Time weighs heavily on James Bond in Daniel Craig’s final outing.
No Time To Die, the 25th film in the beloved James Bond franchise, had quite the tortuous road to cinemas, as reported in several posts here on Out Of Dave’s Head: the hiring and departure of director and writer Danny Boyle and John Hodge, replaced by Cary Joji Fukunaga and long-time Bond scribes Neil Purvis and Robert Wade (with the later addition of Phoebe Waller-Bridge), and then the little matter of a worldwide pandemic, saw Bond 25 shift from it’s original release date of November 2019 several times until it’s eventual release this week.
So it’s pleasing to report that the finished production shows little of the troubled path taken by its long development. No Time To Die is a fine addition to the long-running series, and a superb send-off for the Daniel Craig era.
Opening with the first ever flashback sequence seen in a Bond film, the first indication of time’s conceptual importance here and the closest Bond has ever come to horror, the story then shifts to pick up almost where the previous entry, Spectre, left off: with Bond and Léa Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann driving off into the sunset for a life of bliss. But fate (and the scriptwriters) have other plans for the couple as both of their pasts catch up with them in a fantastic action sequence through the streets of Maltera, Italy.
Five years later and Bond and Swann are in very different places, but the past refuses to die, bringing together a plot to eradicate large portions of the population of the world, with many of the characters who have featured in Craig’s Bond’s narrative, from Casino Royale onwards.
The film is not without its faults, the twin villain strands detract from each other, leaving Rami Malek’s terrorist Lyutsifer Safin curiously underdeveloped, the editing often feels like sequences have been cut too short (particularly affecting Malek’s character in the climax), and Lashana Lynch’s much heralded new 007, Nomi, is something of a characterless let-down and a creative dead end.
But No Time To Die is excitingly directed by Fukungawa, with some genuinely breathtaking sequences and it all moves at a great pace (despite a little wavering in the middle third). The film’s secret weapon, Ana de Armas, is a delight and a joy, playing against the character’s initial impression to become one of the highlights in a sequence set in Cuba that manages to be both a throwback to the classic Bond elements of charm and style while simultaneously updating those elements with humour and panache. The campaign for her character, Paloma, to get her own spin-off movie, officially starts here!
Everything leads towards an ending which, though somewhat messy in execution, has a huge emotional pay-off, something that hasn’t really been achieved in a Bond film since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, in 1969. It’s a massively bold choice for Bond and one for which the makers should be applauded. To say I was in tears would be an understatement.
Mention of George Lazenby’s only outing as Ian Fleming’s character is entirely appropriate, as that film is quite deliberately echoed both in one of the film’s thematic conceits and indeed in reprising John Barry’s song, We Have All The Time In The World. Long time Bond fans will appreciate the callback and newbies will immediately recognise the weight it gives to No Time To Die‘s story.
Craig’s Tom Ford boots are going to be difficult to fill, as both he and the producers caught the zeitgeist, with Craig playing against the archetype to make Bond a deeper, richer and more human character. His unconventionally handsome, rock-face features and pugnacious interpretation of Bond will be greatly missed. But his time in the role has been rightly celebrated in his imperfect but courageous final outing, proving that the Bond franchise still has the ability to surprise, after all this time.
Following the film’s emotional denouement, it was indeed something of a relief, for those of us who stayed in the cinema to watch the credits roll, to read the familiar final caption: James Bond Will Return.