Bond films have always been a large part of my life, with my Dad rewatching his collection of Bond VHS tapes almost every weekend throughout my childhood and adolescence. So upon learning that No Time To Die was the final outing of Daniel Craig as James Bond/007, I felt a surprising sense of sadness, the same way I felt when Pierce Brosnan ended his tenure as the notable M16 agent. I was definitely curious to see how Craig would end his run. After waiting patiently for the film to release, due to schedule shuffling and postponements given the current COVID-19 pandemic, it was a real treat to have been able to watch No Time To Die on the big screen.
No Time To Die, the twenty-fifth film in the Bond series, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, sees James Bond return to the thrilling world of espionage after being recruited by the CIA to find a kidnapped scientist, despite having left active service. Of course, the plot of any Bond film is never really that simple, as is the case in this film.
Unlike previous Bond films, No Time To Die captures a side of Bond that we don’t often see. After the events of Spectre and still carrying the trauma of the loss of Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale, Craig portrays a more weary and emotional Bond, a man battered down by so much loss and heartache. It was both revealing and intriguing to see Bond carry the weight of the past while also having so much love for Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), his love interest from Spectre. Seeing Craig show a much more human side throughout the course of his tenure as James Bond allows us, as audiences, to really feel for him, cheering him on as he attempts to live a ‘normal’ life with the woman he loves.
The character development of Bond’s character over the years and even in this film, is truly welcomed, as was seeing the return of some familiar faces. However, despite this, it was a shame that the feature characters around Bond didn’t feel as developed, falling somewhat flat in this film considering the high stakes that were involved.
The villain, Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek), despite having a grand plan to destroy the world, wasn’t as villainous or antagonistic as one would expect of a Bond villain. While Malek played his role well, there just wasn’t enough ‘oomph’ in his character to truly appreciate him as a Bond villain. This was in part due to a mismatched story involving Safin’s goals with that of Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), Spectre and a secret that Madeleine Swann supposedly held.
It was disappointing to have a villain simply fizzle out in the most lacklustre way, especially without that crucial cat and mouse game that Bond often played with villains. Even Blofeld, who has been a huge antagonist in the Bond series for decades, didn’t seem to get his due as an antagonist in this film. It almost felt as if he was included simply to entice viewers only to be subsequently dealt with in a neat and tidy way, despite being such an evil mastermind.
The introduction of Lashana Lynch as a new ‘Double 0’ agent, on the other hand, is one I can’t quite decide on whether I liked or disliked. Having a Black woman portray the new lead agent for M16 does wonders for diversity and representation of the film but in terms of character development, I personally felt that there was something lacking. Perhaps this was because there was no backstory given to her character or the reason why she appeared to have a chip on her shoulder when it came to James Bond. I’d like to think that she didn’t get as much ‘secret agent like’ screen time beyond shooting baddies and assisting Bond because she’ll have much more character development in future films. However, it’s too soon to say.
Speaking of characters, I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Cuban CIA agent, Paloma (Ana de Armas), who stole the show, albeit being on screen for the shortest duration that a Bond girl normally would. Paloma may have only played a brief stint in No Time To Die and didn’t return at the climax nor the end of the film, but she certainly left an impression with her charm and combat skills. Though we don’t know much about her character, which was rather disappointing, the open-endedness of her role leaves me with the hope that we’ll see her return in future films.
Considering No Time To Die is a Bond film, it was surprising that there wasn’t much inclusion of what makes a Bond film a ‘Bond film’. Growing up and watching all the previous films in the series, there were always cool, extravagant and wildly outrageous gadgets in Bond’s arsenal. In this film, all we really got was a watch that could disarm doors and blow people’s minds…literally. Beyond that, we didn’t really get to see Bond utilise anything fancy or just plain cool. We didn’t even get any incredibly wild stunts in the film, other than perhaps a simple car/bike chase through the streets of Matera in Italy during the opening of the film. The only reason I could think of as to why this wasn’t a focus, was because of the film being the ‘last’ and more of a ‘goodbye’ than showcasing Bond’s prowess as a secret agent.
If you know me, you know I like my films to be neatly wrapped up at the end. Whilst the ending of the film was unexpected and a fitting end, the one major issue that I had was the fact that there was a massive secret hinted at throughout the film that never got revealed or answered. By the end of the film, I felt so cheated that my curiosity was not satisfied.
Criticisms aside though, No Time To Die’s focus on emotions instead of explosive, stunt heavy, action really was a fitting end for Craig’s Bond. Despite its flaws, the film cleverly depicted a culmination of everything that made James Bond who he is. From the friendships he’d made over the years, to the trauma that he buried deep inside, this film managed to make me feel for the character in a way no other film in the past could, and what resulted was a poignant and emotional end to a brilliant saga.
Overall, No Time To Die was an enjoyable watch and fans of James Bond will definitely walk away feeling a myriad of feelings, including a sense of loss and questions as to the future.