If you’re looking for a well-made, thrillingly tense, and surprisingly emotional action film, No Time to Die will more than satisfy you.
The film’s plot is an almost direct continuation of the previous Bond film, 2015’s Spectre – but presents a marked improvement in nearly all areas. We start our foray into Daniel Craig’s last outing as super-spy James Bond with a beautifully shot flashback to a foundational memory of one of our main characters, that sets the tone for the rest of the film’s action set-pieces: oozing the sort of tension you’d be hard-pressed to find outside a horror movie, or a thriller. From then on, Bond is set up to continue his usual globe-trotting, villain-hunting antics, nothing so revolutionary as Skyfall’s portrayal of Bond playing defence, but nevertheless entertaining. I do take major issue with the main villain’s plan – we’ve all seen Bond films of the past raise the stakes arbitrarily high, and No Time to Die is an unfortunate misstep in what was otherwise a refreshing break from that formula in Craig’s era of Bond. That’s not to mention the unfortunate resemblance of a semi-biological superweapon that threatens a global pandemic. It certainly explains why the film was delayed for so long, but given how this era of Bond has leaned away from escapism to a more gritty take, it doesn’t really take you out of the film. The film may drag its feet slightly in getting Craig back into action as 007, but it ends triumphantly, and with the sort of emotional climax that surpasses even those of Casino Royale and Skyfall.
The cast give grounded, well-acted performances, with Craig and Seydoux as the standout examples – providing the emotional core of the movie with believable chemistry, as well as by instilling an ever-pervasive sense of vulnerability, reacting to plot circumstances that put them and their loved ones in constantly increasing jeopardy. The decision to have most of the film’s excellent action set-pieces place Bond not only at risk of harm, but at risk of great personal tragedy through harming others, masterfully ratchets up the tension beyond what most other films would be able to do. This is of course amplified by Daniel Craig’s 15 year turn as James Bond, as we’re by now fully invested in his character. Going into the film knowing that all bets are off for the future of Craig’s James Bond counters any sense of invulnerability that the character has portrayed in the past.
The action scenes themselves are astounding. The choreography is clearly trying to take a leaf out of John Wick’s book, and there’s very little in the way of large CGI spectacle, which is good news for anybody feeling a little superhero fatigue. The film can’t totally emulate the top-tier technicality of the action seen in John Wick, but it’s made up for by the emotion and tension that the film is inundated with, which absolutely carries through into the action. The locations are beautiful, and well shot, and Craig’s portrayal of vulnerability continues to the action scenes as well. Of particular note are two sequences in the last third of the film – a car chase leading to a claustrophobic gunfight in a fog-filled forest, and the infiltration of Safin’s base, with specific mention to a one shot scene where Bond must fight his way up a staircase, that somehow turns the claustrophobia and vulnerability up to 11.
With regards to the rest of the cast’s performances, Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas give excellent shows as supporting super-spies that I would certainly like to see in future Bond films. The only other significant commentary to make is that I feel somewhat let down by the performances of the villains. For the portrayal of the two main villains in Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld, and Rami Malek as Safin, you find serviceable portrayals that by no means carry the film. Perhaps it’s an issue with the direction, or the writing, but for two great actors with 3 Oscars between them, I was disappointed. Blofeld and Safin will not find themselves among the great Craig era Bond villains like Javier Bardem’s Raoul Silva, or Mads Mikkelson’s Le Chiffre. Furthermore, David Dencik as a corrupt scientist – responsible for development of the film’s MacGuffin bioweapon – could be at best referred to as a homage to the goofy villains of Bond past, and at worst, underdeveloped and sort of immersion-breaking.
All in all, No Time to Die is a more than competent re-tread of what made Craig’s turn as Bond so great. Emotional vulnerability and great, gritty action turn this into the perfect capstone for the formula that made Casino Royale and Skyfall so great. It cements Daniel Craig’s legacy as perhaps the best James Bond, and I would definitely recommend you watch it.