Cert – 12, Run-time – 2 hours 43 minutes, Director – Cary Joji Fukunaga
James Bond (Daniel Craig) finds himself forced out of retirement and back to MI6 when his past, and that of his partner (Léa Seydoux), comes back for another attempt on his life.
15 years ago Daniel Craig’s debut as James Bond, in Casino Royale, marked a new; darker, grittier take on the character for the 21st century. Furthermore, gone are the days of: save the day, cheeky joke, fade to black, off to bed. Craig’s Bond has seen further emphasis on his relationships and the way that they have impacted the character. Such elements come to the fore in his fifth and final outing, No Time To Die – a feature which acts as a fond reflection on just what has made this iteration of the classic spy so different to all that have come before him, alongside being his most traditional too.
We see Bond’s past come back to not just haunt him, but attempt one final attack on his life; which he’s happily spending globetrotting with Léa Seydoux’s Madeline Swann (who we also previously saw in Spectre). Gradually secrets and danger catch up with the pair and we quickly see them split and divided. It’s during these opening 30-45 minutes, as things are still gradually building up, where character is perhaps most at the centre of the film. It’s the core element of the action that occurs and causes scenes during this opening portion of the film to feel slower than what is to come. As the lines of character and action are blended later on in the film – during a number of strongly well shot and staged sequences, particularly in the third act – things become more engaging and enjoyable. Going in hand with the fact that the narrative clears up, generally feeling less busy, and is easier to follow.
As things move along and become clearer Craig’s performance is allowed more space to shine. It’s a strong portrayal of the character, one who has developed over the five films he’s led and the relationships that they’ve brought about. Returning to MI6, he finds his classic 007 title now belongs to Lashana Lynch’s Nomi. Lynch gives a great slightly-sparring performance against Craig, as his former-agent discovers just how much has and hasn’t changed in the 5+ years he’s been out of active service. It’s a shame that even in the nearly three hour course of the film that she doesn’t get more to do. In fact, the same goes for nearly all of the supporting cast. The likes of Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), Q (Ben Whishaw), M (Ralph Fiennes) and new figure Paloma (a delightful, if one-sequence, Ana de Armas) all land an impact in their handful of scenes, however do sometimes feel slightly underused – even if this is Bond’s film, and the big farewell to the actor playing this ground-breaking version of the character.
However, perhaps the most side-lined figure is the main antagonist himself; Rami Malek’s Safin. Throughout much of the film we see very little of the occasionally three-quarter-masked villain, however when he becomes more of a focus in the third act this adds up and causes him to feel rather weak. Landing little impact due to a lack of detail Safin almost feels like an afterthought in the later stages of the film rather than a complete villain. His exchanges with Bond lack the punch and intrigue that are present when the spy confronts old nemesis Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) in a confrontational scene that acts as one of the true highlights of the film – thanks to being led by two great performances.
However, at the end of the day it’s the blending of character and action that are central to the events of the third act. Things come together to create an enjoyable, entertaining and slightly enthralling conclusion. It, much like most of the events before it, firmly establishes just what has made Craig’s iteration of Bond so different, while still paying a fine ode to the more traditional elements of Bond’s gone by. Things move by quickly, and not without their hints of tension. Allowing the supporting cast to have just as much of a moment as Craig’s bond who binds a fond and excellently done farewell to the character he has both solidly brought into the 21st century and very much made his own over the last 15 years.
While things take time to build up, once the narrative is clearer and more direct the lines between character, plot and action blend together well to make No Time To Die a fitting reflection on Daniel Craig’s well-performed James Bond.