Director: Cary Fukunaga
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Ana de Armas, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ralph Fiennes, Christoph Waltz, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, Billy Magnussen, David Dencik and Jeffrey Wright
Run time: 2h 43min
October 2005. Craig. Daniel Craig is announced as Pierce Brosnan’s successor and the next actor to play James Bond. Cue folks rushing to Google his name and to rent Layer Cake from Blockbuster Video. Not everyone seems happy with Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli’s choice, however, with some going so far as to create websites dedicated to slating his appearance (how can James Bond have blond hair?!) and calling for a boycott of the next film.
During this, the man himself maintained a quiet dignity, coolly confident in his own ability to take the franchise to a new level and doggedly determined to put his own spin on Ian Fleming’s iconic character. Just under a year later and Casino Royale exploded onto the screen to commercial and critical acclaim even landing Craig a BAFTA nomination. His brutish yet charming, rugged yet stylish, arrogant yet vulnerable interpretation of 007 was the perfect answer to those that questioned his appointment.
15 years later and delayed several times due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, Craig’s license to kill is revoked as the sky falls on his time in her Majesty’s secret service. Cary Fukunaga is at the helm after Danny Boyle stepped away from the project with Phoebe Waller-Bridge bringing her Midas touch to the script along with regular writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Finally, No Time to Die is here.
Following on from 2015’s opinion dividing Spectre, James Bond (Daniel Craig) has retired from MI6 and is living a simple life with partner Madeline Swann (Léa Seydoux). However, this blissful existence is compromised in violent fashion when the spectre of an old enemy resurfaces. Bond’s brother from Langley, Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), brings him back into the world of espionage to track down Dr Obruchev (David Dencik) a scientist that has helped develop a chemical weapon of mass destruction called Heracles, featuring DNA-infecting nanobots. Obruchev is following the orders of the mysteriously masked Safin (Rami Malek). As Bond investigates, old secrets are revealed with devastating consequences and the fate of the world hangs in the balance.
There’s no denying that No Time to Die looks magnificent. Some stunning cinematography from Linus Sandgren is a visual treat as we journey to Norway, Italy, Jamaica and, of course, London. Cary Fukunaga respectfully pays tribute to many previous Bond adventures, especially with sets the legendary Ken Adams would be proud of and creates some breathless action sequences, but none of them are particularly memorable. Gone are the huge stunts that linger long after the credits roll. What we do see is highly enjoyable, but is that enough? In this cinematic age where Bond films are compared to the Mission Impossible franchise, No Time to Die is more character-driven and might suffer because of it. What he does create, however, is an emotional payoff not seen since what happened to the other fella back in 1969. There are shocks, twists and brave choices along the way and he should be applauded for that.
Powering the film from the off is Craig’s ageing spy. His brooding intensity is still there, but there’s also a sentimental vulnerability as well as a romantic side that makes this his most accomplished Bond performance so far. For those lamenting the lack of humour in his films (what are you on about, there’s loads!), No Time to Die features many funny moments including quips and one-liners that are just missing a Roger Moore raised eyebrow.
The returning cast including Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear and Naomie Harris all feel as comfortable as Bond looks in his tuxedo, but the new additions are hit and miss. Ana de Armas almost steals the show as Paloma, and showcases her action skills with style and ease, but, she’s hardly in it. As a 00 agent, Lashana Lynch confidently swaggers through the corridors of Whitehall, reminiscent of Bond’s once youthful arrogance, even if her character is fairly one dimensional. However, Rami Malek’s Safin is one of the dullest villains to be found in a Bond film. It’s a wasted opportunity for someone of his talent and, like Ana de Armas, he doesn’t have much to do at all and fails to register any menace whatsoever. The threat simply isn’t there and his motivation isn’t explored in enough detail.
The mighty Hans Zimmer has crafted a score that affectionately plays with one of John Barry’s iconic tunes whilst at the same time putting his own bombastic spin on proceedings. Billie Eilish’s haunting theme is cleverly interweaved throughout and it’s certainly up there with some of Zimmer’s best work.
Whilst it might not quite be 00-heaven, Daniel Craig’s magnificent tenure as the world’s most famous and iconic spy has concluded in suitably dramatic style. He will be missed, but as the end credits state: James Bond Will Return.
No Time to Die bullets into UK cinemas from September 30th 2021