No Time to Die (Film Review)

James Bond is back and, for the last time, is played by Daniel Craig (Tomb Raider 2001, Layer Cake 2004). He has made a mark for himself in the role, despite criticism in 2005 that he was too blonde and blue-eyed to be Bond. Now his run has provided some of the strongest films in the series. Still, they have had an inverse Star Trek effect on them.

With the Star Trek films, the even-numbered ones usually fared better than the odd-numbered ones. With the Craig Bond films, the odd ones tend to be stronger films. 2006’s Casino Royale and 2012’s Skyfall (films 1 & 3) worked out better with critics and the public than 2008’s Quantum of Solace and 2015’s Spectre (films 2 & 4). So, the odds are literally in No Time to Die’s favor, despite its tricky four-year long production involving changing distribution rights, and a change of directors.

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Danny Boyle (Trainspotting 1996, Slumdog Millionaire 2008) was originally set to direct the film, and write the script with John Hodge (Shallow Grave 1994, The Beach 2000). But they left the project in 2018 over creative differences. So, Cary Joji Fukunaga (Jane Eyre 2011, Beasts of No Nation 2015) became the director, and wrote the screenplay with Bond Writers Neal Purvis & Robert Wade (The World is Not Enough 1999, Johnny English 2003) , and Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag series, Albert Nobbs 2011).

The film arrived in UK cinemas back on September 28, 2021 via Universal, then in the US from October 8th via United Artists Releasing. It follows a now-retired Bond (Craig) living in Jamaica when his old CIA friend Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright: Basquiat 1996, Source Code 2011) approaches with an offer.

With the approval of M (Ralph Fiennes: The Avengers 1998, The King’s Man 2021), MI6 was working on a secret project dubbed Project Heracles-nanobots that kill select targets through their DNA. If their DNA matches its profile, they are finished. If not, they are safe. Except now its top scientist, Valdo Obruchev (David Dencik: War Horse 2011, The Snowman 2017), has been kidnapped by Spectre. Despite some reluctance, Bond accepts the offer to help find him before Heracles gets out of control.

It all sounds so straightforward, except there are the requisite twists in the tail. Not to mention motor stunts, gunfire, and other examples of tactical espionage action. But does it all result in a good film?

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The action is as solid as ever, with some rather nice motor stunts pulled off throughout. The gadget play is present as well, though being a Craig film, they are not as whimsical as a gyrocopter or an inflation pill. It is more or less in line with the other Craig Bonds- action with a little flourish or quip, rather than a pun for all reasons.

Speaking of partners, the returning cast- Naomie Harris (28 Days Later 2002, A Cock and Bull Story 2006) as Moneypenny, Ben Whishaw (Perfume 2006, Brideshead Revisited 2008) as Q, Fiennes, Wright, etc- put in as solid a performance as ever. Lashana Lynch (Brotherhood 2016, Captain Marvel 2019) is neat as Nomi, the new 007, and holds her own well in the role.

Still, the top performances would go to Craig’s Bond and Léa Seydoux (Inglorious Bastards 2009, Robin Hood 2010) as Madeleine Swann. They come off as quite genuine and touching as two people with plenty of emotional baggage connecting to each other. For a series notorious for having one-off lovers, having a ‘Bond girl’ stick around and be ‘the one’ is quite unique. It is what makes the opening scene work so well, and make one of the twists that much more sore.

Shame about the villain, Safin (Rami Malek: Mr Robot series, Bohemian Rhapsody 2019), though. On paper, he should be one of the more dangerous and grey-shaded of Bond’s villains. In practice, he falls short. For a character meant to get under Bond’s skin, he gets shown up in that aspect by a henchman and a villain from a prior film. For a plus, he is menacing enough in his scenes with Swann. Otherwise, he is rather standard and rote.

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The final act being weaker than the prior ones does not help either. Action-wise, it still has enough bang for its buck. Narratively, it begins to lag, as the script feels like it is rushing to tie up threads. What happens to Obruchev? Or Swann? How does Bond take down Safin when they finally meet? They all get answered in the most convenient, yet not-so-inspired ways.

Still, that does not drag No Time to Die down completely. Those first two acts hold the film up effectively in plot and action, maintaining the pace and keeping the viewers’ interest. The actual ending is sweet, and a better departure for Craig than Spectre would have been. Still, while the film is good, it could have been great with a tighter final act. Thus, for these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives No Time to Die 3.5 out of 5 stars.

United Artists Releasing

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