no time to die
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Cast: Daniel Craig, Lee Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomi Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, and Ralph Fiennes
While driving down the wonderfully winding roads of Matera in Italy, Madeline (Lee Seydoux) tells an older James Bond (Daniel Craig) at the wheel, “Can we go any faster?” He replies, “We don’t have to go any faster, we have all the time in the world.” The statement sounds ominous, as it should be, but there’s also an ironic reference to Craig’s last time as Bond, and the long wait to see him on the big screen on the other side of the pandemic.
There are many ways to describe No Time to Die. It is the 25th film in the 60-year-long James Bond franchise, and Daniel Craig’s swansong, which he returned after much persuasion. It’s also a long-awaited one, delayed by two years due to the pandemic, and also survived a quitting director (Danny Boyle) due to ‘creative differences’. It is clear from the very first frame that the film has overcome many hurdles to emerge as one of the most dazzlingly beautiful and heartwarming romantic Bond films ever.
The story has many unique parallels with real life. The agent is recalled from his downtime in Jamaica to assist Felix Leiter on a mission to rescue a scientist kidnapped by Rami Malek’s lucifer Safin. Craig’s retirement is a reflection of the actor’s own resignation from the Bond film franchise, and his reluctant re-entry to be offered the role of someone else can’t be imagined. Craig added much-needed emotion to Bond long ago, we just see the culmination of it all in this one. An eye of determination balanced with inner turmoil, ruthlessness to vulnerability – it’s a more well-rounded bond than ever. Unfortunately, this is the last one from Craig.
Bond movies have some tropes of their own, and this carries them as well. The franchise has evolved, although progress seems a bit half-hearted. We have Ana de Armas in a spectacular sequence in a ball gown and heels fighting goons, as a nod to the Bond girl stereotype. The film deviates from the norm of handing over the 007 badge to a woman of color, but there is very little sassy Lashana Lynch that we get to see. In the climax, she hands Craig centerstage and walks over the edge, leaving you to wonder if the franchise has really progressed.
More danger was expected from the new Bond villain, Rami Malek, as Safin. He starts off with a bang, but as soon as Bond enters the scene, you come to know that the film belongs to him. Malek’s restrained performance is somewhat lacking in the face of Craig’s talent and you have the camera and direction to make up for it. Craig however meets his match in Lee Seydoux, and together they deliver some of the most emotional scenes in the film where we see Bond at his weakest.
The producers knew they had to make the best of Craig’s last Bond appearance, and that’s evident from every scene that leans toward glorifying him. A viewer who doesn’t have much background in Bond’s character won’t understand why the “License to Kill” detective isn’t under unanimous love. Add to this the human and proud aspects of No Time to Die that make Bond’s character almost godlike. And you forgive the makers for that because you are too busy admiring the scene.
It is a beautifully made film. Each character’s production design, stunts, action sequences, look and feel are so carefully crafted that even when the story seems long, you’ll want to keep watching. Every Bond movie has stunning backdrops, remarkable frames, and heart-stopping moments, and No Time to Die takes this to another breathtaking level. It is a visual and emotional healing, which is satisfying but will leave you with a feeling of incompleteness in the end.