No Time to Die is the twenty-fifth film in the James Bond franchise produced by Eon Productions, and the twenty-seventh Bond film overall. Notably, it is also the fifth and final entry in the Daniel Craig starring sub-series of James Bond films that began back in 2006 with Casino Royale. Though No Time to Die can’t quite measure up to some of Craig’s previous Bond efforts, it still manages to provide a fitting conclusion to Craig’s tenure in the iconic role.
Beginning shortly after the events of 2015’s Spectre, No Time to Die sees Bond living a new life with Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), until he is tracked down by Spectre agents. Although Bond escapes the assassins, he believes Madeleine has betrayed him, and they part ways.
Fast forward a few years, and Bond is no longer working for MI6, but the CIA. His MI6 code number of “007” now belongs to a new agent, Nomi (Lashana Lynch), whom Bond inevitably has to work alongside in order to bring down the remaining Spectre agents.
Though someone else is determined to destroy the remnants of Spectre, Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek), an international terrorist with ties to Madeleine’s past. Safin has hijacked a secret lab and kidnapped/bought off one of its scientists, and is now in possession of ‘Project Heracles,’ a nanomachine bioweapon that infects its targets’ DNA. When Bond’s meddling with Spectre puts him in Safin’s sights, the secret agent finds himself on a mission to save the world from Safin’s plot. A mission that reunites Bond with Madeleine.
The plot is familiar territory for Bond films, and a number of key players make their return for Daniel Craig’s farewell as Bond. Ralph Fiennes is back as M, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, Ben Whishaw as Q, and Christoph Waltz makes a comeback as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, after appearing as the iconic villain in Spectre. No Time to Die even brings back Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter, after the character’s absence in both Skyfall and Spectre.
With most of the key players back, it really helps add to the finality of the film. I admit I haven’t seen every James Bond movie, but I don’t think the series necessarily started over every time a new actor took on the role of Bond. As far as my knowledge goes, these Daniel Craig Bond films are the first series within the greater franchise to have a definitive beginning, middle and end. With No Time to Die being the last in this series, the filmmakers have given the film an appropriately melancholic tone throughout.
That’s not to say that it’s all down and depressing. This is very much a James Bond film, and there’s still plenty of entertainment to be had. Some of the action scenes are genuinely exhilarating, and the plot makes some exciting twists and turns.
In a number of ways, No Time to Die not only feels like a respectful sendoff to Daniel Craig’s Bond, but a loving tribute to all things James Bond, past and present. There is a caveat to this, however: both Skyfall and Spectre already kind of did that. And with due respect to No Time to Die, I think those films did it better.
Part of Skyfall’s appeal was that it was released around the 60th anniversary of the James Bond character, and the film celebrated the history of the character throughout. Spectre had a similar reverence for James Bond’s history, but celebrated in a different kind of way. Spectre brought back Blofeld, the recurring primary antagonist in the series, after years and years of legal issues prevented the use of the character, to give Bond his biggest threat. Both films played around with the history of James Bond, while creating entertaining, standalone movies in their own right.
By contrast, No Time to Die feels like the celebration has been going on a little too long. If Skyfall was like the main event, and Spectre was a much appreciated encore, No Time to Die feels like an additional encore that doesn’t have a whole lot to offer that hasn’t already been done. The party’s over, it’s getting late, we’ve got things to do in the morning.
That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate No Time to Die. It is a good movie. But the previous two films already gave Daniel Craig’s Bond two performances that would have made for fitting final acts (in fact, I believe at different points both films were considered the last Craig Bond films). So No Time to Die can at times feel like an epilogue that’s simply going through the motions. It does what it does well, I just think Casino Royale, Skyfall and Spectre did the same things better.
I think a major factor to that is that I just didn’t care for No Time to Die’s villain. Skyfall and Spectre both gave us all-time great Bond villains. The former featured Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva, a physically intimidating foe who could get under Bond’s skin. As mentioned, the latter featured Christoph Waltz’s take on Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who could outsmart Bond and company at every turn.
Rami Malek’s Lyutsifer Safin is a villain of little presence. We’re told he’s a genius, and a dangerous one at that. But with the past few villains we got to actually see them be geniuses and dangerous. We’re seemingly just supposed to accept Safin as James Bond’s greatest foe just because the movie tells us he is.
It probably doesn’t help the matter that Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld has a single scene cameo in the film, and in that one scene proves he’s the superior villain to Safin. I also don’t really understand what Safin’s motivation is. He wants to destroy Spectre out of personal revenge for his father, I get that. But then why does he also want to spread a DNA nanomachine virus across the globe, which is the kind of thing Spectre itself would do?
Though No Time to Die is a good movie, I think it would have been a much better one had the film simply kept Blofeld as the antagonist. For some reason, movies these days don’t have faith in the idea of a returning villain, as if being beaten by the hero once somehow destroys their credibility as the bad guy. There’s an advantage to returning villains in sequels in that we already know who they are and what they’re about, allowing for more time to be dedicated to the current story at hand. And considering this is the last James Bond film in its current incarnation, it would be all the more fitting to have kept Blofeld – the James Bond villain – as the big bad. By having Blofeld as the antagonist in the previous film and now bringing in a new villain out of the blue for the current James Bond’s big sendoff, it actually makes the proceedings feel less important as a result.
So No Time to Die may suffer from its villain scenario, and because it feels like it’s parroting its immediate predecessors too strongly while offering very little of its own. But No Time to Die is a good Bond film in its own right, providing the high quality action and spectacle you’d expect from the series. Though it may not be the best celebration of all things Bond in recent years, it’s still a celebration worth attending for fans of the series. And it gives a fitting farewell to arguably the best Bond since Sean Connery.