no time to die
director: Cary Joji Fukunaga (beasts of no nation, jane eyre)
starring: daniel craig, rami malek, lea seydoux and ana de armas
REVIEWERs: rainer macalister
James Bond has left active service. His peace is short-lived when Felix Leiter, an old friend from the CIA, turns up asking for help, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.
I went into No Time To Die with one big question. Could it top Skyfall as the best film of Daniel Craig's Bond tenure?
I hoped it would be, and that therefore it would be a fitting end Craig's reign. And as the credits rolled and I was sitting in my seat revelling in what I'd just seen, my answer was a resounding yes.
James Bond is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica after leaving active service. However, his peace is short-lived as his old CIA friend, Felix Leiter, shows up and asks for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond on the trail of a mysterious villain who's armed with a dangerous new technology.
The opening chase scene sets the tone for a film which packs in the action while still leaving room for tender moments and the main character's development.
I say the main character's, because nobody else really gets the time they deserve. Rami Malek's turn as the latest continental villain was a big drawcard for this film, but he wasn't given the time to be anything more than a two-dimensional cliche. Ana de Armas sparkles as CIA agent Paloma, but is underusued.
But this is film was all about the finale for Craig's reimagined Bond, and boy did it deliver on that front. Creating the grittier Bond required abandoning some of the accepted 007 tropes earlier in this series of films. The attempt to pack them back in to the finale was obvious, but done perfectly.
There were more gadgets than ever, without entirely abandoning the restraint shown by Ben Whishaw's Q. While in Casino Royale Bond famously couldn't give a damn if his martini was shaken or stirred, the classic line has, with little fanfare, made its way back. As usual the film brings new beautiful women into the hero's life, but do they end up in his bed as reliably as before? You'll need to watch to find out the answer to that one.
There's also more humour in this outing, without becoming silly or detracting from the more serious persona Craig has given the character. The humour is not surprising of course, given the addition of Emmy-winning comedy writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge to the writing staff.
Her influence on those is clear - there's more of them, they're generally better and there's a hint of quirkiness her fans will appreciate. But it would be unfair to boil down her contribution to the jokes, or to the strong female characters she undoubtedly contributed to. The entire script, especially the dialogue, feels tighter and more modern.
This is not a perfect film. After having more time to reflect on it, Skyfall is probably better. Maybe Casino Royale too. But none of that mattered when I was watching it. I couldn't have asked for a better send-off for Daniel Craig, or a better finale to the story arc that his Bond films have been.
With bone shaking action and the most emotional moments seen in any Bond film, No Time To Die is the perfect finale for Craig's magnificent reign as 007.