“No Time To Die” is a strong finish to Craig’s five film portrayal


Daniel Craig reprises his role as James bond for a last time in “No Time to Die.” Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, 2021.

“No Time To Die” is Cary Joji Fukunaga’s first time directing a Bond movie and Daniel Craig’s last Bond movie, and both were amazing in their roles. Modern Bond films have incorporated very stylistic camera work, along with beautiful lighting and exotic locations, and Fukunaga doesn’t disappoint. However, “No Time To Die” isn’t afraid to mix up the Bond formula in other departments. 007 has always been known for his cold, calculating, and careless demeanor, but this most recent installment dives into Bond’s emotions, a side we haven’t really seen since “Casino Royale.” Ironically, “Spectre” and “Skyfall” tried the somber song opening, but they never really meshed with the rest of their tones. However, Billie Eilish’s song, composed along with Hans Zimmer, brings those classic orchestra crescendos that perfectly encapsulate the film’s emotional core. While some cheesy moments exist, “No Time To Die” is my second favorite Bond movie, and the only movie I’ve seen all year I want to watch again.

"No Time to Die" marks the final time Daniel Craig will play the iconic spy. Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios.
“No Time to Die” marks the final time Daniel Craig will play the iconic spy. Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, 2021.

“Spectre” relegates Bond’s love interest, Madeleine Swan, to a superficial position, working well on paper as the daughter of an assassin but turning out to be a flat character otherwise.  However, “No Time To Die” brings back Lea Seydoux and gives her something to do this time, providing depth and heartbreak to her backstory that spreads to other plotlines as well, creating a great antagonist and an even greater prologue sequence. To me, the best stories are ones with amazing beginnings and endings, with the middle part being complimented by each like a palindrome, and “No Time To Die” achieves this skillfully.

Rami Malik plays the vengeful villain and adds threat and stakes to the second and third acts that haven’t been in a Bond movie since “Casino Royale”.  Most Bond villains have schemes that either just happen to work out in unforeseen ways or are just incomprehensible. While Malik’s character has a pretty on-the-nose name (Lyutsifer Safin), his plan for control is well developed and fearfully precise, not involving any ridiculous “I wanted to be captured” plotlines or hiring a femme fatale but relying on exploiting character vulnerabilities and infiltrating ranks with his own spies.

While being well-written, Safin has some moments bordering on campy. Most may be sufficiently threatened, but Lyutsifer’s voice occasionally reminded me of a Russian version of Eddie Redmayne’s hilarious performance in “Jupiter Ascending”, and I found myself snickering at some lines Safin said. Not only that, some moments in the movie lacked subtlety that made some lines cringy (ex. ‘There are a thousand reasons we should find this man. You just gave me a reason to kill him”).  The Daniel Craig Bonds took pride in their realistic tones, so returns to the classic campiness in older Bond films seemed out of place.  While the whole of the movie is great, this was a weak spot.

Even though the film returns to some older Bond tropes, “No Time To Die” challenges other 007 traditions. This was highly reported on, so I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say Lashana Lynch plays 007 for the runtime, as James Bond retired at the end of “Spectre”.  Instead of playing a female James Bond, Lynch plays a “by the books” agent frustrated with an older “double O” harshing her mellow. However, Lynch brings charm and competitiveness to the role challenging gender norms, playing well off Craig’s five-film portrayal. Lea Seydoux also goes against the Bond girl conventions, replacing seductress for girl-next-door and replacing… well, hopefully, you’ll get the time to find out.

Lasana Lynch plays a female 007 agent and co-stars along Daniel Craig in "No Time to Die." Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios.
Lasana Lynch plays a female 007 agent and co-stars along Daniel Craig in “No Time to Die.” Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, 2021.

With all these subverting expectations, prospective audience members may wonder whether they need to have seen the previous Bond movies to understand this one. While the length of the movie may seem unjustified if you haven’t seen the previous Craig installments, as many series-long plotlines take up time in this movie to resolve, a simple peruse of plot synopses for both “Spectre” and “Casino Royale” should catch a viewer up just fine.  Having said that, I would recommend watching Casino Royale, as it’s slightly better than this most recent installment.

Not only does this finale start with an engrossing and strong prologue and end with a poignant conclusion, the Craig-Bond movies can also be said to have started strong with “Casino Royale” and ended strong with “No Time To Die”.  The spy thriller is smart, entertaining, fleshed out, self-aware and emotionally satisfying. I’m giving this one a 4½ out of 5.