That conclusion will prove controversial, but director Cary Fukunaga deserves credit for taking the character and adding real stakes to his 15-year story arc
There’s the recurring line in No Time to Die — Daniel Craig’s fifth and final outing as James Bond — that’s heartbreakingly prescient. Now retired from the life of an MI6 superspy, Bond says he and his ladylove Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), whom we met in the last film, Spectre, have “All the time in the world.”
All the time to heal their past wounds, all the time to write a different ending for themselves.
Of course, for both the suave agent and the legions of fans who have embraced Craig’s 007, that mantra is nothing more than wishful thinking. Maybe it would have been a better line for the ending of 2015’s Spectre, as Bond and Swann drove off into the sunset and Craig mused in the press that he’d rather “slash his wrists” than return as the character. Then we all could have believed in fanciful happy endings.
As it turns out, that idyllic life is just a mirage. After an opening that ties the film’s main villain Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek) to Swann, the action cuts to the mountain roads of Italy as Bond and Madeleine race towards a happily-ever-after. But the tranquillity is short-lived as SPECTRE agents hunt them down.
How did they find them so easily? Bond immediately thinks he’s been betrayed, and after an extended chase scene, he unceremoniously chucks Madeleine on a train. No time for goodbyes.
The action picks up five years later, when an old pal from earlier films, CIA handler Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), interrupts Bond’s single life in Jamaica to ask him for help in tracking down a missing scientist (David Dencik) behind a dangerous nanotech, nicknamed Heracles.
As the story (by director Cary Fukunaga, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Phoebe Waller-Bridge) continues in Cuba, Bond teams up with CIA newbie Paloma (the delightful Ana de Armas) and crosses paths with his 00 replacement (Lashana Lynch). Turns out, the mission isn’t a simple snatch-and-grab. Bond’s been double-crossed again and before he knows it, he’s back in front of his old nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), now locked up in Belmarsh Prison. And oh look, there’s Madeleine. It turns out she’s the only one Blofeld will talk to. The mysterious Heracles project, which his old boss M (Ralph Fiennes) had a hand in creating, then sends Bond and Madeleine down a path where both their lives will be irrevocably changed by Safin.
To say more, would venture into spoiler territory. But Fukunaga — the first American-born filmmaker to helm a Bond picture — manages to tie many plot points together, bringing Craig’s run to a wholly satisfying end. Unlike Pierce Brosnan’s films, these Bond stories require investment on the part of viewers. You need to know what happened in the entries before this one for the full import of the denouement to hit home. Craig’s Bond is a hero that has been bruised by years of loss and betrayal, and we see the ramifications of that here.
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And all those threads — and the dents they have left in our superagent’s armour — are resolved in a way they never could have before because past episodic entries (with Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Brosnan) allowed the character to quite easily move on from his past. Every decision Craig’s iteration has made up to now — in 2006’s Casino Royale and the sequels Quantum of Solace (2008), Skyfall (2012) and Spectre (2015) — leads us to an inevitable ending.
That conclusion will prove controversial. But Fukunaga deserves credit for taking the character and adding real stakes to his 15-year story arc. The third act drags slightly and comes at the cost of expanding Malek’s creepy villain, who could have easily used more screen time.
But if you weren’t going to see an old friend again (Craig will be replaced as 007 next year), wouldn’t you want to sit awhile longer, perhaps pour another Martini and say to them, “No need to rush. We have all the time in the world.”
No Time to Die is in theatres now
RATING: ***1/2 (THREE-AND-A-HALF OUT OF FOUR)
Cast: Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux, Rami Malek, Ana de Armas, Christoph Waltz
Screenplay: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Cary Fukunaga
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Running time: 163 minutes