All the way back in 2006 (when this critic was just leaving primary school), Craig moulded a grittier edge to Bond while preserving that suited zenith of charm. His epic run embraces a strong, continuous story which – despite all the ludicrous and wonderful action set-pieces – provides the audience with a more human Bond.
This last chapter rounds off that story almost perfectly. And although Craig’s conclusion was always inevitable, its bombastically brilliant acknowledgement in No Time to Die still hurts. This really is goodbye.
Dr Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) and James Bond (Daniel Craig). Photo: EPK/MGM
And it’s a long goodbye as the lengthiest Bond movie ever made, rubbing close to a three-hour runtime. Although at least 15 minutes could’ve been snipped around the edges, the film is so sumptuous that scenes fly by at thrilling speeds.
Within that time, you’re treated with heartbreak, misunderstandings, betrayal, silly gadgets, and excellent dad jokes. The inspired addition of Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag, Killing Eve) to the regular screenwriting team improves the dialogue, filling it with juicy comedic substance. Hopefully, this won't be her last flight with the MI6 assassin.
Rami Malek as Lyutsifer Satin. Photo: EPK/MGM
Since Skyfall, the Bonds have attempted to wrestle back the familiar ingredients of the franchise. A meticulously hilarious Q (Ben Whishaw) is funnier than he’s ever been, and Naomie Harris returns as a more battle-ready Ms Moneypenny. But it’s the fantastical and easily parodic plot directions that resemble the classics the most.
Mr Robot’s Rami Malek plays Lyutsifer Satin, a weedy wannabe dictator intent on cleansing the world via a nanorobotic virus. He’s a supervillain traced and cut from the old days, like Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld before him. Although Satin has broad motivations and a murderous grudge, at the end of the day he's just evil in two dimensions – a wafer-thin antagonist. But director Cary Joji Fukunaga injects enough fear into his scenes to provide a memorable atmosphere whenever he enters a room.
The relationship between Bond and psychiatrist Dr Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) is the most enticing since Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) in Casino Royale. At times, the film turns into a touching romantic drama. Bond lifts his cold, emotionless mask and spills his heart out. Craig's Bond has been building to this for some time, but now he unleashes it. It spells a potentially evolutionary transition for this archetype of ultimate masculinity.
Lashana Lynch as Nomi, the new 007. Photo: EPK/MGM
Lashana Lynch joins the cast as the new 007 of MI6, taking over the position after Bond ‘retired’. Much like the fleeting appearance of the skilful Ana de Armas, who’s only on screen for about five minutes as a CIA operative, there’s not nearly enough of Lynch. But she’s a fierce, funny, and argumentative presence – deservedly taking Bond down a peg or two.
There’s been some conservative worry about Bond turning ‘woke’ as the years drag on, but No Time To Die shows a decent compromise. Bond can still be that smooth-talking ladies' man, but the ladies around him needn't submit. In fact, they often mock his efforts. Maybe this is another sign of an evolving franchise. No Time To Die says goodbye to Craig, but also welcomes a promising future.
No Time to Die is out now in UK cinemas.
|What||No Time to Die review|
30 Sep 21 – 30 Sep 22, IN CINEMAS
|Price||£ determined by cinemas|
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