No Time to Die

Roguish. Devilishly Handsome. Well-Built. Capable of handling himself. These are the marks of an actor who can step into the shoes of the world’s most famous secret agent and defend that world against nefarious villains, sipping a martini in one hand and a beautiful woman in the other.

In 2005, the world was stunned as English actor Daniel Craig, who until that point had been known for British independent features such as “Layer Cake” (it’s a good ‘un if you haven’t seen it), was announced as the fifth actor to grace the silver screen in the then 21st adventure, “Casino Royale.” The tabloids splashed their pages with nonsense about his poise and posture as Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson gambled on the relatively unknown actor, and it paid off handsomely.

Five films later, Craig turns in his final performance as the famed agent in the franchise’s 25th adventure, Cary Joji Fukunaga’s “No Time to Die,” opening in North American cinemas this Friday.

Bond veterans Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, joined by Fukunaga, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, craft an adventure that matches the tone of Craig’s previous entries in the series. Bond is on his toes; he’s dashing about as explosions try to take him out, women who rather brilliantly aid him; Craig understands his importance to this film. It is nothing without Léa Seydoux, who reprises her role as Madeline Swann from 2015’s “Spectre.” The film cleverly hides its motives within its secrets, a carryover from “Casino Royale” as Bond must figure out the reasons behind the theft of a deadly weapon that threatens the world’s population.

“No Time to Die” is a contextually layered film. Craig gives a more rounded and grounded performance as the scribes, Broccoli, Wilson, and Fukunaga, went to lengths to tell a self-aware story that this is Craig’s final turn, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld is back, sinister as ever, as the story amplifies elements introduced in “Spectre.” Even more ominous is Rami Malek’s Lyutsifer Safin. Though the dangerously quiescent character might suggest that the surface is underwritten or perhaps underperformed, the Bond fan in me appreciated his menacing presence on the screen. At the same time, the critic understands that Safin might not be a Blofeld. He is every bit as dangerous.

Supporting Bond is Lashana Lynch as Nomi. In Bond’s retirement, she’s given his ’00’ number, something the film flirts with cavalierly and certainly plays it tongue-in-cheek. Jeffrey Wright’s Felix Leiter who convinces Bond that he must take another mission is also back, while the home office regulars, Ralph Fiennes as ‘M,’ Ben Whishaw as ‘Q,’ Naomie Harris as Moneypenny work in a tightly knit group to support Bond, an element that the series latched on to in “Skyfall.”  There’s a rather brilliant moment where ‘M’ and Bond stop to discuss the weather as it were on the banks of the River Themes as they sort out the particulars of their problems and a solution.

Making a brief appearance is Ana de Armas’ Paloma, a disarming Bond girl if there ever was one; she knows how to handle herself and is treated as an equal in an exciting and well-executed sequence.

Speaking of, I echo other critics who have mentioned Linus Sandgren’s brilliantly lit cinematography, making an epic out of “No Time to Die.” Whether the wintery depths of the Alps, the sun-drenched Italian Rivera, or the warm sunny beaches of the Caribbean, Sandgren found a convincing way to create an unexpected warmth and deserves Oscar consideration. The cinematography plays into Bond as a character. Gone is the roguish, rough and tumble character who would bulldoze his way through a construction site; here, he plays a calculating and a thinking Bond while understanding the risks and making tough decisions. Hans Zimmer’s score, the first time the maestro has conducted the Bond music, is lush. The music never overpowers; he is every bit the equivalent of David Arnold and Thomas Newman’s scores for the prior Craig entries, accentuating the action while driving the drama.

The film runs 163 minutes. From the opening gun barrel logo to the last bit of end credit, “No Time to Die” trains its Walther PPK and doesn’t stop until the end to holster it. Yes, there’s probably a bit of fluff, but I’d hazard a guess that with Craig standing down, his duty done for Queen and country, EON didn’t want to spread his final outing over two films.

“No Time to Die” does serve a purpose, and Craig is to be commended for making a full-circle arc in his five films, as an actor, and as a character. The story does struggle to balance all of the characters, with Seydoux, de Armas, and Malek getting the bulk of the screentime. In contrast, Lynch’s character was a welcome addition, her function in the film is not as fully realized as it probably could have been.

I can’t stop smiling over Craig’s final turn, as an action film and, as a fully-matured MI6 agent . . . no, a human being with vulnerabilities and frailties, “No Time to Die” reaches deeply into the character and something unique and welcome emerges.

I guess the Bond fan won this one.

  • No Time to Die