'No Time to Die' Review: Craig's final hurrah is classy, clunky and explosive affair
It's a full circle for Craig's James Bond as 'No Time to Die' perhaps sees him portray the character one final time with absolute panache
Beneath the battle-scarred, hard-worn musculature, the blue eyes that have seen a lot, and the icy-cool exterior dressed impeccably in Tom Fords, James Bond is a man in love. And 'No Time to Die' is a love story.
Daniel Craig's James Bond was a brutish, baddie-biffing slugger in 'Casino Royale'. He was a gutted man in search of revenge in 'Quantum of Solace'. He was an old dog with new tricks in 'Skyfall', and in 'Spectre', he was a man who wanted to start life anew. It's a full circle for Craig's character as 'No Time to Die' perhaps sees him portray the character one final time with panache. He's ridiculously in-tune with his character, and a "weary old wreck" as he calls himself in the movie, is so desperately in love that he suits up to be the world's greatest spy one last time, just to get the life he always wanted.
This one's for the Bond ardents, despite the fact that it's very, very un-Bondlike. At 163 minutes, this is the longest Bond movie to date that provides subtle nods to all of his appearances as the iconic character. 'No Time to Die' has all that makes for a perfect Bond film, but yet it steers clear of the usual elements observed in 24 previous installments. This is one such movie where the focus shifts from spycraft to sacrifice, a familiar theme that was observed in 'Casino Royale'.
Rami Malek isn't the perfect villain. While he's impressive as Lyutsifer Safin, he's not menacing and he's definitely not the guy who Barbara Broccoli famously said: "could get under Bond's skin." If he manages to get through anything, it's the words he rasps with some difficulty. He's alpha alright, but we've seen better villains in Bond movies. His motive is simple: Global extinction, but he's not Thanos, he's doesn't care about the balance of the world, he just wants to make it a tidier place, a massive bunch of clean kills so to speak.
Lea Seydoux reprises her role as shrink Madeleine Swann, and has a connection with Safin that makes Bond exactly what her father, Mr White tells him before his harakiri: "You're a kite dangling in a hurricane, Mr. Bond". And it is true, Bond isn't the intended target, he just happens to be in the way of Safin's grand idea of mass genocide. And on that subject, SPECTRE isn't done yet. Ernst Stavo Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) is still out there hunting for the man who brought his world crashing down.
For Bond, there are still friends. Salty Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) puffing his cigar is out there, and so is the quirky Q (Ben Whishaw). Naomie Harris' Moneypenny gets decent screentime as does Mallory (Ralph Fiennes). There's a new 007 in Lashana Lynch and a sight-for-sore-eyes, a sexy and badass siren in Ana de Armas. While the supporting cast is a powerhouse, the film is still a Craigshow all the way. It's been about him, always has been.
There's a final showdown, a mission on a picturesque island off the coast of Japan, and enough action sequences coupled with trademark Bond wit, but there's also some cliche, and a fair bit of melodrama that makes the movie long. Despite being introduced just minutes of the film's halfway mark, Safin conjures the story of his past and explains it at a good length, and straight-up calls himself Bond's mirror image. It's that stinging moment that makes 'No Time to Die' border dangerously close to making the audience feel bored.
'No Time to Die' could have been a better movie. Perhaps, there was a different ending that may have now been fed to the shredder. But for all the flaws, it still is Craig's most magnificent performance to date. He came into his own in 'Skyfall' and after playing the character for the longest time ever, he's signed off with a bang.
Whoever walks in to introduce himself, or herself as Bond next is a topic that can be tabled for later. But for now, this is about Craig, and he doesn't disappoint.
'No Time to Die' releases October 8 in the US.