By Paul Hall
Sure, with a title like No Time to Die, the brain goes racing. The thoughts range from “does James Bond have time in his busy schedule,” “is there a good time to die” and “no time like the present” to “I am James Bond — bad guys may die but not me.”
All will be answered in the 25th installment of the classic series.
James Bond (Daniel Craig) is taking some well-deserved time away from the spy game. As the 2015 film Spectre came to a close, James headed off into the sunset with Madeleine (Léa Seydoux) as a man just looking to get away from everything with the one he loves. That is exactly what he is doing as the pair are out traveling, enjoying the sights and each other’s company. But as with everything with Bond, the past does not stay in the past — eventually it will catch up with him.
Once that moment arrives, we are sent on a journey of individual retreat. Bond is on a journey he should have taken long ago, relaxing in a beautiful locale with the best-looking women around him, although nothing lasts forever. But when an old friend comes calling, James answers.
Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) has worked with James in the past (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace) and knows he is exactly the individual who might be able to carry out a mission for the Americans and agent Logan Ash (Billy Magnussen). The mission will take James to Cuba, and that’s where things really get going. Just who is behind the new endeavors for the Spectre organization?
As the credits rolled for this latest Bond film, I waited patiently to see the line that we have all come to know that closes all films in this franchise — James Bond Will Return. As soon as this appeared, I wanted to watch No Time to Die again. But why?
It’s classic Bond and perfectly fits into the Daniel Craig world of the iconic character. Bond films have a history of being long, but director Cary Joji Fukunaga’s installment clocks in at an eye-popping 2 hours and 43 minutes. But the run time was gleefully brisk as Bond traveled the globe.
Recognizable characters for Bond fans, M (Ralph Fiennes), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw) return from Spectre. New memorable characters like Paloma (Ana de Armas), who is an agent with three weeks’ training, and Nomi (Lashana Lynch), who is a highly skilled 00 agent in her own right, blast off the screen with their combination of amazing skills and stunning costumes.
Every Bond film needs a villain. This effort introduces Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek) to Bond bad guy lore. Safin has a grudge and needs to enlist Spectre to carry out his highly targeted plan. His methods, however, just may not bring them onboard as one may think. He’s a man who searches for power and he believes he has found the source to create the world he wants.
No Time to Die is by no means a perfect Bond film. Malek’s character felt a bit vanilla in his approach and deserved a bit more background. All the classic Bond boxes are checked for the film, and in the end that makes for a perfectly satisfying experience to close Craig’s long-talked-about run as the most debonair secret agent ever.
While checking all those boxes, I really was taken by one of the underappreciated elements that is on full display here: stunt work. Good old-fashioned stuntmen and women are hard at work and in great numbers. It makes for a very realistic excursion on the screen that is less fantastical and more gritty and believable.
As a character, James Bond remains a man other men want to be and women are captivated by. No Time to Die uses a cast with intriguing roles and action that begs to be seen on the biggest screen available. Make time for James Bond. You’ll be happy you did.
Paul’s Grade: B+
No Time to Die
Stars: Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Ana de Armas, Lashana Lynch, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga