So here it is, our No Time To Die review. Let’s get this out of the way early. If you are remaining unspoilt for No Time To Die then beware. You may want to save your No Time To Die virginity for the movie theatre. When we get towards the end of this review we will be discussing spoilers, and therefore they are likely to appear in the comments below. The movie has been out for a day in the UK and the spoilers are already appearing online, so it’s getting harder to avoid them. We will include a second spoiler warning when we reach that point.
If you have already seen it, or don’t care about spoilers, then read on!
Nobody Does It Better
Daniel Craig’s final appearance in the role of 007 is a massive, massive movie. He is also sometimes divisive to some fans. It was expensive, it is very long, it has a huge scope and it is ambitious. It also seems to have the weight of the world on its shoulders as it is the biggest movie release to date in the pandemic and exhibitors are hoping for good things after it was COVID delayed twice.
Reviews have been strong so far. However Bond is unique among movie franchises. With a 60 year history and now 25 official entries in the series, it has been all things to all men at all times. So before you can really give any Outposters any idea on how my opinion of a Bond movie may relate to theirs, I have to provide some 007 context. Something you don’t really have to do for any other movies.
Daniel Craig is the longest-serving, highest-earning, and most critically acclaimed 007 of them all. Yet some people really don’t like him in the role. His serious take on the character is at odds with people who preferred the period charm of Connery, or the borderline camp silliness of Roger Moore. Remember though, most of the world was clamoring for a return to Fleming after the invisible car, kite surfing atrocity of Die Another Day.
With him not always getting the girl, being injured both physically and psychologically, and sometimes frustrated with his job, he is very close to Fleming. These traits don’t chime with people who want Roger Moore in a submarine car, double-taking pigeons, and Union Jack parachutes.
Just like everyone has their Doctor Who (Tom Baker, if you care), everyone has their Bond. Mine was Roger Moore. I was born just after he took on the role and the first Bond movie I ever saw was The Spy Who Loved Me on television when I was about four or five. I was immediately taken with the action, the adventure, the spectacle, and the character. I am still very fond of good ol’ Rog and his movies are epic Sunday afternoon television fare. I have seen every Bond movie in the theater since For Your Eyes Only and the moment my parents realized I was a fan then other Bond things arrived in my life.
My dad had all the Pan originals of the Fleming novels and he gifted them to me. I still have them all, in wonderfully aged paperback, on a shelf not far from where I am writing this now. Reading these and realizing the character was very different from the man on screen, I became more fascinated with the character. Comics, factual books, exhibition visits, Corgi toy cars, magazines, behind-the-scenes articles flowed and before I knew it I just had loads of 007 floating around my head.
My crowning achievement still remains being in a pub quiz with one of those quiz masters who was trying to show off how clever he was when he laid out a Bond movie round, boasting that nobody would get full marks. I persuaded the team to play their joker to get double points, and we scored 10/10 and won the quiz night off the back of it.
I can’t remember my kid’s birthdays, but I can remember the license plate on a certain 1970s Lotus Esprit. Not exactly a life skill, but it’s all I have, so I will take it.
So I guess what this long-winded intro is saying is that I am a Bond fan. That makes it very, very difficult for me to objectively review a James Bond movie as there are all sorts of confirmed and implicit biases going on in my brain.
Secondly, as a fan of Fleming and the original character, I am a fan of Daniel Craig in the role and his interpretation of the character. He was the shot in the arm the franchise needed after Pierce Brosnan was let down by the quality of some scripts at the end of his run. Casino Royale was a stunning introduction to the character. Skyfall was something of a loving tribute to Bond in general. Even though Spectre has issues, Craig and his portrayal are not one of them. For me his movies rank:
- Casino Royale
- Quantum Of Solace
Bear these things in mind when you frame your view of whether you will enjoy No Time To Die based on this review. If you don’t like Craig in the role then don’t worry. James Bond will return and an iteration you like may well be along in a moment. Such is the beauty of the franchise. Also, my theory still stands that a Bond movie is like sex and pizza. Even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.
So is No Time To Die any good? Let’s get to it.
We Have All The Time In The World
In short, if you like Craig’s approach to the role, and their approach to Bond in general during his tenure, then you will love this movie. If you dislike him, then this movie will do very little to persuade you otherwise. If you want Roger Moore dressed as a clown, or a ninja school, then this is not the 007 adventure for you.
Craig is as relaxed as he’s even been in the role and delivers some good one-liners, while remaining the hard-edged version. It is surprisingly funny in a few places and Craig nails it. It is also the most emotional Bond movie since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Daniel Craig’s acting chops really sell it.
There are numerous callbacks to many Bond moments, from the beautifully haunting music of We Have All The Time In The World, from George Lazenby’s single turn in the role, to the death of Loque from For Your Eyes Only. It is a real treat to pick out these various easter eggs for a Bond aficionado.
The 2 hour and 47-minute runtime does not drag. It’s long, and you wouldn’t want it to be 30 minutes longer, but I didn’t look at my watch once and wasn’t shifting in my seat come the third act.
Director Cary Joji Fukunaga has shot a beautiful-looking movie. Matara in Italy is breathtaking. The Billie Eilish song works well in the context of the titles and those titles evoke everything from Dr. No to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. A fog-shrouded forest hunt, Bond on foot vs. numerous henchmen on motorbikes and in Land Rovers is pretty stunning.
Jamaica, particularly Bond’s house, works well in the context of the movie. It is here that Bond has retired to after the opening scene, set five years previously and directly from the end of Spectre.
Here we first meet Nomi, played by Lashana Lynch, and one of the biggest concerns some voiced online about this movie is laid to rest, completely.
With Bond being replaced, post-retirement, by a black woman, there were cries that the movie was going full-woke! When Phoebe Waller-Bridge came in to work on the script for the female parts, people assumed the worst.
None of that worst is evident. Nomi is competent and confident but not annoying. She spars well with Bond but does not overshadow him and there are no eye-rolling moments of forced girl-power where she lectures Bond or gets one over on him. She spars verbally with him, and there is banter. Nothing different at all from Pussy Galore, Agent XXX, or Holly Goodhead, among many others.
Lashana Lynch is also very good in the role and is likable. On two occasions she goes directly up against Bond in mission competition, and on both occasions, Bond is the victor. She moves pretty quickly into a space where she clearly understands Bond’s effectiveness. The only time her race comes into play is when she is on the receiving end of a, particularly nasty, threat.
Of course, if you are the kind of person who yells “Woke” if they are served a cup of tea that is the wrong shade, then her mere existence and her code number will set you off. The code number itself is actually a source of some good dialogue and some nice moments.
Moneypenny, Q, and Ralph Fiennes as M get a bit to do. Fiennes in particular, as his Mallory is in deep trouble and something he has done is the propelling Mcguffin.
Ana De Armas is very good fun, but if there is one complaint it is that she is not in it enough. It is Madeline Swann, played by Lea Seydoux, that is the emotional heart of the movie. The first time a Bond girl has ever been brought back for a sequel and it is with good reason. She has deeply affected Bond and is the first person he has loved since Vesper. Speaking of Vesper, she ties the plot together in an unexpected way.
Rami Malek is effective as a villain that harks back to earlier entries. He’s just an evil bastard that wants to kill a lot of people. Of course, his psychological scarring is caused by something from his past that will put him on a collision course with Bond.
It’s impossible to talk any further about this movie without getting into serious spoiler territory of some big moments and revelations, so if you made it this far but were still undecided, this is your final warning. We are going to openly talk about some pretty massive plot points. Bail now! Because from this point on anything goes.
The movie is a bloodbath, with some really unexpected deaths. When Felix Leiter is killed in action early in the film you think that may be the end of it. However, others will follow. The movie is clearly at pains to distance itself from Spectre in some ways. As a result, the whole of Spectre is killed and the organization destroyed in an early, vengeful twist.
A couple of lines of dialogue also point to this distancing, such as pointing out that Bond is very much not Blofeld’s brother as some slow-witted commentators deduced after Spectre.
The family angle is left a little ambiguous elsewhere. In the five years since Bond leaves Swann after an assumed betrayal, she has had a daughter. She tells Bond clearly twice that she is not his. Later in the movie, she admits the girl does have Bond’s eyes, and villain Safin refers to her as Bond’s daughter but it is deliberately left somewhat unresolved.
Goodbye Mr. Bond
Of course, any discussion of this movie is going to revolve around the ending for years. Years. It will be impossible to discuss this movie without talking about the way it ends.
Either way, it’s heartbreaking. Safin’s final revenge on 007 is irreversible and downright evil, robbing him of everything Bond came to understand he actually wanted over the course of the movie, as Bond is put through an emotional wringer.
Of course, as you may already know if you have read this far and aren’t worried about spoilers – 007 is killed at the end. Sacrificing himself to ensure Safin’s plan is stopped in a hail of fire from a Royal Navy destroyer.
Or is he?
It seemed pretty clear. If he is, then that’s fine. Because the titles promise “James Bond Will Return” and you know the cash cow will not be ended forever. Typically irrational comments online have already called out the frequently disproved theory of Bond being a code name, saying this proves it. This could not be more wrong.
With Casino Royale the Bond universe was rebooted, that movie showed him gaining his 00 status and going on his first mission. These five movies have all had an arc, a through-line, from his first day as 007 to his apparent death in service. A single micro-Bond universe with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Standing forever apart from whatever loose continuity the rest of the franchise generally didn’t do too much to follow. So it’s fine.
But why do I say apparent death in service?
Well, this movie is massively, massively inspired by Fleming’s You Only Live Twice. From the villain having a poison garden to Bond effectively killing Blofeld by throttling him with his bare hands (with a twist!). The rumored working title of the movie was Shatterhand, in reference to Blofeld’s alias in that Fleming book. The island is even off Japan, just like the novel. If you know the climax of that novel and the opening of The Man With The Golden Gun, then you realize how much this movie borrows from some of those plot threads, including THAT ending. So it may be more of a cliffhanger, ready for the new actor to step into the role.
In summary, if you don’t like Craig in the role, or don’t like them trying to do something a bit different with the franchise, then you are likely to downright hate this.
I loved it. I seriously thought I was not going to when I heard some of the spoilers, and had some concerns, but the fact is it epic. It is huge and personal at the same time, funny and emotional.
When Hans Zimmer’s interpretation of We Have All The Time In The World plays early in the movie it is beautiful yet foreboding, as you know the significance of that song in Bond lore. When it is repeated later, it’s a tear-jerker.
It caps Craig’s time in the role perfectly, whatever they chose to do next.
And I haven’t seen that many fully grown men walking out of the theater with glistening eyes since the end of Avengers: Endame.
For me, it now beats Skyfall down into third place in Craig’s Bond listing, with Casino Royale remaining on top.
Are you a Bond fan too? Or just interested in literary history? We have been re-reading all of the original Fleming Bond novels in order. Our Fleming Revisited series can be found at the following links: Casino Royale, Live And Let Die, Moonraker, Diamonds Are Forever, From Russia With Love, Dr. No, Goldfinger, For Your Eyes Only, Thunderball, The Spy Who Loved Me, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and You Only Live Twice,