James Bond’s mission, should he choose to accept it, is to remain relevant in a world where action cinema is evolving. Franchises like Mission Impossible and John Wick are pushing the boundaries and testing the limits, while The Fast and The Furious has chosen to jump the shark entirely and lean into the absurdity of their stories. The 007 series has certainly changed to an extent. Daniel Craig’s iteration of the iconic character has been grittier and more grounded (grounded for a Bond film, that is) than previous ones. However, No Time To Die still leans into the standard clichés and cookie cutter plots of its predecessors.
Nearly as important, if not more so, than the role of Bond himself is the role of the Bond villain. You can’t have a hero without an adversary to face off against, after all. Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody) steps up to the task of going toe to toe with Hollywood’s favorite spy in the role of Lyutsifer Safin. Safin is among the weaker foes in Bond’s history and Malek does little to elevate the character. The more that I see Malek in action, the more I see his similarities to Jared Leto. He’s undoubtedly talented, and at times that talent leads to an amazing performance. However, other times his acting is over the top, cartoonish and cringe inducing. You never know which version you’ll get, and unfortunately in No Time To Die, it’s the latter.
Brought on to direct No Time To Die was filmmaker Cary Joji Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation). With no action or spy-centric films under his belt, Fukunaga may seem like an odd choice. However, it was likely his ability to craft emotional, character driven dramas, blended with thrilling elements that won him the part. As the conclusion to one of the best Bond Sagas fans have seen in years, there were bound to be emotions in play. No Time To Die humanizes Bond in a way that has never been done before and satisfyingly concludes his character arc that started all the way back in 2006 with Casino Royal.
With a run time that nears three hours, the conclusion to Craig’s run as Bond is the longest in the series’ history. It’s nearly thirty minutes into the film before we get the opening credits with an original song from Billie Eilish. Any self respecting Bond fan knows that the song is as important as the action (well, almost). Eilish delivers a song perfectly suited for the story at hand. It’s soft, and powerful and fits the opening credit’s montage perfectly.
No Time To Die delivers a satisfying conclusion to Craig’s Bond, while not necessarily delivering a solid film. The villain is weak, the “evil plan” makes no sense and the plot beats are predictable. The overall story is handled poorly. However, Daniel Craig is phenomenal. We are introduced to some new characters who seem likely to receive spin offs or continuations of their own, while brining Craig’s fifteen year run as the titular spy to an end. It doesn’t live up to Casino Royal (to be fair, no other Bond film has) but it certainly outshines CGI wind surfing. I’m looking at you Die Another Day. 6.5/10