NO TIME TO DIE ½
2021, PG-13, 163 mins.
Daniel Craig as James Bond / Léa Seydoux as Dr. Madeleine Swann / Lashana Lynch as Nomi / Ralph Fiennes as M / Gareth Mallory / Christoph Waltz as Ernst Stavro Blofeld / Ben Whishaw as Q / Naomie Harris as Eve / Moneypenny / Rami Malek as Lyutsifer Safin / Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter / Ana de Armas as Paloma / Billy Magnussen as Logan Ash / Rory Kinnear as Bill Tanner / David Dencik as Valdo ObruchevDirected by Cary Joji Fukunaga / Written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Fukunaga
almost hard to imagine, in pure hindsight, what a relative unknown
commodity Daniel Craig was way, way back in the mid-2000s when he
was cast as Pierce Brosnan's replacement to play James Bond.
the sixth actor to fill the tuxedo of Ian Fleming's iconic creation, Craig
defied all of his critics and became - at least for my money - one of the
very finest 007s to ever occupy the silver screen.
Mixing no-nonsense toughness, a steely eyed bravado, and a joyously
liberating lack of campy frivolity, Craig's Bond was like no other and
perhaps the closest to the literary Bond (a ruthlessly empowered blunt
force instrument). His first appearance in 2006's CASINO
ROYALE - the best of all the Bond films - packed a rejuvenating
genre busting wallop that audaciously and innovatively re-defined what
this character could be to modern audiences.
Gone were the outrageous gadgets, the strange looking super
villains hell bent on world destruction, the brain-dead bimbos for the
hero to sexually conquer consequence-free, the sarcastic quips, and the otherworldly
set pieces and stunts that border on nonsensical fantasy.
No, this new Bond-redux was grounded, gritty, and cold-bloodedly
To take a page out of the late Roger Ebert's playbook, Craig became not just a tenant living within this British secret agent role, but rather emerged as the landlord presiding over it. For as much masterful good will that CASINO ROYALE bestowed upon us, it led to a series of decidedly so-so sequels, with the initially disinteresting and ill focused QUANTUM OF SOLACE that was followed up by the infinitely finer SKYFALL that, unfortunately, led into the bloated and tonally inconsistent SPECTRE, the latter of which being the most disappointingly regressive minded of the whole bunch. Then Craig very publicly and sarcastically came out and indicated that he'd rather commit suicide than play the role again (inappropriately hyperbolic, yes, but to the point), which led many to believe that his days as Bond were dead and buried.
heads (and massive paychecks) prevailed, and Craig is back for his well
publicized swan song in NO TIME TO DIE, the 25th Bond entry and number
five for Craig.
Gone is Sam Mendes and in is TRUE DETECTIVE's Cary Joji Fukunaga
(the very first American to helm a Bond flick), and NO TIME TO DIE is
every bit as handsomely produced and epically staged as any other previous
That, and Craig easily gives the most superb Bond performance of
any era here.
Regretably, though, this latest and last Craig centered
sequel is far too numbingly long, contains one of the weaker series
villains of recent memory, and doubles down on becoming the type of Bond
film that seems completely counter-intuitive to what CASINO ROYALE set up
in the first place.
TIME TO DIE picks up where SPECTRE's relatively closed off ending left us,
featuring Craig's Bond settling down with the new love of his life in
Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) after defeating his half-brother in Ernst
Blofeld (Christoph Waltz...remember that false fake-out STAR
TREK INTO DARKNESS Khan-like reveal for him?).
Unfortunately, the past comes back with a vengeance (as does some
dastardly secrets that hint towards Madeleine's potential betrayal),
leading Bond to indefinitely separate from her.
Five years pass, and when we reacquaint with Bond he has long since
abandoned MI6 and has now retired in hiding in Jamaica.
In pure super spy 101 fashion, Bond is found by his old American
chum in Felix (Jeffrey Wright), who pleads with him to return back into
the field one last time because of the threat of a top secret weaponized
nanobot killer virus (that's a mouthful) being stolen out of a research
facility for the purposes of Spectre to use however they see fit.
Severely complicating things is the fact that Bond's old boss in M
(Ralph Fiennes) actually oversaw the development of the bioweapon (which
is able to hone in on
specific targets based on DNA), which makes this M perhaps the most
foolishly reckless in series history.
Realizing the severity of having such massive power in the wrong
hands, Bond comes out of retirement to work with the Americans and his old
MI6 crew, but soon realizes that his 007 designation has been given to
Nomi (Lashana Lynch) and (as an added gut punch) his former flame in
Madeleine is now working with M and company as well.
After forming an uneasy alliance with all in question (and
interrogating an imprisoned Blofeld, in a scene that's not nearly as
potent as it should have been), Bond uncovers the real threat in Lyutisfer
Safin (Rami Malek), a creepily disfigured madman that has equally creepy
ties to Madeleine's dark past.
money was spared whatsoever in NO TIME TO DIE, and Fukunaga crafts a
routinely gorgeous looking, globetrotting thriller that series fans have
always come to expect.
Remember how criminally awful the opening chase sequence was in
QUANTUM OF SOLACE, all edited together so chaotically and criminally
without any flow or coherence?
The sensationally rendered introductory set piece here - showing
Bond with Madeleine in tow evading multiple Spectre pursuers - seems like
a gracefully engineered counterpoint to past series sins, and it's a
thoroughly suspenseful and thrilling car/foot chase to behold.
There's also of wonderful sequence set in Cuba, during which time
Bond hooks up with a rookie Cuban secret agent in Paloma (played by
Craig's KNIVES OUT co-star in Ana de
Armas), who gives NO TIME TO DIE a sassy energy that it desperately needs.
She has such such stellar, unforced chemistry with Craig here as
they both work together to take down multiple adversaries that it's a
bloody shame that the actress shows up and then a few short minutes later
disappears and is never heard from again in the film.
If anything, NO TIME TO DIE would have been in infinitely better
shape if Bond and Paloma were actually a team throughout the narrative.
Somehow, screenwriters Neal Purvis,
Robert Wade, and Fukunaga
inexplicably felt otherwise. As for the other female operative
thrown into the mix, Lynch's female 007 makes for a compelling and welcome
gender swap for the mostly sausage fest agent designation, but her
character on paper isn't very intriguingly written and she doesn't bring
much charm to the part. Compared to the instant sizzle that de Armas
and Craig generate on screen, her screen real estate with him by
comparison is fairly lackluster.
If there's another overriding issue that really taints NO TIME TO DIE then it would be, as alluded to earlier, that it seems to be aggressively miming the Bond genre playbook for its greatest hits conventions as opposed to fully embracing and being the kind of white knuckled and believable espionage thriller that typified CASINO ROYALE. So much of NO TIME TO DIE is slavishly reliant on upping the ante (more is not necessarily more) and regurgitating the beats of countless previous Bond entries. For instance, we get a wickedly insane villain with delusions of grandeur (and physical deformities) that wants to launch a ridiculously convoluted plan for ridding the world of millions of lives, replete with an equally preposterous and seemingly impenetrable lair that only the hero can infiltrate. Considering that this should be Craig's last hurrah in the series, it's ultimately deflating to see his character face off against such an underdeveloped and frankly dull antagonist, and one that's unfortunately and quickly introduced early on, but then is never heard from again until well past the halfway point of the story. The recent Oscar winning Malek is a bona fide talent, to be sure, but he never really finds his footing as this would-be sinister baddie, mostly because the screenplay fails to make him memorably intimidating. He's more idiosyncratically weird than scary. That, and his overall end game involving the aforementioned biological weapon of mass destruction was done better two decades ago in the first MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE sequel. I can certainly appreciate, though, why the studio ended up postponing the release of NO TIME TO DIE back in March of 2020 when the COVID pandemic was gripping the world. The studio having their film (that deals with an easily transferable deadly killer virus that could ravage vast sections of humanity) wouldn't have made for a good time at the movies then...and perhaps still doesn't.
one starts to dissect the whole overarching storyline from CASINO ROYALE
through to NO TIME TO DIE it becomes easier to see how these Craig Bond
films are clearly waging a push-pull war within themselves.
Akin to the STAR WARS
sequel trilogy, these last five Bond adventures aren't made up of
the same connective tissue.
More often than not, it's easy to notice that a lack of a cohesive
road map or gameplan for this five-film arc is curiously absent.
CASINO ROYALE was such a ground breaking original for the entirety
of the cinematic Bond cannon, but most of the sequels that followed (even
a decent one like SKYFALL) tried to disingenuously acclimate back to the
very overused troupes that should have been best left dead and buried
(like, for example, multiple attempts in NO TIME TO DIE to make Craig's
Bond quippy, which not only feels egregiously forced, but completely
against the grain of the Bond that the actor unleashed back in 2006).
One of the large casualties of this Craig era is that no film post-ROYALE
could duplicate the cornerstone Bond/ Vesper relationship (Eva Green's
Bond girl remains one of the best ever conceived).
Following that up proved to be impossible.
Madeleine and Bond never worked in SPECTRE because they simply had
no spark together on screen.
NO TIME TO DIE tries as it can to make this union work, but Seydoux
and Craig (as respectively solid on a performance level as they are here)
just don't mesh again here.
And because of that, the ending of NO TIME TO DIE rings more
emotionally hollow than it does grandly moving.
I felt for Bond and Vesper in CASINO ROYALE, but I felt so very
little for Bond and Madeleine.
Fans will find the concluding moments that close the book, so to
speak, on Craig's tenure as Bond as either brave and earned or exasperatingly
I found myself hopelessly trapped in the middle.
nearly three hours, NO TIME TO DIE can be a punishing slog to sit through.
I can certainly appreciate that (a) this film's multiple release
delays caused by COVID did it no favors and (b) the makers knew this was
Craig's definitively last crack at Bond, so the compulsion to bring every
narrative thread to a sense of closure most likely precipitated a longer
But this is a very ungainly and unwieldy 163 minutes, and for every
pulse pounding moment that works gangbusters there are even more padded
filler that grinds the proceedings to a dead halt.
NO TIME TO DIE
never makes a compelling and convincing case for its bloated and self
indulgent length. It's ultimately endurance testing, not
thrilling. No James Bond film should elicit such sensations in
audience members, but it's a real testament to Craig's total commitment to
the role that he has completely and uniquely made his own over the past
15-plus years that he's able to make ever the roughest edges of NO TIME TO
DIE (and the other middling Bond sequels) so captivating.
I'll say this in closing: Craig deserves all the props in the world for elevating Fleming's character in ways that no other previous Bond performer ever achieved. I'd argue that he's the greatest iteration of 007 that we'll likely ever see...that just so happened to be in a series of films of inconsistent quality. His pioneering CASINO ROYALE set the bar so high for this fifty-plus year old franchise that all subsequent sequels had their work cut out for them. With the exception of SKYFALL, none of these Craiger Bond Cinematic Universe efforts - including NO TIME TO DIE - properly capitalized on the once in a generation/lightning in a bottle freshness of CASINO ROYALE. That's ultimately too bad. Having said all of that and despite NO TIME TO DIE simply not working for me, I'll concede that - like Christopher Nolan's self-contained THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy - Craig's mythos changing Bond adventures over five films had an absolute beginning, middle, and ending. That's never been done before with Fleming's immortal creation (most of the films for the past several decades have been loosely episodic in nature) and is to be admired, even with all of the creative fumbles along the way. It takes a lot of gutsy ambition to take a character so entrenched in the cinematic lexicon and pulp culture history and fundamentally retool him. Perhaps much of what was built around Craig's 007 appearances were too shaken and stirred for their own good, but the indelible stamp that he has left on the role might never be duplicated.
Now, pay attention 007 fans.
There's a massive logical plot hole involving one of James Bond’s spiffy new gadgets that - when used for its intended Q enabled special abilities - would have rendered a major plot development and fate for one of the characters completely null and void. Without engaging in spoilers, that's all I'll say.