Review: NO TIME TO DIE, Daniel Craig Exits Stage Left

Lead Critic; San Francisco, California
Review: NO TIME TO DIE, Daniel Craig Exits Stage Left

No Time To Die concludes Daniel Craig’s muscularly intense, emotionally dense interpretation of James Bond.

That’s certainly a plus for Bond fans who’ve enjoyed this particular version of Bond, who receive an interlocked, series-spanning narrative rather than the standalone one-offs typical of his predecessors (with maybe one or two exceptions). Despite the same “license to kill” that’s defined every Bond since the first — and to some, best Bond — and a body count numbering in the dozens or even hundreds, this Bond has also been defined by a lifetime of loss (his parents, his one, true love), trauma (all those bodies), and trust issues so severe that major therapy would have been a must in the real world.

Those superhuman-level trust issues come to the fore in No Time to Die as Bond, retired and living with his second true love, Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), in picturesque Italy, fall out in the opening scene after SPECTRE, the super-secret, mayhem-causing international criminal organization led by Bond’s one-time foster brother, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), attacks Bond and Madeline in a suitably spectacular action scene that starts in a cemetery, continues on foot, and concludes in Bond’s car-of-choice Aston Martin. Bond and Madeline survive the attack, but their relationship doesn’t, not once Bond, peevishly troubled by Madeline’s secretive nature, gives into his (dis) trust issues, eventually escorts a devastated Madeline to the nearest train to parts unknown.

For reasons that become much clear an hour or two later, No Time To Die jumps ahead five years, picking up Bond living alone at a beach house in Jamaica — an obvious nod to Bond’s first onscreen appearance in Doctor No almost sixty years ago and Fleming’s home — and going on daily ocean swims to keep in shape. It’s also an echo, not the first, and not the last, of Craig’s first appearance as Bond in Casino Royale and the series in general (i.e., “fan service”).

Bond’s self-imposed isolation doesn’t last, of course. Responding to old CIA friend Felix Leiter’s (Jeffrey Wright) presence at his beach house, Bond finds himself recruited for one more, unofficial mission before he can return to life as a retiree: Find and extract Valdo Obruchev (David Dencik), a SPECTRE scientist working for MI6 kidnapped by his former employers in London, from nearby Cuba.

In Cuba, Bond relies on the all-too-brief assistance of an in-country CIA asset, Paloma (Ana de Armas), to extract Obruchev under the command-and-control of another (ugly) American, Logan Ash (Billy Magnussen), a U.S. State Department representative eager to safeguard Obruchev’s revolutionary viral research, and the new 007, Nomi (Lashana Lynch), who wants to return Obruchev to the UK’s care and keep Obruchev’s research out of U.S. hands. Even allies, No Time To Die suggests, can often have conflicting, contradicting agendas, though like always, any attempt at socio-political commentary in the Bond series, quickly falls by the wayside.

That's understandable, since No Time To Die, despite a nearly three-hour running time (the longest in Bond’s cinematic history), has another five or six action sequences of indeterminate, occasionally interminable length, each one meant to equal or top the last in terms of scale, scope, and, of course, budget before the end credits roll.

And that all happens before we get to see or hear No Time To Die’s soft-spoken, ideologically muddled super-villain, Lyutsifer Safin (Oscar winner Rami Malek). Like Bond and Madeline, has a traumatic past, his parents removed from his life by violence and his future defined by an unquenchable desire for revenge against the perpetrators of that violence along with the usual megalomaniacal desire to remake the world in his tortured image.

As Bond super-villains go, Safin is on the wrong side of memorable, the result of an underwritten, reactive character, and Malek’s lifeless, somnolent performance, as risky as it is, is misguided. Keeping him offscreen for most of No Time to Die’s overlong, over-indulgent running time makes all the more sense, but once he makes an extended, late-film appearance in full-on monologue form, it’s all anyone on the other side of the screen can do to stake awake until the next big action scene arrives to reengage audiences.

As a globe-trotting send-off for Daniel Craig, No Time To Die certainly manages to conclude Bond’s personal arc with a stirring, moving emotional payoff.  Whether it hits audiences as much as director Cary Joji Fukunaga and the producers intended, however, is another matter. 

No Time To Die is now playing in cinemas in the United Kingdom, Brazil, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Japan, Korea, Mexico, and Spain. It will open in Canada, the U.S. and other territories  on Friday, October 8.

No Time to Die

  • Cary Joji Fukunaga
  • Neal Purvis
  • Robert Wade
  • Cary Joji Fukunaga
  • Daniel Craig
  • Ana de Armas
  • Rami Malek
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Ana de ArmasBen WhishawCary Joji FukunagaChristoph WaltzDaniel CraigJeffrey WrightLashana LynchLéa SeydouxNaomie HarrisNeal PurvisNo Time to DiePhoebe Waller-BridgeRalph FiennesRami MalekRobert WadeUKUSActionAdventureThriller

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