No Time To Die – Shaken Not Stirred

Classic Bond, modern filmmaking. 

No Time To Die was (finally) released in 2021 and was directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga. The film stars Daniel Craig as James Bond, Léa Seydoux as Madeline Swan, and Rami Malek as Safin. Now retired, Bond is tasked with helping a familiar face from the C.I.A. to help recover a scientist whose technology may hold world-ending consequences. 

This review will be slightly different than my regular formula, as this film simply means too much to me. I’ve eagerly waited for this film’s release for over 2 years, delay after seemingly endless delay. Once they announced the title, “No Time to Die,” something told me this would be special. It was 3 days before the official release, I had only seen the first official trailer, and some promo photos, though, unfortunately, in doing research for this article, I had the ending spoiled for me. All seemed lost – my waiting – only to find out how it ended because of a stupid slip of the eye. 

No matter what I did, nothing could change what I knew. I don’t remember there being a gadget from Q Branch that can wipe memory, anyway. My family saw it the day before I did, and from hearing their opinions, along with reviewers I watch and read, it had some of the most mixed reactions I’ve heard about a film for quite some time. Even more so than The Last Jedi

Maybe this wouldn’t be quite the experience I’d imagined in my head over the many years. 

After an IMAX viewing , the moment was like seeing an old friend. While not perfect, I’m happy to report that overall what No Time To Die offers has brought me back on the path to restoring my faith in cinema.

The character development is wonderful, and smooth throughout. Bond in particular stands out with his sleek and unique attitude taking charge in every scene. This is the Bond Quantum of Solace wishes it had, he is more pissed off than we’ve ever seen him, and it’s awesome. He simply does not care. He’s at the point where he’s realized, “I’m James Bond. Who’s actually gonna try and stop me?” It’s super fun to see him this way. In smaller moments, we see Bond and the new 007 banter consistently. Where this could have been used as a punching bag for Bond, it never takes the easy route.

This new take on Bond is best shown in the action scenes, which are a fantastic blend of everything that made Casino Royale’s gritty tone, and Skyfall’s almost stand-offish approach work well. There is one action scene at the end of the second act that could be taken out if you really wanted, but the action is shot so well you’ll be entertained either way. 

The violence serves its purpose well here, bordering the line of an R-rating multiple times, yet never being unnecessary. It always serves the plot or a character arc in some way, which I didn’t expect, and appreciate.  

The supporting cast is all great, and it’s clear the writers learned from their mistake from Spectre with boring subplots. The script realizes it’s a JAMES BOND movie, and while the other characters each get their moments, all the main focus is still on Bond. 

While a few scenes drag in the middle, the pacing is incredible with the story doing its job, making you want more. 

The film has an instantly classy, yet modern feel all at once. The story has things we’ve seen in other Bond outings; a mysterious world domination plot, an evil lair on an island, etc. The way the story manages to not only make these clichés realistic but believable really impressed me. In its own way, it adds just as much different to the franchise as Royale and Skyfall.

More than once, the film calls back to other Bond features. Anything from set design, costumes, and even music cues. What this has over something like Disney’s Star Wars sequel trilogy, or Terminator: Dark Fate, is that these callbacks each tie into the plot in some way or another. The best part is, these moments don’t need to be explained or presented in a useless flashy way; if you get the reference, awesome. If you don’t, it works within the story and doesn’t take anything away.

The problems begin with one word, Antagonist. Within walking to your car from the theater, you will have most likely forgotten his name. (I know I did.) Malik does his best with the material given, but Safin didn’t quite have that *humph* that made someone like Le Chiffre memorable, and intimidating. It’s not entirely his fault, in order for this story to work the best it can, it needs to give Bond all the time in the world. 

More than once, big story-changing moments happen simply because they need to in order to move the plot forward. There are smaller parts here and there that can be debated after the film to add to the experience, but there are some serious revelations dropped that only exist because otherwise there would be no big action scenes. This aspect of the script is disappointing at best, especially when comparing this to the other Bond adventures in this universe. 

There’s so much to love about Craig’s final 007 feature, but the biggest problems, which seem small when put in only 2 paragraphs, drag down a good film, from being a great one. 

[My Grade for No Time To Die is a Bwell, hang on a minute. I’m not just done.

Those were my final thoughts right before the credits started to roll. In my ranking of the 5 Daniel Craig Bond movies, No Time To Die was smack in the middle. Not quite as good as my top 2, #2. Skyfall, #1. Casino Royale. Yet adding a bit more than my bottom 2, #4. Spectre, #3. Quantum of Solace. 

Then, something quickly altered my rating. It’s not better than Royale, but I would put it above Skyfall, slightly.

Everything I said above my grade still holds true, but something canceled out the cons almost entirely. The song choice played over the final shots and end credits was so poetic, beautiful, epic, romantic, and surprising, that it legitimately makes me have to bring my grade up nearly an entire letter. With one song choice, it told me everything about the film I needed to know, that the people who worked on it didn’t care whether mass audience’s got the reference or not, because they were going to do whatever it took to tell the best Bond story they could.

I’m not sure who will play him next, but if this is the type of filmmaking they keep bringing on, I’m happy to see that James Bond will return. 

[My Grade for No Time To Die is an A-]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s