No Time to Die (2021)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

He didn’t have time to show off the tuxedo, he hadn’t even had time to order the martini, shaken not stirred. But the tabloids had already devoured and disqualified him completely. When in 2005 the world received the news from Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson that Daniel Craig would be the sixth actor to play the legendary James Bond, hatred made its entrance and hours later everyone said it was one of the worst decisions by the producers. Now, 15 years after his first film and with the premiere of No Time to Die (2021), the fifth and last of the Craig era, the Briton says goodbye as the best actor who has given life to agent 007.

When Casino Royale premiered in 2006 the franchise made an immediate statement. The pre-titles sequence was enough to know that we were facing a different Bond. Craig left us one of the best performances in the character’s history, and in that process, director Martin Campbell conceived the best film to date in the franchise of the agent who Ian Fleming imagined. It would be a before and after Casino Royale, for better and for worse. The bar was raised very high, and the new benchmark would be a challenge for productions to come. The detractors had to swallow every word and the world was once again in awe of Mr. Bond’s charms.

Not your parents Bond

The first thing the Craig did was to demystify the 007. The invincible aura was snatched away from him and the shield that covered his feelings was smashed. We witness a Bond whose impeccable suit is torn, who bleeds profusely, who gets emotionally involved and to that same extent gets his heart broken. But all that worked very well. First to adapt the character to modern times and second to give him a depth that they had never wanted to show us.

Daniel Craig, with an impressive physique, dazzled many and made others sigh and at the same time made the display of agility on the screen credible. But where Craig really transcended was in making the relevant character beyond the Walther PPK, the martinis, the tuxedo, the bond girls, the exotic places, and the Aston Martin. We cared for Bond for what he was when he was not in His Majesty’s service. The man behind the suit became more important than the figure who undertook the suicide mission to save the world.

Even if the most puritans refuse to see Bond saddened by a lost love or subjected to the breaking point by the villain of the moment, the Craig period was necessary, and the franchise must always be grateful that Craig helped build the bridge to connect with the new generations and threshed a new path for agent 007.

No Time to Die

The saga of Daniel Criag as James Bond is undoubtedly the most tragic in the history of the franchise. Although the films have the definitive stamp of action and adventure that is trademark of the house, tragedy and loss is the common factor in all of them. Since the bitter departure of Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) in Casino Royale (2006) everything was slowly falling apart, the apparent victories of 007 against its opponents were hiding the losses that were accumulating. Before reaching these Craig’s movies only in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) we had seen Bond really lose something precious.

No Time to Die confirms that the path that Craig traveled under the 007 insignia was a true ordeal. The audience found satisfaction in the spectacular missions and the impressive skill with which he managed to get out the front door. Even in the darkest hour like when we saw him in Skyfall (2012) facing his past and losing the only mother figure he had, we left the room thinking that Bond had triumphed once more when in fact Bond had lost once more, and he had lost a lot.

In the present James Bond has left the service and is living a new phase retired from the hectic life that represented being a member of MI-6. We meet him in Matera, Italy in the company of Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux). Bond and Madeleine seem willing to leave the past behind and start a new life together, but first James must pay a visit to Vesper Lynd’s grave and here the trouble begins. Bond miraculously escapes death and immediately begins a frantic race through the narrow streets of the remote Italian city. Director Cary Joji Fukunaga (Sin Nombre, Beasts of No Nation) shows his credentials and with that first masterful action sequence he prepares us for one of the most intense adventures of 007.

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are the usual suspects in the script. Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag, Killing Eve) and the director himself accompany them in the creation of the story. The structure of the narrative is uneven, and while it offers plenty of ground for Craig to appear as an actor by sifting through the darkest and most sensitive parts of Bond, it leaves loose ends in the timeline of some of the characters. The action moves the story and not the other way around, which makes some creative decisions to solve the problems posed by the script seem whimsical and even naive. Some of the bumps are covered by flawless action sequences and others by Craig’s powerful performance and on-screen presence.

There’s no Bond without a Villain

Bond would be meaningless without his villains. Those masterminds who pull the strings from the shadows and who always have a macabre plan to take over the world. This time it’s up to Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody, The Little Things) to play Safin, a crucial past figure of Bond’s romantic interest who has a connection to the criminal organization SPECTRE. The expectation that is created to build the figure of Safin is effective, but when its purpose is revealed, and it is actively introduced in the story its impact is not so strong. Malek is convincing in the skin of the ruthless antagonist, however, his motives do not have the strength that the story intends.

Another fundamental element in Bond’s crusades is his team, it would be impossible to defeat all those evildoers by himself. Old allies like Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) reappear and a new Agent 00, Nomi (Lashana Lynch) joins the adventure to help Bond. Lynch contributes little in his intervention. With fewer minutes on screen Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, Knives Out) as agent Paloma, in the sequence in Cuba, impacts more.

No Time to Die is clothed with an aura of sunset from the beginning, like a Greek tragedy we can smell fatality and it seems to inevitably weigh on the characters. With each step of Bond, we feel that a farewell letter from Craig is written that is accentuated with the final sequence with a deployment first at the interpretation level and second at the execution level of the character showing his entire arsenal and ability to eliminate the bad boys. The final minutes are devoted to a fast-paced sequence that elevates 007 to the highest pedestal. Once the climax has been reached, nothing prepares us for the final blow and the most daring move in the character’s history.

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