No Time to Die

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Title: No Time to Die
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Writers: Neal Purvis (screenplay), Robert Wade (screenplay), Cary Joji Fukunaga (screenplay)
Stars: Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas, Rami Malek

Rating

After being delayed for about two years due to a change in directors and a global pandemic, No Time to Die has finally arrived in theatres, and with it comes the end of Daniel Craig’s run as 007. And although Craig’s five films varied somewhat in quality, from the mediocrity of Quantum of Solace to the absolute genius of Skyfall, as a whole, his portrayal of the British superspy convinced me that there is still air in the Bond balloon.

What I have particularly enjoyed with Daniel Craig’s Bond films is the continuity that was woven through the five films. Where other Bonds (yes, even Connery) often felt silly and cartoonish, Craig delivers believable humanity and emotional character growth that started with Casino Royale and now ends in No Time to Die. There is a clear story woven through these films that made them my favorites of the franchise.

The honor of ending Daniel Craig’s 15-year film run as James Bond goes to director Cary Fukunaga. Danny Boyle was initially set to direct, but creative differences led to change and delays. One could wonder how Boyle would have made the film differently, but seeing the balance between the deeply personal and the epic in No Time to Die, I feel that the question isn’t worth pondering. In No Time to Die, Cary Fukunaga perfectly matches Skyfall levels of storytelling with the over-the-top silliness of Spectre.

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Daniel Craig as James Bond

The Final Mission

No Time to Die starts with a flashback to the childhood of Léa Seydoux’s character Madeleine Swann. After a mysterious masked gunman arrives at their house by a lake in Norway and kills her mother, she escapes. The story then picks up after the events of Spectre, where Madeleine now lives an idyllic life with a now-retired James Bond.

But the past tends to catch up with the former superspy, and soon henchmen of archvillain Blofeld (played by Christoph Waltz) finds them. It seems Blofeld is still pulling the strings from behind bars, leading his organization SPECTRE to steal a new high-tech bioweapon to wreak havoc on the world.

Bond is soon pulled from retirement and into the ongoing rivalry between MI6 and the CIA about who can get their hands a biological weapons expert. Teaming up with a new generation of agents, such as 00-agent Nomi (played by Lashana Lynch) and Paloma (played by Ana de Armas), Bond goes after a mastermind Lyutsifer Safin (played by Rami Malek), the masked gunman from Madeleine’s past.

James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Agent Nomi (Lashana Lynch)

The Balanced Bond

The result is a story that manages to balance the emotional with the epic. It has the traditional Bond elements; gadgets, cars with guns, explosives and bombs, and villains with bionic eyes, deadly nanotechnology, and secret island lairs. But with No Time to Die, Cary Fukunaga still manages to inject a kind of balance between the kind of James Bond we see in Skywall, with its personal and deeply emotional story, and the more traditional James Bond of earlier years. It all culminates in a finale and memorable swan song for Craig’s portrayal of Bond. Story threads are tied up, and character arcs are ended.

Despite being emotional and tear-jerking at times, No Time to Die also includes a good dose of humor. Of particular note are the scenes with Daniel Craig and Ana de Armas. You might remember the two appearing together in Rian Johnson’s excellent 2019 whodunit Knives Out, and their chemistry is still on full display here.

Something should also be said about Rami Malek’s masked villain Lyutsifer Safin. Driven by revenge for his dead family, Safin seeks world domination by using a nanotechnology-based biological weapon. Malek plays the villain with a quiet menace. It might not be on the level of Javier Bardem’s Silva, but he is very effective nonetheless.

The End of the Road

We all have our favorite Bonds, and everyone seems to have their own opinions on how and what James Bond should be. I’m sure No Time to Die will spark many discussions and continue to divide long-time fans of the James Bond franchise. No Time to Die is different, but Daniel Craig was always a different Bond. For me, this difference makes this film as close as one gets to a perfect James Bond film. And at the end, when the credits rolled, I got the strangest feeling: Daniel Craig as James Bond, starting with Casino Royale and ending here, is the only Bond I need.

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