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Review: No Time to Die (2021)

No Time to Die (2021)

Directed by: Cary Joji Fukunaga

Premise: A follow up to 2015’s Spectre. James Bond (Daniel Craig) has retired from duty. He assists the CIA in capturing a scientist with a connection to the SPECTRE criminal organization and uncovers a terrorist plot that threatens the whole world.

What Works: No Time to Die is the final chapter in the Daniel Craig-era of the James Bond series and it is one of the better titles in this period of the franchise. It isn’t quite as lean and relentless as 2006’s Casino Royale but it does have an efficiency and an ambition beyond what we’ve seen before. The Craig-era has dared to take some risks and push the character and the franchise in new directions. What’s interesting about No Time to Die is the way it resembles some of the classic James Bond films but reinterprets those conventions in a way that’s consistent with the style of this era. The threat in No Time to Die is global; the villain is out to wreak havoc on humanity and it’s up to Bond to stop him. But No Time to Die personalizes that broad premise. It also brings Bond’s story to a satisfying close. 007 is generally an antihero. He’s a killer and by necessity he’s also antisocial and the Daniel Craig era has leaned into that idea while humanizing Bond and developing his character over the course of this series. That trajectory pays off in No Time to Die and the film gives us emotional moments that we would not normally associate with a Bond film. Daniel Craig deserves a lot of credit for the success of the film. His performance over this series has made him one of the most interesting and engaging versions of James Bond and he goes places in No Time to Die that no other version of the character has ever ventured. Character work aside, No Time to Die also has some great action sequences. Director Cary Joji Fukunaga places the camera in ways that make for economical storytelling and kinetic action sequences. No Time to Die runs nearly three hours but it never feels unnecessarily long.  

What Doesn’t: One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Daniel Craig-era James Bond series has been the interconnectivity of its stories. This is in contrast to most of the previous Bond films which were generally standalone adventures. The overarching story of this incarnation of James Bond is generally to the series’ benefit. However, viewers cannot come into No Time to Die cold. Watching the other movies and especially Spectre is a prerequisite. The villain of No Time to Die is Lyutsifer Safin, played by Rami Malek. His plot to destroy humanity is threatening and even credible but it isn’t backed by any discernable motive. It’s never clear why Safin wants to do this and that leaves a considerable hole in his character.

Bottom Line: No Time to Die is a satisfying conclusion to this era of James Bond. It has the action and swagger viewers look for in this series but the film also has a depth of character and an emotional impact that we haven’t historically gotten from this franchise.

Episode: #873 (October 17, 2021)