Craig. Daniel Craig.
James Bond films were always fun, throwaway nonsense when I was younger. Timothy Dalton had a buttocks instead of a chin which I couldn’t get past. Roger Moore was like your grandad trying to be cool. Pierce Brosnan was seemingly cool until you thought of literally any other action star. John McClane would beat the crap out of Brosnan’s Bond for example, and he’s just a cop.
Then came Casino Royale. Daniel Craig took that slightly out of date, campy character and spun Bond into a slick, believable bad ass. Craig’s Bond would wipe the floor with John McClane. That film and his take on the character continued to be solid, and with Skyfall they delivered the best bond film I’ve ever seen.
No Time To Die takes place after Bond’s retirement, and starts with him in a position I’ve never seen this character, he’s happy. I didn’t always buy into the previous dynamic between Craig and Lea Seydoux, but it’s at its best in this film and actually believable at times. Their relationship is the first time we see James Bond bordering on a normal life, and the events that shatter that world apart feel genuinely sad.
This film was in and out of writers rooms, delayed by a year, then delayed again. Before they even began production, Daniel Craig himself had made comments about retiring from the role after his time on Spectre. The fact this film isn’t an awful mess is a small miracle, more than that, its actually a really fun film. What’s always a guarantee with a Bond film is quality production values and great action set pieces and this delivers on every front.
That main plot thread is really well executed and leads to the most impactful scenes. One scene with the returning Christoph Waltz is phenomenal and feels like the culmination of that relationship in a really satisfying way. I love Christoph Waltz as an antagonist and he is better here than he was in all of Spectre, and the pay off really hit.
That leads me onto the other antagonist of this film, Remi Malek’s Safin. He is very good at being an unusual and quirky character, and I can see where they was trying to go with him. The issue I had was his motivations were just not clear enough to me, and he faded into just being a cliché Bond bad guy. The character’s monologue was full of flowery language, but I couldn’t really follow the line from the start of the film to the end.
It’s hard to discuss this film’s best parts without spoiling it, and I won’t, but there are a couple of key events/reveals that really hit home. I found myself smiling at the end of the film and left it feeling like it’s a very fitting end cap on the Daniel Craig series of films. I haven’t seen every Bond film but this is the first time I’ve noticed a real ongoing thread throughout the films that actually had a real payoff.
This Bond film has a lot of the standard things we’ve come to expect in a Bond film, but plays with the tropes a bit. One perfect example is the “Bond Girl” this time round. Ana De Armas plays her, but she’s nothing like her predecessors. I’ve seen calls for a spin off movie based purely on her
Daniel Craig has said he is done, and there is a hunt for a new James Bond, but honestly I am more interested in them putting the character away for a few years and seeing what else they can do with the rest of these characters. Ben Wishaw, Naomie Harris, Lashana Lynch and Ana De Armas are all younger actors who could combine to carry the franchise in a new direction. I don’t know if that is something they’re considering, and chances are we will just get another new actor in the James Bond role.
The questions over the future of the franchise will be answered in time, but for now we are left with a really solid entry in the franchise and a film. It’s a sort of Frankenstein of a film. There is a generic Bond movie here wrapped around a genuinely heartfelt story of a man whose past won’t allow himself to be happy.
Good: The most genuinely heartfelt story in any Bond film for a long time and a satisfying end to the Daniel Craig Era.
Bad: Remi Malek was a miss for me, a little discomforting but fell into a generic villain by the end.
TL;DR: More Bond, but this time, it has heart.