No Time to Die picks up where the disappointing Spectre left off, with Bond leaving the Secret Service behind to be with his beloved Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux). However, their past soon catches up to them, hurling both into another globetrotting, death-defying, conspiracy-unravelling superspy adventure. They’re up against the cruel and mysterious Safin (Rami Malek), a terrorist leader with a deadly biological superweapon and a grudge against Spectre – that’s the shadowy supervillain organisation Spectre, not the worst Craig Bond movie of the same name.
The double dunk on Spectre feels warranted, as pretty much everything that movie did wrong, No Time to Die does right. Gone are the sluggish pacing, the lacklustre action (Bautista and Craig dismantling a train with their bare hands excluded) and the clunky attempts at marrying Craig-era grittiness with classic Bond silliness.
Despite being the longest James Bond movie to date, No Time to Die moves briskly and is packed with memorable set pieces. Craig’s Bond is at his most lethal here – a one-man army powering through impossible odds to save the world and the people he loves. From the opening high-octane car chase in Italy to Bond stalking his enemies in a forest shrouded in mist, No Time to Die consistently delivers big screen worthy spectacle and thrills.
The film fully emulates classic Bond without feeling like it’s trapped in the past, and no line encapsulates how far we’ve come from the stripped down, gritty days of Casino Royale better than M (Ralph Fiennes)’s deadpan “Q, hack Blofeld’s biotic eye.” You have the supervillain with his secret lair, his henchman with a ridiculous name and distinguishing feature, Aston Martins and one-liners, the gadget watch – the works.
Bond is joined by another 00 agent – Lashana Lynch’s Nomi. The fresh-faced superspy is transparently here to gauge how receptive the audience is to a woman taking over the franchise in the future, but the whole thing is handled rather well. The two 00s butt heads, trade jabs and kick ass. Nomi gets to leave an impression, without ever seeming like she’s trying to upstage Bond. Ditto for Ana de Armas’ Paloma, a bubbly CIA agent that shows up, steals a few scenes – and our hearts – then leaves.
It was also good to see Jeffrey Wright return as Bond’s CIA pal Felix Leiter. Their friendship is a welcome dynamic, even if it doesn’t flow organically from where they were when we saw them together last in 2008’s Quantum of Solace. I guess we just have to assume they’ve had a bunch of off-screen adventures together.
Rami Malek is not going to make any best Bond villain lists anytime soon, but he’s enough of a presence to keep both the global and personal stakes where they should be – the personal stakes in particular set up Bond’s emotionally charged arc throughout the movie. These moments dip heavily into the melodramatic, but it’s the right kind of cheesy for the character’s swan song. The ending tugs at the heartstrings and wraps up the Craig era on a high note.
The script has clearly been punched up for humour (thank you, Phoebe Waller-Bridge), but it never feels out-of-place or forced. The jokes land, bring levity to moments that needed them and, more often than not, add layers to certain character interactions.
If there’s a weak link – other than a just slightly-above-average villain – it’s the story, which does have its fair share of plot holes and contrivances. None are unforgivable, but expect your suspension of disbelief to be tested. The super-secret shadowy organisation having large meetings with all of its members present is just as illogical here as it was in Spectre. There’s also a third act threat of geopolitical catastrophe that gets completely swept under the table without much of an explanation.
Fukunaga brings confidence, style and energy as a director, while Hans Zimmer is as reliable as ever when it comes to the score – with plenty of musical references to Craig’s previous outings expertly woven in. As for Billie Eilish’s Bond theme, it’s a solid addition to the canon, but it seems a little too dark and lowkey for the movie it was made for.
Your tolerance for confounding story moments and high melodrama will dictate how satisfied you are, but it’s difficult to imagine walking away disappointed from an action movie this good.
No Time to Die is out in cinemas now.