No Time To Die is Daniel Craig’s final turn as the indefatigable James Bond, and in my opinion, it’s the best one yet.
At a whopping two hours and 45 minutes it’s about half an hour too long, but the time passes quickly. The action scenes are intense and fast-paced, the transitions between acts make sense, the storyline is easy to follow, and the characters are more rounded and three-dimensional than we usually get in a Bond film. As in previous films, the villain, Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek), is devilishly named and cartoonishly evil, with his scarred face and megalomaniacal plan, but not nearly so cartoonish as such previous villains as the metal-mouthed giant, Jaws (Richard Kiel), or the frisbee-hatted executioner Oddjob (Harold Sakata). And I doubt that we’ll see another Bond girl named Pussy Galore. But the martinis are still shaken, not stirred, and Bond is still identifying himself by name, even when he’s undercover.
Best of all, we see a softer side of James Bond. Bond now discovers that this is no time to die, because it’s the right time to love. Gone are the detached and slightly sadistic one-night stands of the original Bonds; instead, we find a Bond who can love, and feel betrayed, and grieve — even while he’s dodging bullets, driving fast cars, clotheslining motorcycle drivers, and saving the world. I like him.
The action scenes are intense and fast-paced, the transitions between acts make sense, the storyline is easy to follow, and the characters are more rounded and three-dimensional than we usually get in a Bond film.
In this story, Bond has retired from Her Majesty’s Secret Service and is enjoying his retirement the way we all do: bedding his lady love and being chased by unknown assassins set on blowing him up for unknown reasons. Soon Bond’s old friend, CIA operative Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), is calling him back into action to rescue a kidnapped scientist (David Dencik) and regain control of a weaponized smallpox virus that’s been stolen from a gain-of-function lab. Sound familiar? The lab even has some bats flying around. Felix is concerned that “our elected leaders aren’t playing nice in the sandbox” and trusts only Bond to rescue the scientist and save the day.
Bond’s MI6 number has been reassigned to a woman, Nomi, played unimaginatively by Lashana Lynch. The new 007 can hold her own in a shootout or a physical fight, but Lynch just doesn’t have the suave demeanor, dry wit, or charisma of a classic Bond. She’s more likely to blend a smoothie than shake a martini. While I don’t mind the idea of the new Bond being female or a person of color, I hope Lynch is not the future of the franchise.
The caper leads Bond first to Cuba, where his liaison is the beautiful and resourceful Paloma (Ana de Armas), and then to “Poison Island,” somewhere in the ocean near Scandinavia, where he teams up with the just-as-beautiful Madeleine (Lea Seydoux) to prevent the virus from being released into the atmosphere. How he manages to do this leads to the most spectacular and unexpected moment in James Bond history. I won’t tell you what it is, and I urge you not to read any other reviews before seeing the movie. I didn’t, and I was blown away by the ending.
Best of all, we see a softer side of James Bond. Bond now discovers that this is no time to die, because it’s the right time to love.
As for Daniel Craig, I realize that, at the age of 55, his time was up with the Bond franchise. He was a good one, and I enjoyed watching his interpretation of the character evolve during his four episodes. All of the Bond supporting characters –M, Moneypenny, Q, and Felix — appear in this film, for the first time since License to Kill in 1989. It’s almost as though they wanted to give Craig a farewell salute as he exits the franchise. Watch also for the nod to the iconic opening credit, when Bond turns to shoot from within the O of his name, toward the end of the film.
What’s next for Craig? He demonstrated his comedic versatility in Logan Lucky (2017) and Cowboys and Aliens (2011), but I hope he follows in Liam Neeson’s footsteps as the aging action hero “with a certain set of skills.”