'No Time to Die' movie review: A grand culmination

'No Time to Die' movie review: A grand culmination of the Daniel Craig era

The film borrows everything from the Craig era to give one of cinema's greatest icons one of the greatest love letters ever

The film picks up elements from nearly all of the Craig-era bond films and puts them together with the express purpose of giving James the greatest swan song possible. Credit: YouTube/James Bond 007

No Time to Die

Director: Cary Fukunaga

Cast: Daniel Craig, Lashana Lynch, Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Christoph Waltz

Score: 4/5 stars

It's not an exaggeration to say that No Time to Die is a culmination of James Bond's Daniel Craig era. It takes bits of nearly everything that has come before, all the way from Casino Royale, and succinctly puts them together in a (rather long) tribute to one of cinema's greatest icons.

It is, in essence, the classic 'Bond' film - it has intrigue, mystery, action, lots of ladies and, of course, James Bond. Here, however, the focus is much greater on him, though not as 007 the spy, but rather James Bond, the man. It plays out more like a personal journey down a rabbit hole for him, with a threat of pandemic proportions (pardon the pun) tagging along for the ride.

By the culmination of the events of this film, Bond is, of course, no longer 007. And while his replacement may raise eyebrows, that's not an argument worth making as the number is just that, and can be given to anyone. Though truth be told, it certainly is fun watching James Bond and the new 007, Nomi (Lashana Lynch) go from awkward colleagues to side-by-side machines of pure butt-kicking over the course of the film.

Speaking of the culmination, No Time to Die is remarkably unsubtle about its various callbacks to the past - be it a former love interest being brought back as a tool for Spectre or an emotionally charged confrontation between him and Ernst Blofeld, or even the sense of betrayal Bond feels he's going through with the people he cared about (specifically Madeleine Swann). The film picks up elements from nearly all of the Craig-era bond films and puts them together with the express purpose of giving James the greatest swan song possible.

The plot is general Bond fare - a bad guy plots to bring ruin to the world in some form or another and Bond, along with his group, has to try and stop him before those plans come to fruition. In this case, the tool of destruction is a weapon that can rapidly kill any person with a specific DNA signature and the villain is one of the coldest, most calculating and sociopathic creatures the franchise has ever created - Lyutsifer Safin. In many ways, the film shows that Safin is Bond's mirror image, borne from an apparently similar life but through drastically different life choices. His closest contemporary in the franchise would be Silva from Skyfall as they are both on a sort of revenge mission. While Silva's quest was entirely personal, however, Safin absolutely despises the world and carefully paints his hate as a benevolent quest. In this sense, Safin is perhaps one of the greatest adversaries Bond has ever faced and Rami Malek deserves plaudits for creating one of the most effective Bond villains ever.

By holding a mirror to Bond, No Time to Die elevates him and all those involved with him to a new level. This is most apparent in Swann, who, more than anything, acts as the most stable anchor Bond has ever had and the closest he will ever come to being a normal human being. Their relationship forms not just a cornerstone of the film, but of Bond himself, giving him a sort of humanity that has scarcely been seen before. Around her, Bond is more awkward, slightly bumbling and very much not in control, showing just how much he cares for her in little tics and actions, despite his supposed disinterest partway through the film. It is in her that Bond, and the film, find a kind of brightness that almost radiates beauty, giving a true form and purpose to Bond's greatest journey yet.

In terms of technical aspects, No Time to Die is a clearly well-polished piece of work, with an odd chink or two here and there. It has largely clean camerawork, incredibly powerful action and a mix of both serenity and urgency in its tone, which is presented through a vibrant use of colours to depict both tension and peace as distinct yet similar entities in this world. Director Cary Fukunaga and cinematographer Linus Sandgren most efficiently bring to life one of the best Bond stories ever with finesse and care. They call upon their diverse experiences to ensure that almost nothing is left discarded in the grand scheme of things, though the film could have done with fewer shaky-cam bits (which can get headache-inducing in 3D).

There is little else to say about No Time to Die but to say that it puts a full stop on a chapter of cinema history in the most human way possible and opens a page to hopefully write a new chapter. And it's one that may go a long, long way into the future.

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