The Movie Guru: “No Time to Die” an epic goodbye to Daniel Craig’s Bond
Grade: Three and a half stars
It’s hard to say goodbye. It’s even harder to do something new with a nearly 60-year-old character.
“No Time to Die,” the latest entry in the James Bond franchise, manages to do both. Opening in theaters this weekend after a two-year delay, the movie rewards fans’ long wait with an intense, emotional final bow for Daniel Craig’s Bond. It ties together threads reaching all the way back to Craig’s first outing, 2006’s “Casino Royale,” while deftly unending some of the character’s most well-known cliches. With all that there are a few elements that do get shoved to the side, but overall it’s a fitting, hopefully game-changing entry in an iconic series.
After an opening stemming directly from 2015’s “Spectre,” the movie jumps ahead in time to Bond’s island retirement. Even though Ralph Fiennes’ M would rather he stay retired, a contact from an old friend drags him back into a mission that is far more dangerous than it first seems. As the stakes climb and ghosts from the past rise up, Bond faces his biggest challenge yet.
Though what I’ve told you seems like a boilerplate plotline, it’s all the parts I can’t tell you about that are the most interesting. The movie neatly upends a few of the most fundamental cliches of the Bond universe, not drawing attention to itself but restructuring everything in the process. It’s a breath of fresh air without losing anything that makes Bond truly great, and I hope that the series will continue along those lines as it moves into the future.
One thing it definitely won’t be moving on with though, is Craig. “No Time to Die” is the actor’s final performance in the role, and he marks the occasion by offering up a deeper, more nuanced version of Bond than we’ve ever seen. Though he’s just as talented as he’s ever been, this Bond is also painfully human. He has to wrestle with regrets, assess priorities in a way he never has before, and be more emotionally honest than we’ve ever seen him. Thankfully, the script gives Craig plenty of opportunities to flex this Bond to the fullest.
For those who might be worried, there’s also plenty of action and tense moments. This adventure is just as dangerous as anything Bond has ever faced, if not more so, and there are plenty of moments where I was on the edge of my seat. There were also a few moments where a stunt was so spectacular I lost my breath, with cinematography that gave those scenes a chance to shine.
With all of that happening, there are a few things that get shoved to the side. Rami Malek is appropriately menacing as the new villain, but he doesn’t even get to be in the same room with Bond until the final third of the movie. Favorite supporting characters like Q and Moneypenny also don’t get time to do nearly enough, but they’re a welcome sight every moment they’re onscreen. Lashana Lynch is fantastic as the new 007, but the movie also doesn’t give her nearly as much to do as it should.
Still, “No Time to Die” is the kind of movie that deserves to be called epic in every sense of the word. If you care at all about Craig’s Bond, don’t miss this opportunity to say goodbye.
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.