The arrival of No Time To Die couldn’t be more bittersweet. After a slew of delays, all assuring that Daniel Craig’s final outing as James Bond would be worthy enough of a big screen experience (in whatever today’s new normal is), Cary Joji Fukunaga makes good on that promise. In fact, it’s almost impossible to imagine seeing this film anywhere else other than in a theater. No Time To Die is many things; visceral, clever, awe-inspiring, but most importantly, the end of an era. A blockbuster event that sincerely feels as monumental as it rightfully should be.
Coming off the severely lacking Spectre, No Time To Die uses some of its predecessor’s weaker aspects to propel it into its own territory. What could have easily been obvious course correction instead feels like a natural step forward. And in doing so, Fukunaga pulls off what is perhaps the film’s greatest feat: giving Craig’s Bond one final hoorah while incorporating some of the most iconic elements of the 007 franchise as a whole. It frequently feels like a retro throwback for the series, but never does it undermine the more modernized, high-adrenaline thrills that Craig’s Bond is known for. In blending the best of both Craig’s era and the past, No Time To Die cements itself as another must-see in the 007 canon.
It may seem like an exaggeration to say that this basically has everything you could want from a Bond film, however, it genuinely evokes this high sense of gratification throughout. From globe-trotting expeditions (that actually utilize their unique locations, unlike some recent blockbusters) to witty gadgets, and even a secret island hideout owned by a scarred villain, No Time To Die definitely boasts a lot to its name. Yet, through all the spectacle, the film occasionally cracks under its own weight. Leaning more into sci-fi (as Bond has done plenty of times before) and relishing in its own ridiculousness is not the problem. It’s these more far-out moments that are, in effect, the most memorable, and oddly enough feel the most appropriate for Craig’s final adventure. The few missteps that No Time To Die does make stem from its often overbearing script.
Although to its credit, the film manages to wrap up the series in a formidable style, tying up loose ends while introducing new threads simultaneously. It’s somewhat understandable to have a send-off like this be so plot-heavy, except for when the audience doesn’t have much of a grasp of what’s really at stake. New and old faces come and go, and beats land as precisely as they need to and then some, except for in one of the few places where it desperately couldn’t miss: the main villain.
The best Bond films all carry the same key features: theme song, female love interest, and cunning foe among others. Rami Malek’s Safin carries all the signature qualities of a top Bond villain, chilling demeanor, standout flair, etc., yet it’s his place in the narrative that gets the murkiest. Even though mysterious in his own right, one just doesn’t get a good idea if his “master plan” is more than surface-level or why he goes about making certain major decisions. His vision for world destruction is quite the departure from Craig’s past foes, but again, this is more acceptable as it literally is the end of the line. Unfortunately, that still isn’t enough to elevate him from being anything more than a simple mustache-twirling threat. To his credit, Malek does commit to the once-in-a-lifetime role and chalks up the film’s more old-school vibes. Not a Silva or Le Chiffre, but also not as disappointing as Blofeld.
Choosing to build off Spectre actually works in the film’s favor, though many will surely disagree solely due to their distaste of that entry. Bond and Madeleine Swann’s (Léa Seydoux) relationship is at the core of the story; their love fuels almost every fateful decision made on screen. Swann is rectified from the little nuance that was previously spared to her. Going further, No Time To Die is just as much her film as it is Bond’s. Even if her role isn’t as action-heavy, she is very much the emotional crux of the film, pushing Bond to truly grow as a character while keeping some agency. Léa Seydoux consistently proves to be a commanding force, and it’s great to see her driving the story alongside Craig.
Finally getting to the man himself, Craig’s ultimate performance as 007 is filled with heart and zest. If there’s one thing each of his films have granted him, noticeably more than other Bond actors, it’s the room to show continuous emotional range. No Time To Die pushes Craig’s iteration to the most outer limits, giving him the opportunity to show fans that they really haven’t gotten to see all there is to his Bond. When he pulls this off with ease and just as much charm as he had on day one, it feels as if everyone’s watching Craig sign off his name on a definitive place in film history.
Be that as it may, Bond is always elevated by a superb supporting cast. Two new faces deserve to be in the conversation, Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas. They both manage to steal the spotlight when given the chance, allowing Craig to build off their rhythm in the best way he can. Ana de Armas’ part is more noticeably small, making it seem very odd to move on from her when she obviously establishes herself as a crowd-pleaser in so little time. Alas, that’s merely another repercussion of needing to progress in an already colossal narrative. Luckily, Fukunaga is always there to keep the pace flowing graciously. Whenever the film gets lost in its own schemes, it quickly recovers with twice as much to make up for it thanks to him.
It cannot be understated how pivotal Fukunaga’s touch is in the success of No Time To Die. His vision is inspired to the brim, resulting in a film that is not only gorgeous to gaze upon but always electrifying as well. He pulls the viewer back in at any point where they might make a second guess throughout the mighty two and half hour plus runtime. Along with a powerpack group of creatives, including writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge and cinematographer Linus Sandgren, Fukunaga delivers a finale that’s as cinematic as it could be. Not without its flaws, No Time To Die preservers as a fitting wave goodbye that can’t be bothered by a few grievances. It commits to its final destination above all else, solidifying its own power and place in modern cinema.