Written by Auden Chamberlain
It feels almost impossible to imagine the backlash Daniel Craig’s casting as James Bond received thanks to his blue eyes and blond hair, for these very features now feel almost intrinsically linked to the character. Craig’s Bond feels less like an incarnation to be replaced as his predecessors and more like his own distinct character. From his origin in 2006’s Casino Royale, we followed him through a set of interweaving plots over 15 years before reaching the grand conclusion: No Time To Die. Whereas previous Bond’s would simply go on a self-contained mission, this era was perhaps modernised by the connections each entry would have to the previous, and whilst it was this very method that helped make Craig’s Bond the cinematic icon he is, it also fills the series with a layer of convolution.
It doesn’t feel unfair to say that No Time To Die was left with the burden that is its predecessor: Spectre. A dull, joyless drag that commits the ultimate sin of sequel: rendering what came before pointless to create hollow stakes and faux importance. Now that the whole of this universe is completely entangled with Spectre, which is frankly very hard to care about, how is it possible for No Time To Die to be an entertaining film in it’s own right when it’s always going to be chained to what came before? How can it effectively be a fitting and satisfying closer for a James Bond that more than any needs a finite conclusion?
No Time To Die answers these questions with a re-assuring confidence and self-awareness. It doesn’t shy away from the unwanted set-ups of Spectre, instead imploding them in favour of something more enjoyable. It embraces the inter-connected nature of the era, trusting the audience’s care for a James Bond that has now owned the role for 15 years, building on the familial themes presented in previous entries to create a story that is moving.
The director Cary Joji Fukunaga reintroduces some of the brutality that hadn’t felt present in the series since Craig’s earlier entries, but balances this with a fun eccentricity. The massive scale and array of set-pieces in various incredible locations matched with a well-balanced fun-but-dangerous tone creates a relentless but personal spectacle, fitting perfectly with the character-focused story. The prologue launching with an unnerving masked-home invasion that wouldn’t feel out of place in a slasher, before segueing into a classic action set-piece against stunning Italian scenery foreshadows the diversely enjoyable and ever-moving nature of what’s to follow.
Craig’s Bond feels unflinchingly lethal. A stealth video-game like scene comes to mind where Bond brutally hunts down mercenaries through a forest – but there’s a vulnerability present too. Perhaps it’s the influence of Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge on the screenplay, but it’s impressive how assertive and adept the film is in sending Craig’s Bond off in a way that feels fitting and loyal to the love and loss he’s experienced over the series, and those emotions are built into his character in a way that helps emphasise rather than sabotage his extreme competence as a trained killer.
This recurring theme of family doesn’t feel so much like a burden in this entry, but instead something that helps the film succeed in being a truly fitting and emotional conclusion for this Bond. It’s present everywhere in the film: Rami Malek’s uncomfortable villain has a plan for world domination that is practically secondary to his almost Freudian motivations.
By not shying away from the all-encompassing plots and personal connections that have come to represent this era of Bond, No Time To Die emphatically succeeds as an emotionally charged send-off for a Bond that feels irreplaceable. But the beauty of Bond is that he will be replaced, and maybe now he can return to something simpler.
Auden Chamberlain is a first-year Politics and Sociology student. As well as writing film reviews, he enjoys playing guitar and is secretary for Band and Gig Society. For more film related writing, you can follow him on Letterboxd: @arjchamberlain.