Study up if you want to understand the well-crafted and very long ‘No Time To Die’
Daniel Craig’s reign as emo James Bond is over. The impeccably crafted, mechanically effective No Time to Die, equally stuffed with amorous aches and bullet-strafed bodies, ends a five-film cycle of brooding self-reflection and deadly serious mortal threats. At 163 minutes, this maximalist farewell is the Long Goodbye of Bond movies. Fun it’s not. But it thrills and excites just as much as it puffs up its emotionally anemic superspy with all the feels.
Press play to hear a narrated version of this story, presented by AudioHopper.
Make sure to do your homework, though, and bone up on the previous four films: No Time to Die feels like a narrative pop quiz. There’s an explosive burial-site visit to Vesper Lynd’s grave, a compromised commitment to psychologist paramour-with-a-past Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), an espionage side-hustle with Felix Leiter, the latest iterations of M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw), and Monneypenny (Naomie Harris), plus nefarious pull-the-strings entanglements involving incarcerated Spectre superbaddie Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Walz).
NO TIME TO DIE★★★★ (4/5 stars)
Directed by: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Written by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ben Wishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes
Running time: 163 mins
Expect a zippy sequence with Bond’s vintage gadget-laden Aston Martin, and the obligatory shaken-not-stirred cocktail order. Do you miss Dame Judi Dench? Don’t worry, there’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it portrait on the walls of MI6. More than most Bond films, No Time to Die makes callbacks. Get your Bingo cards ready.
The movie’s got bloat. The cold open reveals a traumatic flashback, then goes into a vacation-gone-wrong prelude before revealing a FIVE YEARS LATER card that coyly nods to the film’s delayed production history. Then the real story begins, when there’s a heist on a high-security lab vaulting a biohazardous program called the Heracles Project. It’s the latest global threat: weaponized DNA that sends programmable nanobots to surgically kill anyone. Think Covid, but cyber-hacked. Cue anxious talk about infections and quarantines, which will trigger and bemuse audiences in equal measure.
We’re in Norway, then Italy, England, Jamaica and Cuba. Lots of island-hopping, including an extended sequence on an island between Japan and Russia. This time, mysterious disfigured villain Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek) seems to be behind the chaos, and hates Spectre as much as Bond. He’s horribly scarred due to dioxin poisoning, and so his secret lair is devoted to all sorts of toxic treasures.
Schemes lead to betrayals and sacrifices, then more schemes, betrayals, and sacrifices. The paint-by-numbers plot obfuscation seems par for the course with any Bond movie, there’s just more of it here than usual. Which is fine, anyway, since Craig and his photogenic crew are good company and easy on the eyes. One major standout is Ana de Armas as Paloma, a freshly-minted spy with three weeks of training and an uncanny knack for double-gunning, as well as high-kicking shenanigans in a formal dress and plunging neckline. An underwhelming new character is Nomi (Lashana Lynch), a sassy black MI6 agent given the 007 moniker after Commander Bond’s retirement. She’s the film’s trolling clickbait for those curious about who will take Craig’s mantle.
Woke Bond is surely next for the venerable series, whatever ethnicity or gender that may be. There’s a reason the film’s big ending takes place on a decommissioned nuclear base. It’s a Cold War relic that serves as the climatic setting to a Cold War relic. After nearly 60 years and 25 films, Bond is now post-irony and post-parody, and seemingly elastic enough to take on any shape. The one enduring constant is that people will always mistrust one another, governments will continue to steal state secrets, and scientists will always develop new weapons of mass destruction. No matter how fatal the threat, this is one franchise that continues to be immune to death.