James Bond has had a divisive career. Everybody has a favourite iteration of the character, and Daniel Craig has found himself near the tops of many people’s lists. His final outing, No Time to Die, is a perfect example of why and a fitting conclusion to his 15-year tenure. Not only does it encompass everything that has made the Craig Era unique, but it ties up loose ends and pays homage to the character’s long legacy.
Set roughly 5 years after the events of Spectre, Bond is retired and living on his own, having left Madelaine Swann after he believes she betrayed him. However when the CIA comes asking for help tracking down a scientist who seems to be intertwined with MI6 and the shady organisation Spectre, Bond returns to the world of espionage. What follows is a villain’s plot for mass murder through DNA-coded nanobots, reunions with old friends, and some new faces. Whilst the past few installments in the franchise have focussed primarily on action, No Time to Die encompasses more of the espionage that used to inhabit these films. A large portion of time is devoted to tactically sneaking through buildings, dodging international incidents, and barely escaping from the enemy. It includes some excellently built suspense, thanks in no small part to the score, and makes this action movie into a spy movie. James Bond is, after all, Britain’s finest spy. But the character hasn’t operated in the shadows this much since the early years.
The aforementioned score is excellent in these suspenseful moments, but it also shines in the quieter scenes. When characters are sharing a loving glance or even a respectful one, it mellows in tone to a melancholic experience. The incorporation of classic Bond music like All the Time in the World is a nice touch that adds layers of romance and of homage to what has come before. Of course, the classic Bond motif is present too, often used in action sequences to build intensity or to heighten the tension. The way in which the motif is played, at varying speeds and in different pitches, is always interesting to listen out for but never distracts from whatever is occurring on screen.
When action occurs, it is often grounded and brutal. This more dirty, hand-to-hand combat has been a staple of the Craig Era and makes the hits feel more palpable. Bond isn’t just walking off injuries, he’s facing genuine consequences from them and so are his colleagues. There are a couple of deaths that hit particularly hard due to the longevity and likability of the characters. To say who would be to spoil the tragedy, but they are tragic losses and the weight of them is respected. If done properly, the death of a beloved character should be emotional and both of these deaths are perpetrated excellently.
After 5 films with much of the same cast, No Time to Die feels like the end of an era. The characters have had time to settle in and to grow. Ralph Fiennes provides a more wisened and downtrodden M whilst Ben Wishaw’s Q has become a respected and rebellious member of the team in his own right. However, the stand-out is Daniel Craig in the signature role. His Bond has occasionally been rugged and glum but there is much more swagger this time around. He’s throwing quips and bantering with people around him, which in turn makes him more likable and fun to watch. There are many emotions that can be provoked when a film is attempting to entertain, but Bond films are at their most entertaining when they are having fun. Bond may face dire situations but he faces them with a smirk and dismantles the enemies with a wink.
It’s clear that this instalment wanted to pay homage to the classic eras of the franchise like Sean Connery and Roger Moore. It comes across in the music, the dialogue, and the tone. Perhaps that’s why No Time to Die is so much fun to watch. It’s full of set pieces and comedy but it also knows when to take it slow. At a runtime of 185 minutes, this could easily have felt too long but not a moment of that time feels wasted. Every character moment, plot progression, and explosion feels justified. By the time the credits roll, there’s no feeling like anything was left unsaid. There is only closure.
This likely won’t be the final instalment, but it would be a suitable ending. This is the 26th film in the franchise and box office results seem to fluctuate. Skyfall raked in $1 Billion and Spectre gathered $880 Million but Casino Royale pulled in $616 Million with Quantum of Solace managing only $589 Million. There’s no guarantee as to what the future holds, after all these need to make money and they can’t all be Skyfall. No Time to Die comes pretty darn close though.
Until Next Time..