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Daniel Craig as James Bond

Daniel Craig as James Bond

Daniel Craig as James Bond

First things first. No Time to Die is worth the wait. It’s a straight-up, traditional Bond film that ticks all the expected boxes, but the man himself is a richer character than ever before. You might say that Bond finally grows up.

In an echo of Daniel Craig’s five-film career as James Bond, his latest and purportedly last outing, starts great, ends great and is uneven in the middle. At two hours and 43 minutes, this is the longest-ever film in the 25-movie, 59-year reign of 007. Before the credits begin to the tune of Billie Eilish’s title song, there are two opening sequences. The first sees a formative moment in the life of a young Madeleine Swann, the girl who grows up to be MI6 psychotherapist and James Bond’s love interest. Then we move to the adult Madeleine (Léa Seydoux) on a beautiful Italian getaway with James Bond (Craig).

Bond movies have long been meta and the self-reference in this film begins when James tells his girlfriend that they have all the time in the world. It won’t be the last reference to Louis Armstrong’s iconic 1969 Bond theme song either.

Clearly no Bond film can be based around a romantic idyll and director, Cary Joji Fukunaga (whose credits include the first series of True Detective and 2011’s Jane Eyre), wastes no time blasting the movie into action. There follows a fabulous action scene which includes the delights of an Aston Martin doing doughnuts whilst spraying machine-gun fire in a piazza. It also heralds the end of the Bond who trusts people.

No Time To Die picks up five years later with Bond in retirement in Jamaica, in a lovely house and tiny shorts. But the CIA come calling – Felix (Jeffrey Wright) wants Bond to do a nixer. Some very dangerous nanotechnology has been stolen and they need to find out where it is.

The middle section of the film is a little messy – the plot feels more convoluted than it actually is. That section could have been shorter. But the action sequences, the locations and the quips are top notch. However, these, like so many of the factors that made a behemoth of the Bond franchise, have been incorporated into other films and franchises like Mission Impossible and Jack Reacher.

What makes Bond Bond, is, well, Bond. Even if Sean Connery was your favourite 007 incarnation, that charming but sexist, misogynistic, jingoistic, Cold War-era, borderline psychopath, could not work in a modern context. The character had to evolve.

Craig has been a fabulous Bond and in this film, whilst the rough charm, imperfect beauty and lethal physicality are all there, the character has an emotional depth. The writing team of Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag), Neil Purvis, Robert Wade and Fukunaga have made Bond human.

He is still lethal, but he has vulnerabilities that we can understand. He has been replaced, no one finds that easy. What’s worse, the new 007, a black female 007 called Nomi (Lashana Lynch) is not even slightly in thrall to her predecessor. And, also like Bond, we doubt everyone: could M (Ralph Fiennes) possibly have turned into a bad egg?

This evolution of character is just as well. Every hero needs an antagonist and different Bonds in different movies have faced some iconic villains, such as Scaramanga, Jaws and Blofeld (the Donald Pleasance incarnation, not the Christoph Waltz one who also pops up here).

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But the latest Bond baddie, Safin (Rami Malek) is limp. Malek was hot off an Oscar win for Bohemian Rhapsody at the time, but he doesn’t quite pull it off as the admittedly underwritten villain.

Safin has a tremendous, potentially world-destroying weapon at his command, one which, despite the film predating the pandemic, feels very relevant.

Like all Bond villains, he has a personal obsession with Bond, the reason for which isn’t clear, and why he wants to destroy humanity needs a bit more explanation too.

As for other Bond staples, Ana de Armas is the closest this film comes to a traditional Bond Girl. She’s fab and not onscreen for long enough.

The cinematography by Linus Sandgren is beautiful. Some scenes were shot in IMAX and whilst those look breathtaking on an IMAX screen, the non-IMAX scenes are soft to the point of blurriness.

But yes, overall, No Time To Die is well worth the wait and a worthy end to the reign of Craig’s excellent Bond.


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