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No Time to Die: 007’s Stellar Swan Song

He’s got all the time in the world.

After an entire year of multiple delays and postponements, No Time to Die, the 25th film in the beloved James Bond franchise, which sees Daniel Craig return for his fifth and final outing as everyone’s favorite secret agent, has finally arrived. For the most part, director Cary Joji Fukunaga, who helmed and produced the first season of True Detective and co-wrote 2017’s It, successfully delivers the film’s promise, in delivering a fitting swan song for this iteration of the character, in this installment filled with gritty action, human drama, captivating performances from everyone on board, and (surprisingly) witty humor, all of which makes up for yet another enthralling chapter in cinema’s longest franchise ever.

In his long ride as Bond, having played the character since 2006’s Casino Royale, Daniel Craig excels in capturing the humanity and vulnerability found in 007, demonstrating a unique layer of pathos, that has never been seen before, in a character who has long served as the archetypal action hero. And this film is no exception, in what is arguably one of his virtuoso performances, with Craig coming in top form, in his final outing, as he delivers a nuanced portrayal of Bond, who is at this point licking his wounds, and fighting, not just for his life, but to adapt to the times, and walk away from the bleak corners and shadows of his past.

Throughout its 163-minute runtime, Cary Joji Fukunaga helms a narrative that, while not precisely bringing anything woefully new to the franchise’s canvas and falls into some old-school conventions of the franchise and the spy genre for that matter, still makes amends with compelling drama, cleverly-written humor, which adds a thematic balance of light and darkness, mixed with stellar action sequences, the latter of which shines particularly during the prologue, which features impressive stunt work from Craig himself, and expertly-composed cinematography by Linus Sandgren, consisting of long continuous takes, which harkens back to Fukunaga’s True Detective days.

Above all else, No Time to Die sparks brightest when dealing with pathos and drama, as it underscores Bond’s interpersonal relationships and inner demons, with his allies and particularly, his lover, Madeleine Swann. Impressive set pieces and action aside, it is a bittersweet tale of lost love, comradery, redemption, and finding peace with oneself, and thus, the film’s preferred route in going for a character-driven narrative, is what saves it from being deemed a stale or by-the-numbers Bond flick.

Equally fascinating, are the supporting characters, and while Bond’s old allies, Q (Ben Whishaw), M (Ralph Fiennes), and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) return, the spotlight is strongly reserved for the new female players, consisting of Nomi, superbly played by Lashana Lynch, an MI6 agent who becomes the new 007, after Bond’s temporary retirement, and serves as a great addition to the cast, with memorable scenes between her and Bond, who beneath all her stoicism and deadpan wit, displays a subtle and begrudging respect for him. Léa Seydoux returns as Bond’s umpteenth love interest, Madeleine Swann, whose relationship with Bond serves as the emotional centerpiece of the narrative, with their dynamic given more depth and focus, given how half-baked their union was in the previous film, Spectre, with her role and presence allowing Fukunaga to explore Bond’s unresolved trauma, as he vainly seeks to start a happy existence with her.

Finally, Rami Malek emerges out of the shadows as the film’s antagonist Safin, who despite his limited screen time, more than makes up for that with a performance so unnerving and sinister, speaking in a faux-affable, soft-spoken enunciation, filled with malicious intent, whilst carrying a devilish aura in every scene he is in. Granted, his schemes, while far from complex, appropriately increase the stakes in the Craig-Bond era, which allows the audience to feel the necessary gravitas and tension in this final episode and latch themselves on to our heroes.

Final Verdict:


While not the best for either the franchise or Daniel Craig’s tenure as Bond, with the bar having long been raised by 2012’s Skyfall, that doesn’t mean that No Time to Die isn’t a truly worthwhile and greatly rewarding experience for 007 fans. Although it doesn’t fully shake up the formula, it more than outweighs those negatives by striking a solid balance of action, heart, and drama, with an expertly crafted character-driven story, that explores the mind and heart of our super-spy, introduces strong supporting players, and above all else, succeeds in putting Craig’s story to a definitive close, all while leaving the door wide open for countless and unpredictable possibilities. 007 signing off (for now anyways).

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