Review: 'No Time to Die' is a Satisfying End to Daniel Craig's Bond Era
by Alex Billington
October 1, 2021
It's the end of an era. After starring in 5 movies over the last 15 years, English actor Daniel Craig is done with James Bond. No Time To Die is Craig's final Bond outing, his swan song in many ways, as these 5 movies have connected with storylines playing out across each of them. And this final one wraps things up as best it can. Years ago when they rebooted with Casino Royale, Eon Productions decided to try making the new Bond movies with ongoing narratives. Almost every other movie before this era was just a standalone movie: Bond would go off on his important mission, take out the bad guy and save the day; everything would start fresh again with the next movie. Ever since Casino Royale in 2006, Bond has been dealing with the guilt and sadness of losing his great love, Vesper Lynd. And with this fifth movie, they've put themselves in a situation where they have to tie up all the loose ends and usher all these characters to a satisfying end point.
What I've learned over the last 15 years of watching Bond movies is that everyone has a different experience with Bond. Some people grew up watching Sean Connery and prefer his style of Bond movies. Others never enjoyed the old Bond movies and only got into this new series when Casino Royale offered something different. Some people, like me and a few of my friends, are huge fans of all of the original Bond movies, yet recognize that Bond has evolved. The goofy, over-the-top ridiculous Bond of the Roger Moore era is fun, but not something that really works anymore. For me, the Daniel Craig era has been hit or miss - I love Skyfall the most, I enjoy Casino Royale, I don't like Spectre much, and Quantum of Solace is fairly forgettable. But this is just my connection with the series, and everyone has their own experiences with it. Meaning everyone will like or dislike No Time To Die on their own terms, no matter what critics or fans say. Nonetheless, it's definitely better than Spectre, and does its best to introduce new ideas while finishing up with Craig's Bond.
It also seems Eon Productions wanted to explore different evolutions of Bond beyond No Time To Die. For many years, fans have been hoping that they'll cast a Black Bond or a Female Bond next time. It's clear they wanted to try both of those in this movie - Lashana Lynch co-stars as an MI6 agent named Nomi. When the movie begins, Bond is officially "retired" and no longer works for them anymore, so they've replaced him and MI6 has moved on. She plays an important role in the story because she's the asset that they send out instead, and eventually she meets Bond (who she is certainly aware of) and begins working with him for the rest of the movie. This happens very early on and isn't so much of a spoiler, it's part of the synopsis. I quite enjoyed seeing this dynamic, not only as a way to test the waters and see how a new 00 agent could work within a classic Bond movie, but also as a way to challenge the original James. How does he react knowing he's been replaced? Has MI6 changed too much? Can she still handle the pressure & complete the mission?
My initial thoughts at the end of No Time To Die: well, it's no Skyfall, but it's definitely better than Spectre. It's a satisfying finale, for reasons I can't reveal until everyone has seen it. The more I sit with it and think through it, the more satisfied I am. Finally a compelling, complex Bond movie again with intriguing ideas (mainly regarding the characters and MI6). I'm trying to figure out what's going on, who's with who, where it's all leading, what are the implications, how does it play into international politics, and so on. It's a classic Bond movie in many ways – while there isn't as much humor, it's loaded with big sets (one at the end even reminded me of GoldenEye on N64), big stakes, big action, cars galore, guns galore, beautiful locations all over the world, Russians, scientists, mysterious henchmen. My biggest complaint is that I wasn't impressed by Rami Malek's villain, he doesn't amount to much. But everything else was damn good. And I'm already looking forward to rewatching it and seeing how it plays a second time. I think I will it enjoy it just as much.
Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (of Sin Nombre, Jane Eyre, Beasts of No Nation, "True Detective"), this one is a heavy Bond movie drenched in deep emotions. There's much more at stake than can-they-save-the-world-once-again. The screenplay is written by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Cary Joji Fukunaga and Phoebe Waller-Bridge; from a story by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Cary Joji Fukunaga. It's undoubtedly a challenge to deliver a Bond movie that is not only entertaining & exciting & thrilling, but also stays true to the heart and soul of the character, and continues on with the various storylines established in the previous four Daniel Craig movies. They have a lot to deal with, including the shadowy evil organization known as SPECTRE which was rather sloppily re-introduced in the last movie. Thankfully the way the handle this is also quite satisfying, but the next villain in line isn't really that ominous or powerful. As for Bond, they also follow through with his dark emotions as he tries to deal with his love for both Vesper and Madeline Swan.
It goes without saying I don't think everyone will like this movie; some will love it, some will find it boring. It doesn't have the kinetic action that Martin Campbell's two Bonds have (GoldenEye and Casino Royale). And it doesn't have the charm that other Bonds used to have (Craig's Bond is much more suave and serious than charming). But all of that doesn't bother me, at least not as much I thought it might… I was already disappointed by Spectre, which was a reminder that the story needs to be meaningful and intricate or the entire movie feels empty. This time they've added plenty to make No Time To Die feel like a full on MOVIE movie, playing out for a full 2 & 1/2 hours, as Bond traverses the globe and tries to save his friends. It's filled with a spectacularly grand "this is the end" feeling and heartfelt drama that is unquestionably earned after all of these years. There's so much more to talk about, but overall I'm satisfied with this end to the Daniel Craig era – it's a classic Bond movie with added depth, heavy emotions, and the usual save-the-world plot.
After five movies, it doesn't make sense to criticize the type of Bond that Craig is playing. This is not "let's have fun with spies" escapism Bond anymore, this is something much deeper, much darker. It was already established years ago in the first three Craig Bonds, showing us that not only are his romantic interests just as important as his duty to Her Majesty's Secret Service, but this era is so much more realistic than the previous Bond eras. Each of the movies deals with real world politics and implications, a desire to maintain stability while stopping bad things from happening. No Time To Die continues with this balance of realism and spy-ism, and goes exactly where it needs to go. By the end, the actual terror plot isn't really a concern anymore, it's all about Bond and what will he do and how will he get out alive. The choices they make with regards to his character, and all the characters in this one, are bold and clever. It is a step forward for Bond, even if it's not one giant leap, it's much more of a step into the future than the last four movies have made.