Review: ‘No Time to Die’

Daniel Craig stars as James Bond, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga.

The newest James Bond adventure begins like a horror movie. 

In a lakeside cabin during the dead of winter, the opening scene introduces a masked intruder (Rami Malek) vowing revenge. He cruelly dispatches a mother before advancing upon her young daughter. The girl flees from the cabin, running across an adjacent frozen lake before the ice begins to crack and the killer advances upon her submerged little body. He raises the gun to shoot. 

Director Cary Joji Fukunaga and his team of writers, including himself, thus establishes a starkly different atmosphere for the latest entry in a long-running secret agent franchise. James Bond (Daniel Craig) is then introduced some years later, somewhere in Italy, where he resides with Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), enjoying to the extent possible his retirement from the British Secret Service. 

It is not a typical retirement, of course. He always keeps his location secret, is always on the move from one place to another, and is always on guard that any one of a number of past villains from his checkered past may resurface at any time or place with the intent to kill him and any bystanders. 

When it happens, then, he is not truly surprised, but he is angry. How would anyone know his present location unless he was betrayed by Madeleine? It’s not unthinkable, he thinks; he’s been betrayed before, even as he makes allusions to his past and we see him visit the grave of his first great love, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) from Casino Royale (2006). 

All this serves as prelude to a moody, menacing, and meditative adventure that, nonetheless, frequently erupts into furious, grand-scale action sequences that burn like a dry meadow on fire. No Time to Die plays like a salute and a farewell to Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond, who has been replaced as 007 in the British Secret Service by Nomi (Lashana Lynch), a lethal weapon who is just as deadly as James Bond, though she still follows the rules of engagement set forth by M (Ralph Fiennes), which pleases him immensely. 

Like James Bond himself, M is even colder and more severe than he has been in past adventures, which fits the new film’s updated worldview precisely. The cold war has been replaced with individual missions that dispatch people in coldhearted fashion. No one is safe. 

No Time to Die spins a complex web of interlocking plotlines that is sometimes difficult to follow, though it ultimately falls back on old-fashioned ideas that individual villains with incomprehensibly twisted motivations still want to rule the world and that dozens of hired minions still want to die to help said villains achieve their nightmare visions of domination. No one survives to get paid even a modest payday, which is one of the distinguishing elements that has always divorced the movies from reality. 

In the James Bond movies, however, fantasy still rules the day. This particular fantasy is notable for the abundance of dark colors in its psychological and visual palette. Daniel Craig is given new layers for his character to deal with and adjust to, and it is quite enjoyable to watch the actor Daniel Craig embolden and deepen his characterization of James Bond. 

As a quiet, soft spoken villain who has long curdled into quiet, spiteful hatred, Rami Malek underplays his character, to little effect. This, too, appears to be part of the grand plan that director Fukunaga chose to pursue in redesigning ‘the James Bond adventure.’ Malek comes across in the role as entirely unpleasant and uncomfortable, which may have been the intention. 

The heroic Daniel Craig is surrounded by quality actors in support, such as Ben Whishaw, Jeffrey Wright and Naomi Harris, who are given more to do than simply snap out witty lines of dialogue. They are tasked with fleshing out their supporting characters with life, depth, and personality. Though they are supporting Craig, Seydoux, Fiennes, and Lynch, they ably do so within snippets of screen time. Ana de Armas supplies a rare breath of fresh comic air, supplemented by her fashionable ability to look great while effortlessly killing countless people. 

Mostly, No Time to Die is a serious, highly-accomplished, and ridiculously mounted dramatic adventure about Serious Things. Ian Fleming might have been confused by it, but this is a picture that is made for the here and now. And it looks undeniably wonderful on the big screen. 

The film opens in Dallas, Fort Worth and surrounding cities on October 8, 2021, via MGM. For more information about the film, visit the official site