat divisive.

This year’s movie continues from where Spectre left off, so consider mild spoilers ahead for that movie in this review.
No Time to Die has the trappings of the recent Bond films; it is darker, full of double-crossing and arguments between allies. Once again, Bond is removed from MI6 and is a rogue agent (honestly, when does he work for MI6 officially? His going rogue is as regular an occurrence as Q’s gadgets) and he is seen as enraged as he had been during Casino Royale.
That isn’t to say that the film is without humour. In fact there are several notable scenes that have blatant quips and one-liners. Daniel Craig himself has stated that writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge was a late addition to the writing team to make the dialogue punchier. It certainly isn’t overdone, and it adds much needed levity.
It is a consistent extension of the storyline, and it is better than its divisive predecessor. Working knowledge of Spectre‘s storyline is important to keep track of the moving parts and the multiple characters involved. But gratefully the newest film doesn’t feel as strenuously connected to the other Craig movies, since Spectre broke this idea already, No Time to Die has more room to manoeuvre and be its own thing.

And overall, yeah, it is a solid entry for the franchise!

Our new villain, Lyutsifer Safin (played by an emaciated Rami Malek) is extremely effective as a shadowy antagonist for Bond. In fact, he could be one of the better Bond villains in recent years. Although the film definitely keeps his cards close to its chest, the story takes its time to reveal him fully and it is mostly to its detriment.
Another great character is Ana de Armas as Paloma, a CIA agent who claims to be a new undercover recruit, and teams up with Bond for a short moment. She is quite goofy at first, and warning sirens blared, reminding of such characters as Goodknight from Man with the Golden Gun, however Paloma kicks ass! A definite highlight of the movie. Sadly she is, like the film’s main villain, quite underused for some reason.
Another good addition is Nomi, played by Lashana Lynch, who caused a massive stir over the Internet as the supposed “replacement” as the canonical 007. She adds a wildcard element to proceedings, especially whenever Bond interacts with MI6 in general.

The film does a lot with a very old franchise. It manages to remain fresh without becoming overbearing or silly. It makes references to source material and even previous entries without being forceful or overly convenient to the plot (except maybe some deliberate music cues). We even start off in a snowy location and there isn’t any skiing! Well done!
The pacing is solid, although the start of the film felt a little sluggish as we juggle multiple elements across the new film and the previous film. A somewhat similar problem that plagued Spectre, but this time it is mercifully brief.
The film’s finale may prove divisive, but when viewed as a piece of an ongoing narrative for Daniel Craig’s Bond, it was ultimately very fitting.

There’s more to say, but it is definitely heading into spoiler territory to elaborate further. Sufficed to say, No Time to Die is a good bit of action entertainment! It feels like the only sort of send off they could do for Daniel Craig’s era, and really it is quite suitable and unique. Considering we are… (counting on fingers) twenty-five films deep now, it is a testimony to the series that it can still surprise and still deliver new content.

It makes up for Spectre’s rather dull and convenient storytelling, and wraps everything up in a unique and memorable fashion. This is probably the first time that a Bond actor has actually had a decent and respectful farewell, instead of having audiences clamouring for more or the studio beating the dead horse until a “massive overhaul” is needed.

It is exciting to wonder where the franchise will go next, with lessons learned and expectations shifting.

Additional Marshmallows: No Time to Die was the first major film release to be affected heavily by the outbreak of Covid-19 between 2019 and 2020, and its successful release in 2021 signals the return of movie theatres as we knew them. The film was delayed several times, culminating in over a year of delays.

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