Review: 'No Time To Die' A Smashing Swan Song for Daniel Craig's 007

by Jason Southerland

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday December 21, 2021

Daniel Craig as 007 in 'No Time To Die'
Daniel Craig as 007 in 'No Time To Die'  (Source:UA/MGM)

With a knowing wink and a self-aware nod, the James Bond of the past fifteen years bids farewell to a world altered by social justice and the #MeToo movement. This should come as no surprise.

Two facts made this evolution abundantly clear: Daniel Craig nearly retired after the last Bond movie and, more importantly, insisted on bringing in Phoebe Waller Bridge as co-writer to add humor and sensitivity — as well as a stronger voice for strong women — for this final installment of Daniel Craig's James Bond.

It's a perfect farewell. "No Time to Die" blends the panache of the James Bond franchise, the sensitivity and anguish of Daniel Craig's interpretation of the world's most famous spy, the emotional connection and moral ambiguity of the best Avengers movies, and a healthy dose of humanity that has sometimes been lacking in previous Bond outings.

The story picks up elements of "Casino Royale" and "Spectre" to help conclude the Daniel Craig cycle — his is the first Bond to create a through-line of character development from film to film. But where "Spectre" failed to connect or tell us anything new about this James Bond, "No Time to Die" is packed with revelations that underpin the climax and resolution of the character's arc.

The action and stunt set pieces are top-notch Bond: They delight with how unbelievable, yet authentic and cool, they are. The technology and the cars are just as cool. The plot and the location of the final conflict gives a nod to "Dr. No," and there's a shot in the midst of Cary Joni Fukunaga's film that evokes the classic opening credits moment where Bond stands inside an eye and shoots straight towards the audience. It's a subtle and stark moment.

But the real revelation of this film is the relationship with Dr. Madeleine Swann (played with understated emotion by Léa Seydoux), a psychiatrist Bond first met in "Spectre." "No Time to Die" has a prologue set five years before the main plot. Swann and Bond are deep in a romantic relationship, his first since Vesper Lynd betrayed him and died in "Casino Royale." Swann encourages Bond to let go of his past, but in doing so sets off a chain of events that leaves him believing she, too, has betrayed him, and he disappears into retirement and oblivion.

For a movie that's full of excess, the performances from our "regular supporting cast" are remarkably restrained. Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, and Ralph Fiennes (as Q, Moneypenny, and M) deepen their relationship with the Bond character. When the movie picks up five years later, Bond hasn't been seen by his team since he disappeared, and he's presumed dead. His 007 moniker has been handed over to Nomi (a supercool Lashana Lynch), who is aware of the brand she inherited and is determined to make it her own. When Bond's old friend and CIA counterpart, Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), tracks him down and asks him to help on a case, Bond comes into direct conflict with British intelligence and the new 007. "What, you thought they'd retire the number?" Nomi quips when she and Bond meet in M's office.

"No Time to Die" is so overstuffed that it has two villains: Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) has been a fixture in the Bond villain gallery across many decades and films. He initiates the conflict at the heart of the movie, but is bested by Rami Malek's cold and calculating Lyutsifer Safin. His plot to destroy the world evokes some of the best and most ridiculous Bond movies, but his performance is far from a mustache-twirling villain. While his choices don't always make sense, his commitment and clarity of purpose do.

By the time the final set piece of "No Time to Die" concludes, the question of heroes and villains has become as muddy as whether a new actor will take up the role of James Bond. Perhaps that will be decided by the box office and critical feedback.

One thing is certain: The outstanding script — co-authored by longtime Bond writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade and the 21st century talents of Fukunaga and Waller-Bridge — has forever transformed the 007 franchise. As the world bids farewell to Daniel Craig's brooding and internally conflicted Bond, "No Time to Die" provides a sweet and sanguine send off.

"No Time to Die" is available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray™ and DVD Collector's Editions on December 21, 2021