Daniel Craig in 'No Time to Die'

Daniel Craig's fifth James Bond film is also his final as the eponymous character. After some doubts that he would return from Spectre, he signed on to play the part one more time in 2017. After numerous director changes and delays due to the Coronavirus pandemic, No Time to Die was finally released last week.

The 25th entry in the venerable James Bond franchise has finally hit the big screen after a year and a half of delays. The film, the classically titled No Time to Die, is Daniel Craig’s last go-round as James Bond.

Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, who helmed the incomparable first season of True Detective, was in the driver’s seat of this nearly three hour long action spectacle. Returning cast members include Ben Whishaw as ‘Q,’ Naomi Harris as ‘Moneypenny,’ Ralph Fiennes as ‘M,’ Christoph Waltz as ‘Blofeld,’ and Lea Seydoux as ‘Dr. Swan,’ with Rami Malek stepping in as the new villain.

As a longtime fan of Bond, it was one of the first franchises that got me interested in film in the first place, I’ve been thirsting for a new 007 flick. Now that it’s here, I wish they’d put it back in the oven for a while.

This is not a bad film. In fact, I’d say if you’re a casual fan of the series and Craig’s films in particular, you’ll probably like this one. As an avid reader of Fleming’s original books and viewer of one or more Bond films every couple of months, however, No Time to Die just doesn’t feel like a Bond movie.

For my money, Daniel Craig is the best James Bond to grace the silver screen. Casino Royale is my favorite Bond film of all time, and Craig is perhaps the main reason for that.

While his series of five films has endured more than its fair share of issues from the writer’s strike to the Sony hack, Craig has remained constantly awe inspiring in the lead role.

He’s not traditionally handsome, he’s the shortest Bond, and he’s a blonde bond... these are some of the issues people took when Craig’s casting as Bond was announced in the mid 2000’s. Upon the release of Casino Royale in 2006, however, it seems as though the world’s mind changed.

Here was a grizzled Bond with the potential for both love and murder. Craig’s Bond was a sheer force of nature, built like a bull, charming as could be, but cold as steel when the moment called for it.

Since his debut, however, his films have been less than steady in terms of quality. While I like the more critically lambasted entries in his five films more than most, I can’t say that Craig’s run as James Bond has been perfect.

While Spectre seemed to be the last go round for Craig as Bond for some time, when it was announced that Bond 25 would be the send-off for this beautiful beast of a man, I was very excited.

Of course there were all manner of director mix-ups and script rumours that plagued production, but No Time to Die has finally completed its long and arduous journey to theatres. If I had to describe the film with one word, it would be a more positive than negatively tinged ‘meh.’

I see what Craig and co. were going for with this gargantuan film. Sony Pictures had the unenviable task of pleasing old-school Bond fans, new-school Bond fans, action movie fans, fans of Craig’s Bond alone, and they had to try and match Marvel-level enthusiasm. That’s how we ended up with a two hour and forty five minute James Bond movie.

That being said, the length isn’t one of the problems I had with the movie. It clips along at a fine pace and the story developments do manage to keep one guessing.

My main problem with this would be that this isn’t what James Bond is supposed to be. Bond is at his best when the movie has a classic cold open that may or may not have anything to do with the plot, the title sequence plays, then Bond is set out on a mission where he endures a lot of action scenes, sleeps with some women, gets captured by the villain, then murders him and escapes in style. Call me old-fashioned, but an episodic Bond would be true to the formula and more effective than this.

This Bond is weighed down by its previous films. I wouldn’t have a problem with that if those previous films didn’t themselves struggle with combining all of the elements of Craig’s Bond story.

Casino Royale was perfect, Quantum of Solace was a flawed epilogue to that film, Skyfall was a bombastic mess (although most consider it a triumph), and Spectre was a low-energy interpretation of Roger Moore’s best Bond films (and one that I think is quite underrated).  Every one of these films tried to bring in plot elements from the other ones, and they sometimes failed and sometimes slightly succeeded.

I have no problem with bringing Vesper Lynd’s story back up and weighing her death in relation to Bond’s psyche. That is an interesting element and one that has been done before with the death of Tracy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Bond can be emotionally scarred from women, but that shouldn’t be all Bond is.

These Craig movies seem so obsessed with tying together plot elements that every other element that we want to see in one of these movies feels ignored. Also, before I go any further, Madeline Swan is a terrible character.

I like Lea Seydoux. I think she is a truly talented actress. I do not like Madeline Swan.

Introduced in the fourth film out of five in this Craig series, we’re supposed to believe that she’s the one to heal Bond from his Vesper wounds and take him into retirement with love and care. If she was introduced a movie or two earlier, maybe. Bond meets her once and he’s all of the sudden done with MI6 and (mostly) over his one true love? That sounds like plot convenience to me.

Again, Seydoux is a talented actress. Not for a second, however, do I believe that there is an actual relationship between these two people. Ana De Armas shows up for about fifteen minutes in No Time to Die and has more chemistry with Craig than the Swan character does throughout her two films. It just feels like the screenwriters wrote her in because they were in a corner in terms of where they would take the Bond character.

Their relationship just doesn’t work. I don’t want to get into any spoilers, but by the end of No Time to Die, it seems like James feels the same way.

Another problem (which could have been a solution) is Rami Malek’s villain. I’ve already forgotten his name and I’m not going to look it up because it doesn’t matter enough to the plot for me know.

While the first scene in No Time to Die is expertly executed, Fukunaga is truly a master of his craft, it uses one of the most cliche sequel tropes that I just hate to see in which the main villain actually knew one of the main characters when they were kids and now he comes back to haunt them.

This is a bull**** way to add emotional stakes to a villain. Again, the opening introduction scene is a beautifully filmed tension filled ten minutes, but not every villain has to have known the protagonist their whole life (like Waltz’s Blofeld with Bond in Spectre).

Speaking of the powerful intensity of the first scene, there are some truly fantastic set-pieces in this film. The action, including a jaw-dropping single-take fight near the end, is some of the best the series has ever produced.

I saw No Time to Die on a massive IMAX screen, and it looked fantastic. The actual production is flawless. The acting is spectacular (particularly Jeffrey Wright’s and Daniel Craig’s performances), the sound design is wonderful, the score by Hans Zimmer is surprisingly traditional and moving, and some of the Bond tributes hit harder than they should.

I’m telling you, this one could have come close to being a home run for Bond, it just had too many expectations to fill. I think if the script were thrown out and we got a more back-to-basics Bond that ran a clean two hours, that would have been a better send-off. Instead, we have this mishmash of a film that is halfway effective.

To put it in terms of another franchise, No Time to Die is James Bond’s The Dark Knight Rises. The film expertly executes many beats, but its bombastic nature and willingness to throw everything but the kitchen sink into the script sink it to a mid-level Bond adventure.

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