Reel Thoughts: ‘No Time To Die’ delivers on its promise as an epic Bond finale


Graphic by Angeli Mittal

Stills from “No Time to Die.” The film marks the fifth and final James Bond movie for actor Daniel Craig.

John Riker, Sports Editor

For most of the pandemic, “No Time To Die” was a light at the end of the tunnel for moviegoers stranded at home. The 25th James Bond film was delayed three times, moving all the way from its planned release date of April 2020 to last Friday. 

Movie theaters dangled titles like “Black Widow,” “Tenet” and “Wonder Woman 1984” to lure audiences back to theaters after the pandemic, but “No Time to Die” captured the public’s imagination — and for good reason. “No Time To Die” marks the fifth and final Bond film for actor Daniel Craig. Given the cultural cache and sensational action sequences of predecessors “Casino Royale” and “Skyfall,” the hype seemed merited and made the years-long wait agonizing for even the casual Bond viewer.

“No Time To Die” delivers on the promise of a spectacular cinematic experience. The car chases, the beautiful backdrops and color palette, the heart-pounding Hans Zimmer score, a nefarious villain — it’s hard to imagine a better-suited film to showcase in theaters than this one. “No Time To Die” has its flaws, but Craig’s last ride is more boom than bust.

Bond’s curtain call kicks off its present day timeline with the retired agent whisked out of his idyllic retreat by a couple of CIA friends and his 007 replacement, Nomi (Lashana Lynch). Once again, the stakes are global. A poison meant to target Spectre members becomes weaponized, and with it comes the potential for mass destruction. 

The film’s most obvious appeal, the action scenes, is at a peak level despite its protagonist losing a step. Each scene is a spectacle, but a strength of “No Time To Die” is its use of cinematography and editing to put the viewer in Bond’s shoes and make the moviegoing experience even more immersive. The action also has real stakes, making each successive fight more than a thrill and mounting to a wild finish. 

Director Cary Joji Fukunaga’s most daring maneuver is his commitment to finding 007’s humanity. “Casino Royale” proved that a spy thriller featuring the anti-hero Bond could succeed without an emotionally resonant (read: convincing) romance, but this film’s Bond girl, Madeleine (Léa Seydoux), wonderfully complicates the equation and enables the series’ most intimate look into Bond’s character. 

But no character steals scenes quite like this Bond villain, Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek). Whether it’s his cracked mask, measured delivery or his complete psychological control of the film’s central characters, Safin is capable and terrifying. The Bond chronology is filled with nefarious villains, but Safin is an equal to Bond, one worthy of the Craig series climax.

It’s not a perfect film. “No Time To Die” is a nearly three-hour movie and doesn’t need to be. I’m not at all against long runtimes — “The Godfather” and “Scarface” are two classics that come to mind that couldn’t possibly be any shorter — but the heart of the story that the film tells is surrounded by a lot of excess that distracts from the main beats. Conversely, Nomi and Paloma (Ana de Armas) have promising moments, but only show up for a couple scenes at a time.

In the spy genre, “No Time To Die” holds its own with the “Mission Impossible” movies and at least deserves to be in the conversation with the more streamlined and dynamic “Casino Royale.” The characteristic sophistication and sensuality of the Bond movies is in full force — this is not a film that falls short of expectations.

It’s one thing to be worth the price of admission at the movie theater. It’s another to be a rewatchable classic. Time will tell if “No Time To Die” will have an enduring legacy in a saga with 24 other movies, and its case is made more difficult by its lengthy runtime and muddled narrative. Even if its splash is limited to the box office, Craig’s Bond, the one my generation grew up watching, certainly had the send off he deserved.

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Twitter: @john__riker

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