No Time To Die (2021) Review
FOUR films and 15 years later, Daniel Craig has reached the end of his expansive journey portraying cinema's most suave secret agent in No Time To Die, a film that gives audiences a reason to care about 007 besides from having a pretty face and expensive suit.
The events of 2015's Spectre resulted in James Bond (Daniel Craig) re-signing from active service. Bond's early retirement is short-lived though as CIA operative and close friend, Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), contacts the former OO agent asking for his aid in tracking down a mysterious adversary bent on world eradication; naturally, Bond accepts, returning to a life that he left behind and has persevered without him.
Ever since Daniel Craig became 007 in Casino Royale, all his movies as Bond have revolved around the agent's story and how each mission - and life taken - affects his psyche, creating a more expansive and relatable character as appose to a blank slate only enhanced by nostalgia for the previously-established franchise. No Time To Die carries this tradition of meaningful storytelling by recalling all of Bond's missions since 2006 and how each film was instrumental to key moments in director Cary Joji Fukunaga's take on the iconic character. Sadly, much of No Time To Die borrows elements from Spectre, arguably the worst film in Craig's Bond pentalogy, leading to humdrum story elements borrowed from the below-average Spectre which, to the movie's credit, don't stick around too long to the point of becoming tedious, playing with the audience's expectations of an explosion-filled romp and completely swerving them to produce a film which features the best character writing and performance for James Bond to date.
Part due to the actor's real-life fatigue of the role, Daniel Craig, ironically, gives his best performance as Bond in No Time To Die, presenting fans a version of the character that is so distraught by his past that it causes him to be utterly-jaded in his future. James Bond has always been a lackadaisical individual; cool, calm, and most importantly, collected. This all changes in his latest adventure as Craig switches out playful one-liners for dispassionate jabs, making the chemistry between him and his former colleagues such as M (Ralph Fiennes), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), and Q (Ben Whisaw) that more enjoyable due to their reactions being more confounded than amusing as they've never encountered a Bond like this before.
A new Bond film always means one thing - new characters. No Time To Die, naturally, introduces three characters to the franchise in the form of Nomi (Lashana Lynch), Paloma (Ana de Armas), and Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek). Nomi steps up to the 007 mantle following Bond's early retirement from the secret service, bringing a refreshing take on the character who plays off Craig's fatigue in humorous quips similar to that of a teacher-student relationship. Despite her limited appearance, Ana de Armas does a wonderful job as the 25th Bond Girl, playing into her rookie role exceptionally-well as she becomes star-struck during a mission with James, all while backing up her confidence with grace and a bit of violence. However, Rami Malek's performance as the over-arcing villain of the film, while very good, was ultimately let down by one of the major reasons Spectre was poorly received - a weak villain. A hero can't be a hero if they don't have an equal villain in terms of threats and personality; it has been a staple for Bond since 1962's Dr. No. In recent years, Bond has failed to provide memorable villains, with Safin being the latest forgettable addition. His motivations are often unclear, speaking in riddles rather than answers for most of the near-3 hour experience, and despite posing a minimal threat that carries more weight, this phycological form of torture is soon taken worldwide in the form of a by-the-numbers weapon of mass destruction, making Safin no more important or worthwhile than any other antagonist in every other summer blockbuster.
No Time To Die brings life to what, in recent years, has become a lifeless franchise, choosing to tell an engrossing story rather than provide monotonous action. Daniel Craig delivers his best performance as the MI6 agent in a film that is a mixture of everything that makes Bond great; captivating action and stunt choreography, beautiful sceneries, and well-developed characters. A fitting send off for Daniel Craig who, for over 15 years, provided audiences dedication, commitment, and memories that will stand the test of time, and if the quality of this film is any indication, the series will be in good hands moving forward. Thank you, Daniel.