No Time To Die (2021)—Review

Ian Fleming’s James Bond character and brand has permeated pop culture for over six decades with many novels and films. Ever since 007’s first film outing with Dr. No (1962) starring Sean Connery as the titular hero, film fans have been clamoring around the Bond franchise. With seven different actors taking on the mantle of Bond throughout the decades, fans of the franchise tend to have their own clear favorite—for me, that actor is Daniel Craig with Casino Royale (2006) and Skyfall (2012) being my two favorite Bond films. That said, his other two films as the character, Quantum of Solace (2008) and Spectre (2015), are not the worst Bond films, but not good films either. So, after multiple pandemic delays, fans of 007 are finally able to see the final installment of Daniel Craig’s run as Bond in No Time To Die, and thankfully, my favorite portrayal of Bond ends on a high note.

Daniel Craig and Ana de Armas in No Time To Die (2021). Via Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

After the seeming betrayal from his love Madeleine Swann (played by Léa Seydoux), James Bond (played by Daniel Craig) has gone off the grid into retirement. While away, MI6, under the instruction of M (played by Ralph Fiennes), has developed Project Heracles, a DNA targeting weapon. After an attack on the lab Heracles is held, where it appears SPECTRE and Blofeld (played by Christoph Waltz) have stolen the weapon, an old CIA friend, Felix Leiter (played by Jeffrey Wright), recruits Bond to track it down while racing against his 007 replacement, Nomi (played by Lashana Lynch). After a surprise turn of events, Bond and his allies must hunt down the true mastermind behind the theft of Heracles and stop him before he unleashes it upon the world.

As with all of the Daniel Craig led Bond films, Craig and the other recurring actors were all fantastic—Ben Whishaw’s Q, Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny, Ralph Fiennes’ M, Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld, and Jeffrey Wright’s Felix all felt right at home with their previous portrayals of the characters and were, once again, great additions to the film. The newcomers also did a fantastic job, with Ana de Armas, Lashana Lynch, and Rami Malek all fitting right into the world and each bringing a unique character and chemistry to the film. Another commonality between the Craig films, is the fantastic action and music. First, the action in this film is absolutely fantastic and an incredibly enjoyable theater experience. The car chase scenes were fantastic, the espionage scenes were greatly paced, the fight choreography was spot on—everything about the action in this film was amazing. With the music, this is Hans Zimmer’s first time composing for the renowned spy franchise, and this may be the best Bond score to date. Zimmer absolutely crushed it, and this is coming from a music person who has been feeling Hans Zimmer fatigue, with a lot of his scores sounding way too familiar with each other. The score of this film is absolutely beautiful and elevates every single scene, whether it’s action heavy or an emotional character moment.

Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, and Rory Kinnear in No Time To Die (2021). Via Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

This film has the fantastic performances, the edge-of-your-seat action, and jaw dropping music, but it isn’t a perfect Bond film. After twenty-five official Bond films (Never Say Never Again (1983) is not an official film in the franchise), I think we have reached a point where some Bond-isms have to fall by the wayside. For example, James Bond is known for the quippy one liners (who could ever forget the classic, “I thought Christmas only comes once a year.”), but in this film there are so many at odd moments that completely ruin the pace and verisimilitude of the action surrounding their respective scenes. The odd one-liners in the script are not the only recurring Bond issue though: much like with a lot of the other Bond films, the villain is completely forgettable. The Lyutsifer Safin character (played by Rami Malek) had a very compelling backstory and connection to the overall plot of the other four Craig-led films, but in the second half of the film, where his entire motivation and plan are revealed, you’re left asking, “Is that all?” I think the Safin villain and plot would work in a Bond film from the 80’s or 90’s where it would be separate from other installments, but as a final villain in a five-film story arc? By the time the film was over, I couldn’t even remember the character’s name, and his overall plan just felt like an afterthought.

My final big critique for the film is its runtime. At two hours and forty-three minutes, No Time To Die is the longest Bond film to date, and it had absolutely no reason to be. I feel like Carey Joji Fukunaga, the director, shot an incredible film, but could not find a way to trim it down. There are definitely scenes in this film that could’ve either been shortened or scrapped in order to get this film down another fifteen to twenty minutes and deliver a tighter package. This is particularly in the later half of the film where I felt a lot of the build up and incredible pacing of the first act began to unravel. Had this film been a tighter runtime, I feel like the pacing in the late-second act and the third act would’ve flowed much better and made for a better, and less drawn out, send-off for this iteration of the character.

Daniel Craig in No Time To Die (2021). Via Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

If you like any of the Daniel Craig-led Bond films, I would highly recommend seeing this film in theaters: the action, performances, emotional beats, and score all make for an extremely enjoyable theater experience. Story beats and characters from the previous four films all come together and wrap up nicely, and in extremely surprising ways. Some of the surprises in this film will 100% divide members of the James Bond fanbase, but the surprise and shock, for me at least, made for a great viewing experience. If this film’s villain had a better thought out end goal (because his backstory was extremely intriguing) and if it was tightened up by about 20 minutes, this movie had the elements to be one of the best of the best. Even though it didn’t reach the same level as Casino Royale or Skyfall for me, I would still highly recommend it for everyone looking to see a fantastic send-off for this version of the character.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

8/10

No Time To Die is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images, brief strong language and some suggestive material.

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