WARNING: I'm going to struggle to do this review without dropping in small, but significant plot points. I know people are always afraid of "spoilers," so you have been warned. Go watch the movie and then come back and read.
No Time to Die is the fifth and final outing for actor Daniel Craig as the super spy James Bond. The plot wraps up all significant story arcs that have been bubbling within this 15 year saga of the Bond franchise. James has been retired for some time, but is brought back in to consult on matters of what Spectre could want with a new bioweapon dubbed Heracles, which is also being sought by the mysterious Lyutsifer Safin. In order to complete the mission, he has to compete with and then team up with new 007, Nomi as well as rectify his feelings for paramour, Madeleine whose mysterious past is coming back to haunt her. The film stars Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux, Rami Malek, Lashana Lynch, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, Billy Magnussen, Christoph Waltz, David Dencik, Ana De Armas, Dali Benssalah, and Jeffrey Wright. The film has a story by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Cary Joji Fukunaga and is written by Purvis, Wade, Fukunaga, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge. The film is directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga.
I try not to mention a movie's run time, but No Time to Die is far too long. For an action film it slogs like it's walking through mud with twenty pound weights attached to each limb. The main drag on the plot is the absolutely convoluted nature of the story the filmmakers are attempting to share. The opening sequence is painfully slow and then doubly painfully slow when what seems like a second opening sequence follows and is equally as tedious. That brings us to Madeleine and Safin, the subjects of those cold opens and other tiresome backstories.
My least favorite part of Spectre was the lack of chemistry between Bond and Madeline. I don't buy this love story by a mile and that it's the central driving force of the emotional catharsis of this film is eye-rolling to me. Cut her out. This story works, except for the emotional catharsis, without her. They should have moved James on like they always do, or had him pine for Vesper more.
Safin is a lame villain. His backstory is laughable, his plan is ludicrous and makes no real sense after he rids the world of Spectre. Like, that was supposed to be his driving force, what is it now, he needs to get rid of Madeline's boyfriend so she'll fall right into his arms for hot make outs? It makes no sense within what we're shown of Madeline and Safin's relationship that he could be in love with her, but he repeats it many times. The fact she's never seen his face without a mask, we're lead to believe this because she has no idea who he is when he's in her office posing as a patient, makes it seem like he's just a crazy stalker and adds an extra level of creepy because she was a young teen when he rescued her from the ice. I don't like to bad mouth actors and I won't necessarily here, but to say that Rami Malek adds nothing to this part because there was nothing to it anyway. He has those bulging bedroom eyes, I suppose, but his accent is confused and his demeanor is featherweight arch. There was no menace whatsoever to Safin.
A side note, as soon as I saw Billy Magnussen in the credits I knew he was a double agent. That guy is always the smiling villain.
Though, I did like the film as a whole. Kind of like when The Rise of Skywalker made some good decisions in wrapping up its franchise. No Time to Die has its moments and fully catapults the franchise in a new direction with its definitive ending. They, like the Spectre crew, tried to force more classic Bond tropes into the more serious, post 9/11 tone of the first film in Daniel Craig's Bond oeuvre, yet those tropes don't overpower even if they seem out of place.
Where Craig's Bond stands above the rest is that he's human. He takes it on the chin and gets down in the muck. He's a brawler and a tender heart underneath all of the muscles. He actually cares for people and cares deeply about the work. That's something that follows into this installment and is the real emotional catharsis I think, as the people that worked with him give a last toast.
It's clear that while utilizing his own unique eye, Cary Joji Fukunaga recognizes the ideas that make this corner of the sixty year franchise unique. He's able to bring his tracking shots, his close ups and his immersive camera work to bear in some exciting sequences. Fukunaga is a filmmaker who loves an intricate tracking shot and while there are a few scattered throughout, he and cinematographer Linus Sandgren's work is notable in an exciting gun fight Bond has with several baddies in a stairwell. It's a smoky, tight quartered, nerve wracking sequence unlike what's been seen in a Bond film before. Fukunaga does a lot of that, showing off how much of a one man assault team and brilliant tactical mind Bond is.
The other sequence I love is when Bond makes contact with Paloma, played exquisitely by Ana de Armas. The scene is classic Bond with the two of them flirting, infiltrating a Spectre meeting (and sex party? There was a lot going on there!), bantering, scoping a room, and getting into a situation where they desperately need to leave as all hell breaks loose. De Armas is completely charming, disarming, funny, and kicks major ass. It's over far too soon as is our time with the character, but it's an excellent set piece within the film.
I liked this Bond for our grim and gritty post 9/11 world because he not only gained humanity, but recognized that evil villains in lairs aren't just megalomaniacs, but are hurt people who want to make people hurt in the way they do. I think Ralph Fiennes' M states it best when he mentions he misses the days when one knew who the enemy was. Our world didn't evolve with a hero like James Bond in mind, but with mixed results, filmmakers were able to adapt the James Bond motif to our current espionage climate and understanding of how intelligence agents get things done.
No Time to Die isn't my favorite Bond film by a long shot, but I would be lying if I wrote I wasn't excited by the excellent action sequences, the terrific final Bond performance by Daniel Craig, and the possibilities of what the MI-6 crew could get up to in the next installment. For one thing they could actually have Q say, "I'm gay," rather than just have him quietly remark his date, a mysterious "he," will be there any minute. I recommend you see it if you're a completist like I am. Go pee whenever Safin is talking and doze off whenever Madeline and Bond are together and you'll be fine.