Daniel Craig has been bitching about playing the character that made his career for quite some time now. He’s played James Bond in five films over 15 years now, and the last couple of movies have produced a lot of whining and some big checks to get him to play along.
Fortunately, his discontent doesn’t show onscreen: Craig is officially the all-time-best Bond, and No Time to Die is a nice capper for him as 007.
The story is suitable enough, considering the Craig mindset on the series. Bond has gotten rather pissy since Spectre (2015), and he doesn’t want to be a secret agent anymore. After a long pre-credits scene with his latest love interest, Madeleine (Lea Seydoux), the action jumps forward five years. Bond is semi-retired, catching fish and not giving two shits about running around with guns.
Felix (Jeffrey Wright), a CIA pal from his past, shows up with some disturbing info: There’s a crazy guy out there with new technology that can destroy the world. James likes fishing, but, after some careful consideration, he likely realizes he won’t be able to keep fishing if the world is destroyed, so he reluctantly gets back into the groove with the likes of M (Ralph Fiennes), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw).
There are several villains this time out, including the return of Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), and a new baddie played rather quietly by Rami Malek. But these bad guys are not as scary as the nasty technology in play. That technology echoes our current real-world predicament in some ways, so that compounds the tension.
Director Cary Joji Fukunaga (True Detective) presides over a couple of the best action sequences the series has ever seen, including an early motorcycle ride and some spectacularly staged car chases. The set designs, including a vast island fortress where the finale is staged, are quite well done. Fukunaga makes a good-looking movie.
The brazenly aggressive misogynistic undertones of the traditional Bond are, thankfully, not really welcome anymore. (Some of the older Bond films have not aged well.) This installment features a more-grounded, semi-sensitive Bond who is seriously in love—and occasionally outmatched by more talented fellow female agents. Ana de Armas makes a quick but memorable appearance as Paloma, an agent on one of her first missions who is already throwing kicks better than Bond ever could. Lashana Lynch shows up as an agent who causes a certain dilemma I won’t give away.
No Time to Die is certainly not perfect. Malek is a little dull as Lyutsifer Safin, the main nemesis. The power he wields is memorable, but the way in which he does it is a little bit slow and ineffectively melodramatic. The plot sometimes twists around in ways that are headache-inducing, but everything gets tied together in the end.
Craig has always brought a level of class to the role that outshines his predecessors—and yes, I realize those are pretty big words, considering one of those was Sean Connery. The Roger Moore phase was hokey; the Timothy Dalton phase was boring; Pierce Brosnan was merely passable. Craig’s installments stand tall as some of the best entertainment the series produced—they’re solid works of depth, expertly crafted, and always featuring a compelling central performance. This is a less-cartoonish Bond.
It’s fine that Craig is wrapping up this part of his career. His saying he’d rather die than play the role again does sort of taint the enterprise, but, hey, he’s sick of wearing tuxes and drinking martinis, and that’s fine. It’s time for some new blood. Part of the fun of this franchise is its tendency to reboot and start anew with a fresh face.
It’ll be interesting to see where things go in the future. Craig took the role to new heights, and any successor is going to have a tough mission on their hands. All right, Hollywood … let’s see what you’ve got.
No Time to Die is playing at theaters across the valley.