After 15 years and five movies, Daniel Craig is saying goodbye to James Bond in the franchise’s 25th outing, No Time To Die, and says goodbye he does, in arguably one of the best Bond films in the 007 franchise.
Picking up from where the British spy left off in Spectre (2015), No Time To Die sees Bond and Dr Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) jumping into a romantic relationship and travelling to quaint cities. The newly-minted couple, although deeply in love, are hiding secrets from each other and are often looking over their shoulders. Having been betrayed one too many times, it’s understandable that Bond eventually loses it when he finds himself attacked by enemies on his little getaway. No one else knows where he is, except for Madeleine herself, so Bond does what he thinks is best – he puts Madeleine on a train and says goodbye to her forever.
With tears in her eyes, it is clear that Madeleine is heartbroken that the love of her life has chosen to walk away and be just another face in the crowd. Whilst this is only the beginning of an action-packed movie, this scene sets up the tone and story arc for the remaining hours in this 2 hour and 45 minutes movie.
While still a quintessential Bond film, No Time To Die offers a different take on Bond, which is rather unique in the entire franchise. Whilst he’s always known to be a ladies’ man, and has fallen in love a few times before, he has never been selfless, until now. Bond has placed himself first above all the relationships he’s ever had, since it’s just how the man survives his chaotic and dangerous life, so it’s refreshing to see him evolve and grow emotionally as a person.
And pushing his growth is Madeleine, who continues to be haunted by her past. Still trying to untie herself from her father’s involvement with Spectre, Madeleine becomes the target of one of an old adversary – a disfigured man named Safin (Rami Malek). Safin, who previously crossed paths with Madeleine as a child, comes back to take revenge for the killing of his family, and won’t let anyone, not even Britain’s former top spy, get in his way.
In the years since Bond left the train station, he’s stepped away from Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and now spends his retirement away from the action in Jamaica. Back in London, a laboratory gets bombed and a kidnapped scientist, Valdo (David Dencik), plus his bio-weapon, is taken by Spectre. And just like that, Bond’s retirement is cut short as Felix (Jeffrey Wright) approaches him to once again, save the world.
Except there’s one issue. Bond’s old boss, M (Ralph Fiennes), doesn’t want his former spy involved, because he’s got a new 007 Nomi (Lashana Lynch), who’s also after Valdo and the weapon. Nomi and Bond’s first meeting didn’t really go on the right foot and the two are constantly trying to one-up each other and wrangle Valdo from Spectre.
Wait, another 007? Yup. With Bond gone under the radar, M replaced him with the feisty and young Nomi. Eager to find her own glory, the two compete with each other before slowly warming up, as the two 007s have to learn to rely and trust each other, for what’s ahead.
Much has been said about Lynch taking on the role of 007, and few realise that James Bond and 007, while synonymous, aren’t always the same thing. Nomi is badass, cutting and witty, and pretty much deserving of her license to kill, even if she’s no James Bond. Still, Lynch carries the character well and while she isn’t particularly warm or likeable at first, you’ll eventually warm up to her when you see her slowly learn to respect Bond’s seniority, and understand that leaning on her peers doesn’t make her a lesser agent but in fact a better one.
However, fear not you woke crowd because while this is a movie focused on Craig’s last outing, don’t expect to see more of Lynch’s 007. It is unclear if future movies will push Nomi to the spotlight, but as far as No Time To Die is concerned, this isn’t a movie focused on the passing of the baton.
Though we agree with this decision, director Cary Fukunaga did promise more female power in this movie, and we can’t help but feel like his promises fell through, which may not necessarily be a bad thing. While No Time To Die isn’t the passing of the baton, Nomi could’ve been a much more interesting character because as of now, she’s portrayed as an eager understudy with an outwardly confident mask with little to offer except snappy remarks.
New Bond girl Paloma (Ana de Armas) is disarmingly beautiful, is a great fighter for sure, and she brings such a smile to the face when she’s on camera in that amazing dress, but by the end of the almost three-hour movie, you’ll hardly remember her. The only female character in No Time To Die that has stepped up, is Madeleine.
Without spoiling too much, Madeleine’s character has developed to be more than just Bond’s lover. She is an equal, in that she is at the top of her field – a brilliant psychotherapist and a strong woman who, despite carrying so much trauma, is doing the best she can to survive. Whilst her character growth is appreciated, it’s not exactly one we’d applaud because at the end of the day, her worth is still determined by her connection to Bond.
Speaking of Madeleine’s trauma, the movie’s villain shifts from Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) to Safin somewhere in the second half of the film. Sadly, Safin, who has been played up to be the big bad villain of No Time To Die, is a rather forgettable character. Looking back, the transition of focus from Blofeld to Safin happened so quickly, that the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ gets lost amongst the car-chase scenes and fights involving numerous gunshots.
By the third act, one easily forgets the convoluted manner in which all the characters are somehow drawn together, as well as question his grand, nefarious plan. In fact, we may even argue that there’s hardly any reason or motive for Safin to do what he does.
Sure, he’s here to seek revenge for the death of his family, but why now, after all these years? Why give up his chance to kill Madeleine and let her go, only to hunt her again and again? How did he even know of Valdo and his bio-weapon? How did he get hold of Valdo when throughout the movie, the scientist was thrown back and forth from Spectre to the CIA to MI6? And why did Safin go from terrorising Madeleine, to suddenly switching his target to Bond by the third act?
Like all Bond movies, there are questions but don’t expect most of them to be answered. If a maniacal genocidal maniac has the intention to kill the world’s population, who are we to question his logic and train of thought? The list of questions goes on, and if you leave the movie unimpressed by the villain and unable to pinpoint his exact motivation, it hardly makes our protagonist a hero, does it?
What’s unfortunate about No Time To Die, is that despite having a painful 2 hours and 45 minutes runtime and a mix of new and beloved characters, there’s hardly much reason for you to stay that long in a theatre. Unless you are a major Bond fan that’s used to the franchise’s formula of hot chicks, action and villains that lack a concrete plan, the excruciating runtime is rather unnecessary.
Don’t get us wrong – No Time To Die is still a satisfactory spy-action film and Craig once again wows in his performance. Even after all this time, he is incredibly charismatic and channels just a little bit of Sean Connery’s swagger and Roger Moore’s humour. The supporting cast – Fiennes, Seydoux, Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw – continue to be a joy to watch and the action never disappoints.
No Time To Die heavily relies on tropes and we mean this in a good way because it makes the movie familiar and comforting to watch – whether this is your first time watching a Bond flick or if you are a massive fan and have watched all previous 24 Bond films. You won’t leave the movie feeling disappointed and in fact, you may even leave the movie feeling emotional at how the movie concludes.
What’s highly commendable about No Time To Die is that it takes a new direction with the character altogether. As previously mentioned, Bond’s different. Something in him has changed (you’ll find the reason in the movie), and it leaves you with a stronger connection and respect for the man. All our nitpicking aside, No Time To Die neatly wraps up Craig’s Bond story arc in a surprising way that is almost perfect, and more so than any actor’s take on the role.
In all, No Time To Die is like any other Bond movie in all its action and inconsistencies, but with the additional (surprising) growth in the hero. Is this the banging outing that Craig deserves? Yes, and you want front seat tickets.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
No Time To Die carries on the same flaws from Spectre, but delivers a flawless and refreshing take on the character we all love. Bond, James Bond.
Story - 7/10
Direction - 8/10
Characterisation - 8/10
Geek Satisfaction - 8/10