Written by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw
No one is owed a happy ending nor do they always receive it because that’s how life works. Consider this in the world of spies and the likelihood of everything working out continually shrinks. In the final chapter of Daniel Craig’s run as James Bond, it answers whether or not he will ever get rest and while disjointed as a whole, it provides bundles of entertainment as any fan should expect.
Living life blissfully with his love, James Bond (Daniel Craig) feels betrayal for what he swears will be the last time. He then encounters a new villain named Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek) who has a connection to Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) and apparently Madeleine (Léa Seydoux) as well.
For this generation of movie watchers around my age, Daniel Craig has definitively represented Bond in the gritty way his narratives have been told. With this serving as his farewell, the character had the opportunity to end everything with a bang seeing as his series of films have varied in quality. While No Time to Die does not come close to reaching the heights of Skyfall or Casino Royale, the emotional stakes it sets out along with exciting new characters it integrates ensures it does not land in the lower end with Spectre and Quantum of Solace. It lands comfortably in the middle even with the issues it has.
As for the positives, it lies in what makes Bond films so entertaining, great action set pieces. Absolutely thrilling from the opening flashback sequence to Bond being chased by bad guys once again. Certainly not as many as the previous installments but the doses it does provide certainly supplies whatever any fan of this franchise should expect. Integrating the emotional stakes this final chapter makes each worth more in the scope of what it means as we barrel towards the end of the story.
For all the talk of what it would like for there to be a female James Bond, this film does a spectacular job at integrating two female agents in Nomi (Lashana Lynch) and Paloma (Ana de Armas). Nomi essentially takes over the 007 role with Bond retiring from the position and the banter she has with the veteran works very well. It answers the question of which way the franchise can even go moving forward should they want to center the story on a female spy. The power lies in the 007 title and it would be tremendous for Nomi to continue this legacy. However, the absolute show-stealer proved to be Paloma. Ana de Armas has absolutely skyrocketed in prominence rightfully and she absolutely steals the entire film in the less than ten minutes she appears on-screen. Perhaps that speaks to the lack of quality of the rest of the film or just how great she is here. It marks the high point for the feature as she dazzles as the inexperienced but eager CIA agent stationed in Cuba to help out Bond get to Spectre. When she departs the film, nothing else really comes close to reaching the dynamism of those scenes, and part of that comes from two glaring issues this film must battle. These issues come in the form of an incredibly weak villain and a central love story lacking any sort of chemistry.
When this franchise starts out with an incredible love story between Bond and Vesper where Eva Green absolutely sells this relationship with Bond, when Bond finally chooses to settle down with a woman, it needs to at least equal the chemistry. To put it nicely, Madeleine Swann and James Bond just do not work. The love story established in the previous film just does not sell these two as lovers that just cannot be separated. Whether it falls on the actors, the writing, or the direction, it just does not work. Additionally, when great villains like Le Chiffre and Raoul Silva in previous films, to have the conclusion chapter feature such a wet noodle in Safin feels like a letdown. He does not get the time to establish himself as a villain nor do any of the scenes he has with Bond really sell him as a threat. Couple that with such a convoluted plot for selling weaponry and it all just feels underwhelming. This leaves a film not spending enough time on what makes it work and its most integral parts feeling incredibly lackluster as a result.
Despite the issues this film has, it proves to be very enjoyable as a whole with some wonderful smaller appearances helping usher the end of Daniel Craig’s run as James Bond. The action set pieces live up to the hype and the emotional beats of the narrative land as the conclusion inevitably arrives. It features some fantastic editing in how well-paced it feels for a nearly 3-hour film. Not without its faults but a good way to honor the character so many have grown up with.