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Film Review: ‘No Time to Die’ is An Epic and Emotionally Satisfying Farewell to Daniel Craig as 007

No Time To Die
James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) drive through Matera, Italy in NO TIME TO DIE an EON Productions and Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios film Credit: Nicola Dove © 2020 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

James Bond never gets to say goodbye. The character, as well as the actors who have played him, changes with the times, but it’s not a planned changing of the guard. No Time to Die is the exception to this, as we’ve known since production began that Daniel Craig would be leaving the role after this. Because of that, the opportunity to do something a bit different presented itself to the powers that be. Luckily, everyone involved, from Craig on down, invested themselves in a proper sendoff. So, not only does Craig go out on a high, especially from an emotional standpoint, but the franchise itself is able to come to a stopping point. Of course, a reboot and recasting of the role is coming, but for now, 007 has wrapped up a five film story, and boy has it done so in style.

No Time to Die is an epic adventure that gives you just about everything you want out of Bond, as well as plenty of new elements, too. This has the most heart of any Bond flick, building on what was developed with Eva Green‘s Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale and Judi Dench‘s M in Skyfall. Where James gets as a character by the end is a point that no one has ever dared to take him before. That added element helps to make this something especially memorable. Just in terms of plot, it’s an above average film, but the heart and humor levels it up.

James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Paloma (Ana de Armas) in NO TIME TO DIE an EON Productions and Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios film Credit: Nicola Dove © 2020 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

In terms of Craig’s run, this is in the top tier. Depending on your mood/tastes, No Time to Die is about as good as Casino Royale and Skyfall, definitely standing tall above Quantum of Solace and Spectre. For my money, Craig has been the face of three of the top half dozen Bond movies to date, and that’s really something. Actors portraying 007 never get to go out on a high note, though as mentioned at the top of this review, they never have their final project a planned farewell, so this is truly unprecedented territory.

*(No overt spoilers will be revealed below, but there’s a lot of reveals in this film, so while I tread lightly, just know that I discuss a bit of what happens in No Time to Die. Consider yourself sufficiently warned!)*

James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) in NO TIME TO DIE an EON Productions and Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios film Credit: Nicola Dove © 2020 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

For this fifth installment of the current incarnation of our favorite spy, we find James Bond (Craig) retired from active service and looking forward to a life with Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux). Of course, Bond being Bond, he’s attacked almost immediately, suspecting a betrayal by the woman he loves. Five years later, they’ve separated and he’s in hiding, content to be off the map. Then, old CIA pal Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) turns up, asking for his help in finding a missing scientist. When M (Ralph Fiennes) sends his new agent 007 Nomi (Lashana Lynch) to warn off Bond, his interest is piqued. So, he sets off to see what’s what.

Nomi (Lashana Lynch) and James Bond (Daniel Craig) in NO TIME TO DIE an EON Productions and Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios film Credit: Nicola Dove © 2020 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The start of this adventure will reunite Bond with his MI6 family, but also put him back in the crosshairs of Blofeld (Christoph Waltz). However, he won’t prove to be James’ biggest adversary, as Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek) looms large. What he plans to do with the missing scientist, as well as some very dangerous technology, not only threatens Bond, but the world at large. In between, as well as after, several big reveals are made, which will alter Bond’s world forever. They’re best discovered within the film, obviously, so my lips are sealed!

M (Ralph Fiennes), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Tanner (Rory Kinnear) in a tense moment in M’s office in NO TIME TO DIE an EON Productions and Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios film Credit: Nicola Dove © 2020 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Daniel Craig ends his time as James Bond with a phenomenal performance. He channels everything he’s invested in the character over a decade plus into this turn, and it’s a Bond that lingers with you. Craig has made this role his own, crafting a spy dealing with a wounded heart and trust issues, not just a cool customer. Where he goes here will blow you away. On the other hand, Rami Malek is solid as our big villain, though the screenplay holds him back from becoming iconic. Malek is sufficiently menacing, but more time opposite Craig would have helped. The same goes for Lashana Lynch, though she’s able to shine when it counts. Then, there’s the small role by Ana de Armas, who steals her extended sequence as a CIA operative working with Bond. Returning players like Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, Lea Seydoux, Christoph Waltz, Ben Whishaw, and Jeffrey Wright are all welcome presences, with each getting moments to shine. In particular, Seydoux is truly a huge figure here. The other newcomers here include David Dencik, Billy Magnussen, and more.

Stepping in to co-write and direct after Danny Boyle left the project, Cary Joji Fukunaga proves to be one of the franchise’s best filmmakers. Along with series mainstays Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, as well as Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fukunaga pens a convoluted story that ultimately becomes our most emotional Bond tale to date. The writing team certainly could have streamlined the story a bit, as it gets a little ridiculous, but they’re so good at this sort of thing, it just becomes the best version of a Roger Moore 007 flick. Fukunaga shines from the director’s chair, however, with pinpoint precision for the action. While it may not have the Roger Deakins cinematography that helped to elevate Skyfall to new heights, this is still expertly helmed. Cinematography Linus Sandgren and composer Hans Zimmer evoke classic Bond elements while still giving this its own distinct look. On a technical level, this is impeccably done.

James Bond (Daniel Craig) visits Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) in his prison cell in NO TIME TO DIE an EON Productions and Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios film Credit: Nicola Dove © 2020 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Below the line Oscar love might be coming No Time to Die‘s way. The Billie Eilish title track will almost certainly be cited in Best Original Song. After that, it just depends on how the Academy responds to the movie. If they love it, look out for Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Sound, Best Original Score, and Best Visual Effects consideration. Hell, I’m sure there’s even a case to be made for Craig in Best Actor, though that will be a long shot.

No Time to Die ends Daniel Craig’s time as James Bond in epic style. It’s everything you want out of 007, including as mentioned above, a bit of emotion. It’s long, but it ultimately earns your time. Somehow, even after a year plus, it proves to be well worth the wait. If you’re a Bond fan, this is going to prove to be a very satisfying new adventure, as well as a goodbye to one of our best spies. Truly, this is an event film, so be sure to check it out!

Safin (Rami Malek) in NO TIME TO DIE an EON Productions and Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios film Credit: Nicola Dove © 2020 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

SCORE: ★★★1/2

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Written by Joey Magidson

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