James Bond (Daniel Craig) has “officially” retired, but of course when his old friend Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) from the CIA shows up, he gets pulled into another mission. A scientist has been kidnapped but the rescue attempt leads Bond to a mysterious new villain called Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek), who has access to a technology that could destroy the world. With the stakes never higher, Bond finds himself turning to some old allies at MI6.
Those who have been following the saga that has been the production of the 25th Bond instalment will be aware that its director duties went to Cary Joji Fukunaga (whose credits include the critically acclaimed first season of ‘True Detective’ and ‘Beasts of No Nation’) after the auteurist Danny Boyle dropped out.
Fukunaga proves a dependable director, not exactly rushing through, but keeping you invested, showing his strengths particularly in the first act. Unfortunately ‘No Time to Die’ leaves plenty of time to die, and you really start to feel the pacing of the longest Bond instalment.
The good news is that ‘No Time to Die’ ticks all the boxes when it comes to fans of the MI6 agent. Naturally, there's some globetrotting, some melodrama, and callbacks to the predecessors of ‘No Time to Die’. There’s heartbreak and romance, as well as action and product placement.
It’s also overtly one of the most self-aware and clichéd of the Bond movies, including such moments as Bond emerging unscathed after a man shoots him three times (while directly in front of him); a ridiculous use of CGI in a motorbike and car chase sequence; the destruction of a local town; losing signals on the comms at a pivotal moment; a pointless sheep intervention; and an absolutely nonsensical floating gadget.
Mind you, there are plenty of awesome moments too, for example, a sequence involving an insanely bulletproof car, a surprisingly aesthetic trail of used cigars, the practical use of a slit dress coupled with heels; and of course there's the villain obsessed with the idea that he’s the same with Bond (and kind of wants to f*** him).
On that note, the Oscar-winning Rami Malek seems to be enjoying playing the villain, and that glee is infectious. It’s a shame his bad guy monologue comes so late in the film, at which point you just want the action to ramp up. Christoph Waltz also impresses as a defeated, incarcerated Blofeld while Ana de Armas, though her role is small, is unforgettable as the cute and shy CIA agent Paloma (in a role very much recalling her turn in ‘Knives Out’). Léa Seydoux emotes the heck out of the feature while Lashana Lynch hits the right notes both in comedy and action. Daniel Craig gives his all for his final outing as 007, and it must be said, he’s never looked more dapper. His wardrobe in this film (including a lovely and practical navy jumper) will become iconic.
Another worthy note about ‘Not Time to Die’ is the contribution of ‘Fleabag’ creator/star Phoebe Waller-Bridge to the screenplay. There are certain humorous moments and lines in the movie that have her name all over them. There are, as aforementioned, an awful lot of clichés and vague attempts to modernise the character but really, for Craig’s swansong, they’re playing it quite safe. As for the running length, one really feels it didn’t need to be so long – a good 30 minutes could have made it to the cutting room floor, cutting the overwrought dialogue down to size. Still, there are few fans of the franchise who will leave ‘No Time to Die’ dissatisfied. It’s the third-best Daniel Craig Bond outing.