No Time to Die
Daniel Craig's final outing is an enjoyable if conventional Bond film
After a five year wait many James Bond fans were eager to see Daniel Craig’s final outing as the character in April of 2020. However, as fate would have it, the pandemic forced viewers to wait more than a year from its original release date to see No Time to Die (2021). Curiously the marketing campaign had been in full throttle in March 2020, with Craig hosting Saturday Night Live (1975-) and even Billie Eilish releasing her opening credits song. After such a long wait, No Time to Die has finally been released in theaters.
No Time to Die loosely follows on the events of Spectre (2015), with Bond (Craig) enjoying the retired life with Madeline (Lea Seydoux). However, when a figure (Rami Malek) from Madeline’s past begins to resurface, Bond’s peaceful retirement and the fate of the world order are thrown off balance. This forces Bond to suit up for one final mission.
No Time to Die is directed by Cari Joji Fukunaga, the first American to direct a Bond film, after Danny Boyle departed the production over “creative differences.” Joji Fukunaga has shown a wide array of skills in his previous work, from the satisfying first season of True Detective (2014-), to the dark Beasts of No Nation (2015), and the wacky Maniac (2018). With No Time to Die Joji Fukunaga is clearly searching to shake things up a bit.
There is an attempt to refocus No Time to Die and the franchise in a more female perspective. Madeline becomes a rather important character in the film, to the point that some may argue she’s a co-protagonist. Joji Fukunaga also brings in more action heroines with Lashana Lynch as another double-O and Ana de Armas as a Cuban spy. The tone in No Time to Die is also lighter, pivoting from the dark seriousness of the previous Sam Mendes entries. This is evidenced with the hiring of Phoebe Waller-Bridge of Fleabag (2016-2019) and Killing Eve (2018-) fame. However, with all these intentions attempting to “modernize” Bond, one crucial thing is abandoned as a result: Bond himself.
James Bond seems to be an intrusive supporting character throughout No Time to Die, slowing things down and messing things up instead of being a hero. Joji Fukunaga becomes obsessed with developing the romance between Bond and Madeline to an artificial degree. It is difficult to buy into a hopelessly in-love Bond when he’s built a reputation of being a cold womanizer for decades. As such, these efforts, which take up most of the nearly three-hour runtime, are largely in vain. Viewers will struggle to care too much about the fate of this relationship. A big drawback from this narrative choice is the watering down of the villain played by Malek. Malek is relegated to being a cameo in No Time to Die, with his presence and quiet performance wasted in only a handful of scenes. This makes the confrontation and central plot of the film to feel slightly abandoned. As such, viewers can see through the ridiculousness of the villainous plan, which might remind viewers negatively of the camp the final Pierce Brosnan films went into.
Joji Fukunaga directs the action sequences with adeptness, but they seem like a far-cry from the staging and mastery that Sam Mendes had in the likes of Skyfall (2012) and Spectre. Joji Fukunaga’s focus on levity in the franchise’s tone, does permit for some funny character moments, but these seem to take away from opportunities to deepen Bond’s story and legacy.
For his final outing Craig delivers a worthy performance, his dedication to a role that he’s been wanting to escape for the last two films is rather notable. No Time to Die hits the entertaining beats well and is a certain improvement over the bogged Spectre. However, the film doesn’t reach the highs of Casino Royale (2006) and Skyfall, leaving an enjoyable if somewhat standard Bond flick.