NO TIME TO DIE review

by Taylor T. Carlson



NO TIME TO DIE is the 25th film in the official EON Productions James Bond franchise, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga. The film stars Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas, Rory Kinnear, Rami Malek, Lea Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Billy Magnussen, and Ralph Fiennes.


Following the events of SPECTRE, James Bond had hoped to live a peaceful life with the daughter of his former nemesis, Mr. White, who he had fallen for, upon putting his foster brother and SPECTRE mastermind Ernst Stavro Blofeld behind bars. But things don't go as planned, with Bond ending their relationship following several unfortunate events. Five years later, Bond finds his old service number reassigned and himself back in action when deadly nanotechnology that was developed to help the British government's agents falls into the wrong hands, with a sadistic villain planning to use it around the world for his own ends.


While I was initially skeptical to the casing of Daniel Craig as James Bond, the man has won me over, finding the perfect balance between Sean Connery's charisma and likability, and Timothy Dalton's colder truer-to-the-Fleming-novels version of Bond. This is his fifth and final outing as Commander Bond, and NO TIME TO DIE tries to give Craig's take on the character a proper send-off with an action-adventure experience of global proportions. It also tries to do a lot of other things.... and comes up flat in many departments. The movie wants to have it all and do everything.... and that run time of nearly three hours leaves surprisingly few lasting memories.


I can't say enough good things about Daniel Craig's casting, giving Bond a gritty side but also a sense of humanity many older incarnations of the character were lacking in. Gone is the camp that hounded many of the older series' more forgettable entries, and I can't say that I miss that too much. I appreciate the way NO TIME TO DIE tries to bring Craig's incarnation of the character full circle, with the character coming to terms with his older age and responsibilities, while inevitably trying to do his part to save the world. The chemistry he has with Lea Seydoux in their scenes together stands as one of the movie's strongest elements, and Craig is able to play well off of nearly everyone else in the movie. His scenes with M and Q are as strong as ever, and it's almost a shame it's the last time we'll see these versions of the characters interact with one another.


Another shining light is the film's musical score, this time around by film score legend Hans Zimmer. How this guy never worked on the Bond franchise before is a mystery to me, because this is easily the best Bond score since John Barry (RIP) sat in the composer's chair. He even incorporates some of Barry's more unappreciated and underrated motifs into his score, making for some great sounds through the film. He's one of NO TIME TO DIE's greatest assets. The opening credits theme song by Billie Eilish isn't half bad, either.


Sadly, NO TIME TO DIE is lacking in nearly every other area. It seems like nearly every James Bond film has at least one classic scene, piece of tech or gadgetry, or scenery or location that sticks in the minds of fans long after they've seen the movies. Despite a running time that needlessly nears the three hour mark (with one exception, each Craig Bond film replaced the one before it as the one with the longest run time in the entire series) very little sticks in my mind after seeing the film. The action is bland. Attempts to go back to the classic globetrotting and gadget use fall flat. And perhaps worst of all, Rami Malek (who so brilliantly played Freddie Mercury in BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY) is wasted as a forgettable villain who's got nothing on the Bond antagonists of old, or even the ones of some of the most recent films in the series.


SPECTRE expected fans to swallow some pretty heavy retcons, with that organization supposedly the masterminds behind all the previous villains/villain groups in the prior three Craig Bond movies, despite no hints as to that whatsoever in their respective films. NO TIME TO DIE expects even more of its viewers, wanting them to believe that, despite SPECTRE being such an enigmatic, huge, and powerful organization, it can be easily decimated by ANOTHER group/villain we've never heard of that mysteriously comes out of nowhere. When the series can't decide what to do with its villains, fans scratch their heads in confusion. Myself included.


What's most disappointing here is the retread of past plot points from older movies. An ongoing and constantly rehashed element is Bond either being thought dead, held prisoner, or retiring from the service, only to come back. It's not a fresh plot point anymore.... so why has it happened no fewer than three times in the Craig movies alone? The movie even descends further down the rabbit hole of cinema cliches by making a major plot point the villain coming into possession of lethal technology being developed by the British Government to use to aid their agents being turned against people by a villain. When a governmental body invents something like this in a movie, you know it's going to fall into the wrong hands. I love James Bond, but you can't help but feel like the writers here were running out of ideas.


There's no sense of urgency whatsoever. When major named characters meet tragic moments and these carry next to no dramatic weight, you know something's wrong. Furthermore, the movie introduces many interesting elements and characters, including a witty femme fatale played by Craig's KNIVES OUT co-star Ana de Armas who's every bit Bond's match and gets some great quips and action scenes.... only to be cast aside and not heard from for the rest of the movie. Meanwhile, the movie tries to thrust upon us a woman who's the new assignee of the 007 callsign (no doubt in a futile attempt to appeal to the "woke" crowd), who's nowhere near as interesting and has no chemistry with Mr. Bond whatsoever.


James Bond will return. That's as inevitable as death and taxes. But what will this film franchise have in store for our favorite 00 agent next? After SKYFALL the series entered, well.... a fall. Daniel Craig portrayed this character well but always got hit-and-miss material to work with like many of his predecessors. It's time to pass the torch once again. In the meantime, NO TIME TO DIE will be best enjoyed as an eventual streaming/home video title (though you likely won't miss much if you go the theaters and have to take a bathroom break). Moderately recommended for fans, but don't expect another CASINO ROYALE or SKYFALL.