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Review: “No Time to Die” wastes no time to thrill

In Daniel Craig’s final iteration of the iconic character, Bond is at his best.

By Matthew Royer, Political News Editor

Daniel Craig stars in 2021's "No Time to Die." (Photo Courtesy of MGM)

Meant to hit theaters 18 months ago, director Cary Joji Fukunaga takes the character of James Bond (Daniel Craig) and elevates him, in both emotion and meaning.

“No Time to Die,” the fifth film to feature Craig as the franchise’s lead and the twenty-fifth to star the character of Bond, starts where the remnants of “Spectre” and “Skyfall” last leave the viewer. While previous knowledge of the films may help in understanding specific motivations for the lead, do not be deterred in buying a ticket if you are new to MGM’s classic brand.

Bond, now retired from MI6 and the insignia of “007,” is off enjoying the life previously not obtainable by a man of his stature. Living with his girlfriend, psychologist Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), the former spy must navigate the murky waters of her past while battling with the demons of his prior escapades. When an ambush in Italy leaves Bond almost grasping for his life, the former MI6 agent spurts back into action navigating a search for the truth between his former agency, the CIA, Spectre and ghosts of Swann’s childhood. This including Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek), a mysterious new adversary looking for revenge against those who made him an orphan.

The film in itself is a swan-song for Craig. In his fifteenth year starring as the character first introduced in 1953 by Ian Fleming, Craig establishes an emotional depth previously not seen by those who have taken the reigns of the brand. By utilizing the witty and heartfelt dialogue crafted by a screenwriting team featuring Emmy-winning “Fleabag” scribe Phoebe Waller-Bridge, as well as Bond-veterans Robert Wade and Neal Purvis, Craig accompanies the viewer on a ride that only a man of his talents could. Take for example a sequence in Cuba between Bond and CIA agent Paloma (Ana de Armas). With writing to lead the moviegoer to believe that Paloma is newer to the craft of espionage, Craig’s Bond chooses to escort and teach the CIA agent on their mission. Although, when certain measures need to be executed, Craig as the actor, lets the writing guide de Armas as the star of the film, allowing Paloma to become a bona fide Bond-level agent in her own right. Craig quite literally, through the screenwriting and his own acting, turns the classic phrase on its head, teaching an old dog new tricks.

Family is a central theme throughout. With Bond never solidifying a core family structure through the twenty-five films in the franchise, the direction of the film makes it known that despite his levels of trust varying on selective timing, the aging spy would like to find what that means for him. Whether it is his friends developed through prior installments, such as Felix Leiter (Jeffery Wright) and Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) or new surprises along the way, Bond must tackle his own doubts and find true meaning behind his motivations.

The film though is not without its faults. The almost three-hour runtime leaves the viewer wishing Fukunaga left more on the cutting room floor; in fact the film has enough material to make two coherent pictures. With the extra material the film does provide, a vision can be sculpted in which one could honor the character of Bond and what the iconic persona has meant to so many, including those who star in the movie.

Instead of asking the viewer to say goodbye to Craig’s version of the beloved character, “No Time to Die” chooses to celebrate and display the possibilities of what can come next. The film said it best: “I'm going to tell you a story about a man. His name was Bond. James Bond.”

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