Daniel Craig’s final outing as James Bond serves as one of the best in his run.
It’s hard to imagine now, but when Daniel Craig was cast as James Bond, fans went into a bit of a meltdown. Scratch that…of course they did, because no matter who is cast in a role, fans will complain. However, when a complained about actor becomes iconic in said role, it’s difficult to imagine anyone else. Daniel Craig has become that iconic 007.
Now that No Time To Die has been released (after lengthy delays thanks COVID), he has officially hung up his boots and will not return as the British spy. “James Bond will return,” No Time To Die triumphantly proclaims after the credits roll, but who’ll be going by that name is anybody’s guess.
The bookies will be happy I suppose.
Regardless, we’re here to talk about the past and present of James Bond and not his future, which is oddly apt when it comes to No Time To Die. After Spectre’s misfire in attempting to tie Craig’s previous adventures together, No Time To Die ties those threads together coherently and expertly and delivers one of the best Bond films of Craig’s tenure.
No Time to Die Review
From the opening seconds of No Time To Die, Director Cary Joji Fukunaga is hellbent on subverting what a Bond film can and should be. The opening 15-minutes flashback to a young Madeleine Swann, home alone with her alcoholic mother, the crisp, white snow of the Norwegian countryside standing in stark contrast to their tiny house and a long, black-clad figure trudging towards it. This opening scene is vastly different from what we’re used to seeing, especially in the more recent Bond outings and verges on becoming a slasher/horror film once the figure in black reaches the house and murders Madeleine’s mother. Wearing a smiling, porcelain mask, the killer stalks Madeleine, searching for her father, Mr White, and seeking vengeance for the death of his entire family.
While trying to escape, Madeleine plunges into the frozen river outside and is saved by her mystery assailant. Flashing forward to the present, Madeleine and Bond have travelled to Italy to purge themselves of the past and for Bond to finally say goodbye to Vesper Lynd. Visiting her tomb, Bond is ambushed, leading to the first spectacular set-piece in the film and his separation from Madeleine, believing she betrayed him. Five years later, MI6’s Project Heracles, a nanobot powered bioweapon capable of targeting specific individuals is stolen and Bond is brought out of retirement once more to track it down.
What follows is a globe-trotting race against time as Bond, MI6, the CIA and Madeleine attempt to prevent total global annihilation at the hands of Rami Malek’s disturbing villain Lyutsifer Safin. All the hallmarks of a great Bond film find their way into No Time to Die but most, if not all, find themselves subverted and frequently play off the audience’s expectations. By now, we know what to expect in a Bond film and when the cast and crew deliver on those expectations in an unexpected fashion, it’s all the more thrilling.
These elements, or moments in No Time to Die range from the minute to the enormous. Early in the film, Bond and Madeleine burst into their hotel room in a flurry of passionate kissing before the obligatory pushing up against the wall and removal of clothing, only it’s not Madeleine who is topless with her back against the wall, it’s Bond. Not only does this subvert the Bond-girl trope, but it’s also very telling about the relationship between these two characters. Bond literally has his back up against a wall when it comes to Madeleine and it’s she, not he who takes the lead. This makes it even more heartbreaking for our hero when he believes he’s been betrayed. The irony of his “betrayal” taking place at Vesper’s tomb shouldn’t be overlooked either. It may be a little heavy-handed but it’s essentially another way for the filmmakers to tell the audience that James Bond is alone in the world with only himself to rely on.
By the end, the film comes a long way in rectifying that idea, but a price needs to be paid for it.
No Time to Die spends a lot of time dealing with the impact of being in James Bond’s wake and what it means to be a person in his orbit. More often than not, this means violence, death and destruction regardless of whether you’re with or against him. It’s an exploration of the notion that violence begets violence and vengeance begets vengeance in an infinite loop that only leads to more pain and more suffering.
Yes, No Time to Die is quite heavy, especially for a Bond film, but it’s not entirely so. There are plenty of lighter moments and the dry, cool wit you’ve come to expect from these films and Craig’s Bond. His banter with Q and new 00 Agent Nomi deliver some of the best laughs of the series and further develop Bond as a well-rounded human and his supporting cast as people who would do the, often absurd and outrageous, things he requests. You can see why they’re loyal to this man, rather than just doing what they do because it’s in the script.
Beyond the story, No Time to Die is beautifully shot and edited. After enduring nearly two years in lockdown, actually seeing the film on the big screen is breathtaking. Wide shots of cities, mountain vistas, military installations and especially, the opening snowy forest is a sight to behold. Special mention has to go to the foggy Norwegian forest in which Bond and Madeleine attempt to flee from their enemies. Like its opening scene, the film almost veers into horror territory as Bond and the baddies play a violent game of Marco Polo in the fog and the trees. My heart was in my throat and I barely breathed until the scene was over.
Outside of scenery, the action sequences in No Time to Die are first-class. All the punching, shooting, driving and explosions you could want and more can be found in the film. And it wouldn’t be directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga without a spectacular oner. Look for it in the final third of the film as Bond fights his way up a staircase, truly remarkable stuff.
Each of the actors in No Time to Die deliver a brilliant performance in their own right, but Daniel Craig owns this film. In his fifth and final outing as Bond, he manages to show every facet of the character, his vulnerability, his strength and ultimately his determination to do what he must no matter the cost. Both Rami Malek and Lashana Lynch deserve credit for their performances too. Malek manages to steal every scene he’s in as he plays Safin with an otherworldly calm and indifference. His quavering voice and gentle demeanour belying the monster within. Lynch is a great foil for Craig as an upstart 00, determined to prove herself and move out of Bond’s shadow. Fingers crossed we see her again in future.
Ultimately, No Time to Die serves as a brilliant and fitting farewell to Craig’s Bond and stand alongside Skyfall as the best of his tenure. Where the series goes from here is up for debate but this film has advanced the franchise is many ways, I can only hope wherever we go next, the advancement continues and the evolution of Bond is allowed to proceed.
Leo Stevenson attended a screening of No Time to Die as a guest of Universal Pictures Australia.