Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Cast: Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Rory Kinnear, Ana de Armas, Dali Benssalah, David Dencik, Billy Magnussen
Runtime: 2 hrs 43 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence and Coarse Language)
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 30 September 2021
Synopsis: In No Time To Die, Bond has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. His peace is short-lived when his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA turns up asking for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.
Fifteen years after he first donned the tuxedo and inhabited a character that is arguably the most enduring movie persona over the last half-century, Daniel Craig returns for his fifth and final turn as the licensed-to-kill MI6 agent. Following in the shoes of Pierce Brosnan, Craig redefined James Bond to ensure that he could be both relevant and relatable, investing the trademark 007 with grit and gravitas, a scrapper with a soul, and perfectly attuned for the 21st century. As brooding as it was, ‘Spectre’, Sam Mendes’ follow-up to his franchise-high entry ‘Skyfall’, would ultimately have been a disappointing ending for Craig had it been his last, so kudos to longtime producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli for deciding to give their hugely popular leading man a more honorable sendoff.
‘No Time to Die’ knows it is intended as farewell for Craig, and is perfectly comfortable being just that. It starts off with Bond in retirement mode, first enjoying a vacation in the beautiful Italian city of Matera with psychiatrist Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), and after being ambushed by Spectre agents, going into seclusion in Jamaica on his own. It has numerous references to the four earlier Bond movies which preceded it, including his lost love Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) from ‘Quantum of Solace’, his arch nemesis Ernest Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) from ‘Spectre’, and even a full roster of fellow MI6 colleagues M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Tanner (Rory Kinnear) as well as an old CIA friend Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright). It even pays tribute to previous classic Bond movies, most notably ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ in which John Barry’s ‘We Have All the Time in the World’ debuted (spoiler alert: that’s the tune to which the end credits toll to), and even finds material in the Ian Fleming novels that has never been used before.
As conceived by Bond veterans Neal Purvis and Robert Wade with first-time franchise helmer Cary Joji Fukunaga (of ‘True Detective’ fame), the plotting is intricate without ever being convoluted, or needlessly complicated as some (of undoubtedly simpler minds) have commented. Like the earlier films, this latest is built along similar themes of trust, betrayal, secrets, lies and shadows from the past. So without giving too much away, let’s just say that Madeleine is somehow connected not only to Spectre but also to the new criminal mastermind Safin (Rami Malek), and that the threat here lies with a revolutionary bioweapon codenamed Project Heracles, which was developed by no less than British intelligence to protect their agents from enemies operating in the ether. Certainly, there are a number of twists and turns before these truths are unveiled, but Fukunaga maintains a tight and confident rein on the storytelling from start to finish.
Those who have kept pace with this entry’s own real-life twists and turns in the six years since ‘Spectre’ it took to make it onto the big screen will recall that Fukunaga was called in to replace former hire Danny Boyle after the latter departed due to ‘creative differences’; yet, without any prejudice to Boyle, we dare say we are delighted the American filmmaker got to step in. Demonstrating the same intuitiveness as his previous projects, Fukunaga brings a heretofore unseen humanity and even vulnerability to Bond, whether in the form of a compelling love story with Madeleine or even simply the affection between Bond and Q or Moneypenny; most impressive is the operatic tragedy he orchestrates in the third act, culminating in a stunningly emotional finale that is probably the most poignant in the entire Bond canon.
That ‘No Time to Die’ proves to be a first-rate Bond film is also credit to Fukunaga’s mastery of the other fundamental elements. The action here is splendid, combining intense chase sequences with savage gunfights across fascinating locations in Italy, Jamaica, Norway and the Faroe Islands. The exposition is likewise sharp, with spot-on observations of the dysfunction in global politics and the resultant fracture in Western intelligence that leads to concealment than collaboration. And last but not least, the dialogue is razor witty, in no small measure due to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s ‘script polish’ contributions that lend not just Craig some genuinely inspired one-liners but also sparkling chemistry with his co-stars Ana de Armas (as a feisty CIA agent Bond teams up with in Cuba) and Lashana Lynch (as the female agent designated with the 007 codename after Bond’s official retirement).
Indeed, ‘No Time to Die’ is one of the finest Bond movies ever made, a perfect blend of class, finesse, soul, ambition and aplomb. We’re not saying this because we feel nostalgic already for Craig, but rather as an objective appreciation of its achievement, mixing the familiar with the fresh to create a supremely exciting spy thriller that reinvigorates the franchise in more ways than one. But what makes it even more special is how glorious it is as a valedictory film for Craig, who in turn brings emotion, power and style to the role like no other actor has done. Yes, every generation has its defining Bond, and we’re proud that Craig has come to do so for those of us who have lived through the turn of the century. Like the closing song that will stay with you long after the credits roll: if that’s all we have, you will find… we need nothing more.
(A perfect sendoff for a Bond that had grit and gravitas in equal measure, 'No Time to Die' is one of the finest Bond films ever made, packed with intrigue, action, wit and surprising emotion)
Review by Gabriel Chong