“No Time to Die” (2021) Review

007 is fun again.

Throughout Daniel Craig’s tenure as the U.K.’s top agent, the Bond character has been stuck in the era paradigm of overly serious and dark intonation. That doesn’t mean they aren’t or can’t be good films. But Daniel Craig’s Bond has had the MO of damaged goods surrounded by constant heartbreak, and there are only so many ways to use that character narrative in fresh ways.

I personally enjoyed elements of the previous installment, “Spectre,” but it was a mostly forgettable film in league with the Craig era’s worst film, “Quantum of Solace,” for reasons partially outlined above. For being the most recognizable clandestine intellectual property and bearing somewhere in the ballpark of a gazillion dollars of resources for writing and production, Daniel Craig’s bond films have done the bare minimum to keep up with the arms race of phenomenal action films of the past few decades. Some of this is about the rut of tradition that the character has to follow, but its on those pushing these films to do more to reinvent the formula and shake things up. Some of an attempt for reinvention can be seen in the phenomenal film “Skyfall,” which carries the best of the aforementioned dark tone.

“No Time to Die” without question inserts itself as the third best Daniel Craig Bond film (the list of course being “Casino Royale,” “Skyfall,” “No Time to Die,” “Spectre” and “Quantum of Solace”), but saying so underrates how solid of a film it is. The writing of “No Time to Die” is more consistently good than that of “Skyfall,” with a great story that has ingenuity and genuine novelty. Where this is most obvious is in two particular cast members, Ana de Armas as Poloma, an assisting agent for Bond in Cuba, and Lashana Lynch as Nomi, a MI6 operative who takes Bond’s mantle upon his retirement. Whereas I felt Bond’s romance in “Spectre,” Madeline, played by Lea Seydoux, her character is put to much better use in “No Time to Die.” Rami Malek’s villain is a decent, if incoherent villain on par with previous Bond nemesis maniacs. Even Christoph Waltz is given more screen time to good effect. There are so many little details that give the film a more jovial edge compared to each of Craig’s previous entries. It is simply a joy to watch. One can’t help but suspect that the late addition of Phoebe Waller-Bridge to rework a script, that was described as a mess, might have made the difference.

“No Time to Die” is a surprisingly unique Bond film that positively marks the end of the Daniel Craig era. While it isn’t a revolution of stagecraft by any means, it carries the franchise and shows that an old spy tale can be told in different and interesting ways.

87% B

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