In 1962, the world was introduced to Sir Sean Connery as Bond, James Bond, in “Dr. No”. The film that single-handedly launched the longest-running film franchise in history. Following Connery's legendary outing was George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and then in 2006, the controversial first blonde-haired blue-eyed 00 Agent, Daniel Craig. After a staggering 15-year run, with five feature-length films under his belt, Craig bids farewell to the beloved character with the 25th official James Bond film, “No Time to Die.”
Following the events of his previous mission in 2015's “Spectre”, James Bond (Daniel Craig) has left active service and retired his license to kill, resorting to a serene life in Jamaica. His peace is short-lived, however, when his old friend from the CIA, Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), recruits the former MI6 agent to rescue a kidnapped scientist, which leads to a showdown with a powerful adversary armed with catastrophic new technology.
No title card. No music. The film opens on an eerily quiet, tightly framed, almost claustrophobic scene in which we see an ominous hooded figure approach a cabin over a snow-covered hill. The tension and suspense is unlike anything you are accustomed to seeing in a typical Bond film as it masterfully sets the somber tone and bold aesthetic for the viewer. What then proceeds are some of the finest action set pieces you will see all year as we are brought along coastal Italy and the winding streets of Matera. Here, 007 honors his silver-screen roots with an electrifying car chase in a 1963 Aston Martin DB5, complete with all of the bells and whistles you know and remember from the uproarious, golden age of Bond from the 60’s. Tonally, the film is a celebrated pairing of camp and gritty realism, and it’s devilishly entertaining as a result.
With the film being both the longest in the history of the franchise (clocking in at 163 minutes) and Daniel Craig’s reportedly final appearance in the role of Ian Fleming's titular spy, it becomes ever-so imperative that audiences see this on the big screen. Very few films these days fully utilize and justify their larger-than-life budgets, but I must say “No Time to Die” truly looks and feels like a $250 million production (and I mean that in the best way possible). The film is wonderfully directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (“Beasts of No Nation”) and showcases easily the finest action set pieces and stunt work of the entire series. From the exquisite shoot-out in Cuba that moves like a precisely choreographed dance, to a grizzly, white-knuckle brawl in a steep, concrete stairwell. Visually, it’s everything you could ever want out of an action film, and then some.
Craig is as sleek and cool as ever as Bond, and the bombastic, epic score by the legendary Hans Zimmer only boasts the character to new heights. Between the quippy one liners and the way in which everyone’s favorite secret agent is effortlessly driving his souped-up Aston Martin, able to dispatch baddies left and right with considerable ease, this film is undoubtedly a delight to sit back and watch in giddy wonder and awe.
A lot has been said about the new James Bond theme, by seven-time Grammy winner Billie Eilish. But I must say, while slow paced and somber in tone, the track “No Time to Die'' ties in well with the film’s themes of regret, lies, deceit and one’s own mortality. The flourish of violins, electronic guitar and faint brass all pay tribute to classic Bond tropes. The lyrics are poignant and Eilish’s haunting vocals resonate. It’s simply excellent and accompanies the dazzling animated title sequence perfectly.
I have to reiterate just how brilliant Craig is in the film, not only the physicality he brings to the role but the way in which he is able to convey so much through a simple glance or gesture. Looking back at his prolific 15-year run as Bond, it becomes all the more prevalent that he will leave behind a lasting legacy. Having transformed Bond in 2006’s groundbreaking “Casino Royale'' from a cartoonish caricature into a fully-realized character with depth and emotion, Craig has set the bar high with expectations. The next actor to don the suit and put the keys in the ignition has some major shoes to fill and will no doubt be forever in the shadow of one of the greats.
In many ways, “No Time to Die” feels like Craig’s swan song and a culmination of his entire career thus far. By the end, it manages to be a poignant, self-reflective sendoff for the beloved character that is sure to satisfy the masses. A showstopping, pulse-pounding 8/10 action extravaganza.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of The Torch.