Daniel Craig once said to the producers of the James Bond franchise, “I don’t do impressions”. Craig, at this point in his career, a successful character actor who had worked with Hollywood legends like Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Angelina Jolie, Paul Newman, refused to give in to the, already at the time, the tired formula for Bond.
Having cut his teeth on stage and deeply enjoys the collaborative process of filmmaking, Craig spearheaded a much-needed change to the aging spy. Craig would ask what’s the point if you don’t demand the best of the story and the filmmakers. And, he would proceed to create a very human James Bond. No longer, the character from a pulpy series of books, but a fully three-dimensional character.
And, with the arrival of Cary Joji Fukanaga’s No Time To Die, the 25th film in the James Bond Franchise, 15 years after saying he can’t do impressions, Daniel Craig is exiting the franchise.
And does so with an actor’s movie by every definition.
No Time To Die, was some of Craig’s best acting, not only in the role of James Bond but in his career. Léa Seydoux returns as Madeleine Swan (one of only two women to do so in the 59 years of the franchise) and is every bit as strong in her performance as Craig. When she would have to carry a significant weight of the script on her more than capable shoulders.
Rami Malek playing the brilliantly named villain, Lyutsifer Safin seemingly channels Joseph Wiseman’s Dr. No in his portrayal and creates a villain that will stand the test of time in this franchise.
Ana de Armas’s CIA agent Paloma and Lashana Lynch’s Nomi, the new 007, are standouts in a cast that’s actually so bloated, it’s almost a detriment to this movie as some of the best characters from the past fifteen years do suffer from what feels like a rush job despite the 163-minute runtime.
That being said, No Time To Die is a spectacular blend of action and drama as Cary Joji Fukunaga steps into the director’s chair. Favoring long shots, both in frame and length, Fukunaga has balanced his tone and pacing that No Time To Die serves as both a tribute to past Bond films going back to the Connery era as much as it is a modern action film.
But that’s not what No Time To Die is about, ultimately. This isn’t about going out with a bang or outdoing what’s previously come. What Fukunaga and the writers, Neil Purvis, Robert Wade, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge have done is create a film that, for the first time in the franchise, tie up a five-film continuing narrative about trauma, pain, and family. And ultimately, No Time To Die, and Daniel Craig’s final bow is the most personal look at the character of James Bond.
And doing that, Fukunaga and Craig have left the next Bond and his filmmakers a very, very, large set of shoes to fill. Four and a half stars out of five.