The last we saw of James Bond, it was in 2015’s Spectre, an altogether disappointing affair that seemed to have more interest in looking backward than forward. It’s been a long road to get to the follow-up film, No Time to Die, not least because the release of the 25th official 007 movie was delayed 18 months due to the pandemic. But if that time between movies accomplished anything, it was to ensure the filmmakers didn’t repeat the mistakes of their predecessors.
The film finds Bond (Daniel Craig, for the final time) living in semi-retirement bliss with Madeleine (Lea Seydoux), his love interest from Spectre. He gets drawn back in to the spy life after an unexpected attack, finding an MI6 that’s at once familiar and drastically different. People like M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw), and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) are still in charge, but an agent named Nomi (Lashana Lynch) has usurped Bond’s position in more ways than one.
Bond and Nomi essentially team up to find the source of the attack, which could be the imprisoned Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), somehow pulling strings from behind bars, or the mysterious Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek), who also has a connection to Madeleine. With help from American agents Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) and Logan Ash (Billy Magnussen), they unfurl a plan that’s as dastardly as expected in a 007 film.
Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga and written by Fukunaga, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and longtime Bond writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, the film is sprawling, not just in the number of locations it visits but in sheer length, clocking in at 163 minutes. It’s a lot to take in, but the filmmakers keep things relatively focused, taking the story in a straight line instead of veering off into unnecessary tangents. It appears as if they wanted to give Craig as big a farewell as possible, and he gets many showcases throughout the film.
Even more so than usual, however, Bond shares the spotlight. The series has always given the character a female costar, usually as a love interest, but this time around the women are much more empowered. There’s much speculation whether the character of Nomi will take over Bond’s mantle, but whether that happens or not, she more than holds her own in the action department in this film. Ana de Armas shows up in a brief but impactful appearance as Paloma, a Cuban agent who assists Bond in his visit there.
The action scenes are plentiful but not as breathtaking as in past films. Fukunaga and his team take their time getting to any significant sequences, with the opening credits coming a good 30 minutes into the film. Craig is as unflappable as ever, although the scenes don’t call for him to do quite as much as in past films. Bond’s famous gadgets only come into play a few times, but his dry wit while the action is going on is as present as ever.
Opinions will differ, but for my money, Craig has made for a great Bond, making him brawnier than previous iterations but equally as suave and charming. The supporting cast are all fantastic, especially the standbys of Fiennes, Whishaw, and Harris. While the villain characters still don’t pop as much as they should, both actors are good, even Malek, whose acting style is an acquired taste.
The James Bond/007 series has been the most enduring property in movie history, and it will be interesting to see what direction they go in now. No matter what they do, they’ve given Craig a great send-off in No Time to Die, even if it’s not as spectacular as some of his earlier entries.
No Time to Die opens in theaters on October 8.