Published on October 10th, 2021 | by Craig Silliphant0
No Time to Die
Daniel Craig hands in his last assignment as this iteration of James Bond in No Time to Die, the long-delayed film from Cary Joji Fukunaga.
Hard to believe it’s been about 15 years since the internet made a big messy stink about James Blonde.
That is to say, when keyboard warriors went nuts over the sandy-haired Daniel Craig being cast as superspy (and usually brown-haired) James Bond. Now, Craig’s swan song has come with No Time to Die, ending a mostly consistent set of films (with the exception of Quantum of Solace).
In No Time to Die, Bond has retired, only to be contacted by his old friend, CIA Agent, Felix Leiter. This opens the door for Bond to get back in the ring, chasing after a villain with a dangerous new technology that could end life as we know it.
We start out with one of a number of beautiful locations in Matera, Italy. This movie doesn’t quite hit the majesty and colour of some of the Skyfall locations, but I bet tourism goes up in all these places after a visit from Bond. Matera is a gorgeous little town and director Cary Joji Fukunaga uses its bridges, bluffs, and narrow roads and staircases to great success as a jumping off point (sometimes literally) for great stunts and action scenes.
Once it gets going, the film rarely lets up, whether we’re seeing pulse-pounding action and fight choreography or more emotional character-driven scenes (another thing this Bond has brought to the pictures that weren’t much of a component in the old days). It’s like it follows the old Spielberg/Lucas/Indiana Jones rule that something fun has to happen every 10 minutes. You slow down and take a breath, get some story or character, then ramp it up again for an action set piece. Not that it couldn’t have used a trim, but for a 2 hour and 45-minute movie it actually breezes by fairly well. And when do you ever hear me say that?
Bond storylines are often convoluted and hard to follow. No Time to Die isn’t too much different, though they smooth out most of those lines and bring an emotional and logical conclusion to this timeline. The only major issue with the story is that I don’t really get the full motivation of Rami Malek’s villain. Malek does what he can with the role, but Lucifer Safin feels like a weaker villain, especially compared to Christoph Waltz as Blofeld and Javier Bardem as Silva. It’s like they scarred up his face and gave him a mask, thinking that would be enough to make him an interesting bad guy.
While this is the more serious, post-9/11, post-Jason Bourne Bond, who mostly executes people with a grim look on his face, they loosened up and embraced a bit more of the past in No Time to Die. The post-kill one-liners are back and things don’t always feel so dour. The brief scene-stealing performance from Ana de Armas is a hoot. Watching her commit to drop kicking an assailant actually made me want to cheer with glee.
I don’t know if Phoebe Waller-Bridge had anything to do with it, but No Time to Die has beefier roles for women like de Armas, Lea Seydoux, and Lashana Lynch, the woman who took over the 007 designation after Bond retired. No need to use the antiquated term, ‘Bond Girls,’ anymore — these women kick ass. People are clutching their pearls about having a woman being mentioned as a possible successor to Craig, but the filmmakers sneak it in anyway with a strong black woman. She may not be Bond, but she’s 007.
At the end of this run, what do we think of Daniel Craig’s era as Ian Fleming’s super spy?
In my opinion, which may be heresy to some old school hardliners, Daniel Craig’s turn as Bond ranks up there as one of the best. There’s still fun to be had in the camp of the past as well as with some of the other men that portrayed Bond. But Craig’s Bond is smart and suave, yet also intensely believable as the brutish blunt instrument of MI6. Sean Connery made the role famous and set the template to be followed or changed over the years. I don’t know if I want to go out on too far of a limb to say Craig was better. But I think Craig gives him a run for his money. I would also say that Casino Royale and Skyfall are easily two of the best Bond movies of all time.
No Time to Die ranks up there too. I need to see it again to be certain, but I think I liked it as much as Skyfall and Casino Royale (I liked Spectre too, but it’s a bit below these others in ranking for me). The filmmakers took some big swings, knowing that this would be Craig’s final outing.
We shall see what the future will bring for Bond, whether it’s a woman, a black man, or another white male. For my two cents, I’m fine with any of it. I think Bond can be anything. I won’t be upset if they cast another white man, but a franchise that has lasted as long as Bond has to change with the times. And there’s no reason why the world’s greatest spy has to be a white dude with brown hair.
Spoilers Below! You’ve Been Warned!
Okay, so I loved the ending. Knowing that this was really the end for Craig, and that none of the movies in the canon have a strong continuity, they were able to take their story to a place they’ve never taken it before. Which allowed for more emotional depth than we’re used to.
We get to have our cake and eat it too, since we know he’ll be back. But while some are whining that it means Bond loses in the end, I disagree. He still won. It was just at the cost of his life, a sacrifice he’s never had to make before.
That said, I have to shake a finger at the promotional campaign. There was a hashtag that I saw again before the film as I sat in the theatre. It was #notimeforspoilers. Which was really the worst spoiler of all. In a series of movies where the only real constant that we care about is James Bond, then the only possible spoiler that could harm the movie is that Bond dies. It’s not really a big deal if M or Felix or any of those people die. In fact, we already saw one M die, and beyond the emotional beats it provided to that movie, it wasn’t really a massive spoiler. Most casual fans probably don’t even know who half these characters are. Hell, I barely remembered that Lea Seydoux was the love interest from the last movie. This guy has a lot of women — I’m expected to remember who they are? He barely remembers who they are.