No Time To Die
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Stars: Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas, Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Christoph Waltz, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Jeffrey Wright, David Dencik
This being the last outing for Daniel Craig’s iteration of the 007, the stakes were always going to be pretty high. After an eighteen-month COVID delay, Bond is facing his greatest challenge yet; to Save Cinema Itself and get reluctant punters back in the cinema to bathe in the big screen experience. And while there is a real valedictory feel to this final outing with its numerous fan-pleasing nods to earlier pictures, it’s also overlong and baggy and often feels more murky and glum than joyous victory lap.
Franchise bloat is evidenced from the get-go with a pair of pre-title sequences that run to almost half an hour. The second at least is fun; a trad glamourous travelogue and crunchily kinetic setpiece where Bond trashes his beloved Aston Martin as he and partner Madeline Swann (Seydoux) flee an army of heavies.
Cut to London where a criminal organisation launch a raid on a secret lab, brutally slaying the workers but sparing inside man scientist Obruchev (Dencik, mugging annoyingly in a vowel-torturing Ryussian accyent). The retired Bond is subsequently lured back into the game to do bit of freelancing when old mate CIA agent Felix Leiter (Wright) informs him that both the CIA and MI5 are after Obruchev. Bond heads to Cuba for a rendezvous with the seemingly scatty but tough rookie spy Paloma (de Armas, fun but underused), with new 00 operative Nomi (Lynch) on his tail. The Cuba passage provides one of the most strikingly original sequences as Bond crashes a macabre Spectre convention populated by a wild and wonderful set of ghouls.
So far so enjoyable, but once Bond has left Central America the plot gets a little swampy and riddled with subplots and excess characters. The MI5 gang are all given something to do with various levels of interest, and old adversary Blofeld (Waltz) is wheeled in for a Hannibal Lecter-style cameo, while a new villain with old school motives is introduced, the nominative determinism-proving Lyutsifer Safin (a creepy Malek).
Audaciously, and presumably to honour Craig’s nuanced performance over his previous quartet of pictures, the third act banks on emotional heft as opposed to shoot ‘em up action to sustain the narrative, but while Craig, as always, rises to the occasion, Bond’s journey is almost lost in the melee. The conclusion is undoubtedly stirring though.