Directed by: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Written by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes
Released: November 11, 2021
Grade: B+

No Time to Die

A cool, suave, sophisticated, gizmo-using, cocktail-loving secret agent who can dodge a thousand bullets an hour and extricate himself from any situation.  Secretive, London-based, government officials who work in spacious offices and have unlimited financial resources to pursue any activity or technology.  Villains with non-English accents who are intent on destroying the world and supported by a small army of unexplained henchmen.  A screenplay spread across several international locations that features car chases, gun battles, fist fights, and elaborate opening credits backed by a cool new music number.

The formula has been tweaked slightly over the past half-century (less misogyny, more equality) but for the most part, the producers stick to what works and the public keep turning up.  All five of the Daniel Craig helmed Bond flicks, including No Time to Die, have grossed more than $500 million USD at the global box-office.  One could argue this Bond film is as important as ever because, given the 18-month delay in its release due to COVID-19, struggling cinemas will be keen to see audiences return and revenues boosted.

For the most part, No Time to Die is a textbook James Bond movie.  Our beloved hero, played for the final time by Craig, is blissfully enjoying his retirement in idyllic Jamacia.  That is until an old friend (Wright) tracks him down and asks for assistance in locating a kidnapped scientist who had been working on an “off the books” government-developed viral weapon that has now fallen into the wrong hands.

It’ll help if you’ve seen Spectre, the most-recent Bond release from 2015, to fully appreciate the backstory of the baddies, headlined by Christoph Waltz, and the love interests, led by Léa Seydoux.  The key additions this time around are a new agent played by Lashana Lynch (Captain Marvel), a charismatic, scene-stealing rookie played by Ana de Armas (Knives Out), and a villain played by Oscar-winner Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody).  The motivations of the later are somewhat flimsy but I’ll give the writers credit for formulating a creative, semi-realistic plan.

What elevates this above a standard action movie is the direction of Cary Joji Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation) who infuses the film with memorable set pieces and a distinctive style.  This is illustrated early on with an intense car chase involving a bullet-proof Aston Martin weaving through the narrow streets of Matera, Italy.  That in itself is fun but the best part of the scene is when the car isn’t moving – the moment where Bond, always one step ahead of his adversaries, is happy to take sustained machine gun fire while patiently planning his counterattack.

Comfortably pulling their weight are cinematographer Linus Sandgren (La La Land) and editors Tom Cross (Whiplash) and Elliot Graham (Milk).  They’ve found some great camera angles and don’t fall into the trap of over-editing the action.  The occasional use of long takes, particularly with regards to the one-on-one fighting, gives these sequences a heightened force and credibility.

Star Daniel Craig tore cartilage in his right shoulder making Quantum of Solace, ruptured his calf muscles in Skyfall, and broke his leg during the filming of Spectre.  He didn’t escape this time either.  The “perfectionist” Craig injured his ankle while shooting scenes in Jamacia and minor surgery was required.  It’s hard not to be impressed by the passionate physicality he brings to the role (he’s been such a great Bond).  It’s also easy to understand why the 53-year-old is happy to hand in his “007” badge and look for roles with less chance of hurt!

It was pushing my attention span at 163 minutes (the longest Bond film ever made) but No Time to Die is a fitting end for this chapter.  The James Bond franchise is as loved and as popular as ever.  I’m intrigued to see where it goes next…