Daniel Craig’s final outing as the infamous secret agent delivers the usual tropes of a Bond film in abundance. Perfectly timed quips, ludicrous gadgets, and fast-paced action fill the film’s running time of two-hours-and-forty-three-minutes to bursting point. Yet, where No Time to Die excels is in its willingness to go beyond the usual formula of a Bond film and deliver a surprisingly fresh and heart-wrenching finale for one of the franchise’s best-loved frontmen.
Its divergence from the standard formula does not mean No Time to Die doesn’t hit as hard as the best Bond films
From its cold opening, the twenty-fifth 007 movie promises to be different to anything that has gone before it. While most of its predecessors began by following Bond’s escapades in a bombastically action-packed scene, No Time to Die’s opening follows the childhood traumas of Dr Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), Bond’s love interest from the previous film Spectre. We then fast-forward to the events that immediately followed the last film and find Swann and Bond, who has retired from the secret service, enjoying a romantic getaway in Italy. Though inevitably the idyllic environment constructed in this opening is shattered, it makes a distinct contrast to the pre-title sequence scenes of any previous film in the series.
Its divergence from the standard formula does not mean No Time to Die doesn’t hit as hard as the best Bond films. The central plot is a festival of absurdity that revolves around MI6’s struggle to recover Heracles, a biological weapon of mass destruction that has been stolen by the global criminal syndicate SPECTRE. The organisation’s intentions for world domination are swiftly curtailed by the new megalomaniac on the block, Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek). Hellbent on avenging the deaths of his parents who were murdered by SPECTRE, Safin plans also to murder millions of innocents across the globe, presumably just for good measure. Facial scars, an underground lair, and genocidal intentions – Safin is an uninspired recycling of Bond villain character traits, and one of the film’s few misfires.
It is Craig’s Bond that redeems this weakness. Living out his retirement in the Caribbean, James is inevitably persuaded to don the tux once more by his old friend at the CIA, Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright). Craig’s take on the character has always been very human, and this is borne out by the script from Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Phoebe Waller-Bridge which gives us an aged, battle-weary Bond unafraid of showing his feelings. When he thinks he has been betrayed by Dr Swann, Bond truly appears on the brink of giving in. Through a single, hopeless glance, Craig perfectly conveys the heartbreak and betrayal his character has suffered all too frequently. The lead actor brilliantly outshines everyone around him and cements his reputation as one of the franchise’s finest.
it is No Time to Die’s ending that sets it apart from anything that has gone before
No Time to Die swiftly becomes a Greatest Hits of the Craig era that neatly ties together loose threads from the previous four films and sees a whole host of fan favourites return. M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) give Craig the send-off he deserves, but it is the return of SPECTRE’s villainous leader, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (played with characteristic éclat by Christoph Waltz) that is most rewarding. The scene shared between Bond and Blofeld is electrifying – there is no guessing how Bond will react to the self-professed “author” of all his pain.
This long list of returning characters does not come at the expense of those introduced within the film. Lashana Lynch’s rival 00 is a standout character. Her charisma and no-nonsense approach make the search for a new Bond seem futile – here’s a character deserving of their own spy thriller. After several false starts in the form of Die Another Day’s Jinx (Halle Berry) and Quantum of Solace’s Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko), the franchise has finally given us a series of strong female characters which Lynch spearheads. Though no feminist rewrite, No Time to Die attempts serious reform, and the franchise is all the better for it.
Beyond Craig’s stellar performance and a delightfully ludicrous plot that plays to the strengths of its character, it is No Time to Die’s ending that sets it apart from anything that has gone before. Its final act is incredibly affecting and sad – a brilliantly directed and performed piece that shows the series can, after almost sixty years, still spring a surprise on its audience. The finale’s heart-breaking effect is enhanced perfectly by a haunting coda that recalls the Bond films of yesteryear and will leave any Bond fanatic with a tear in their eye and goosebumps on their skin.
No Time to Die is a perfect conclusion to Daniel Craig’s era. It recognises the series’ past while attempting real change and is sure to delight both lifelong fans and those who only know Bond for the car he drives and his cocktail of choice. After six years of waiting, a change of director, three cancellations and a global pandemic, it’s good to be able to finally say “we’ve been expecting you, Mr Bond!”