'No Time to Die': Daniel Craig's swan song as James Bond worth the wait

Katie Walsh
Tribune News Service (TNS)

By the numbers, “No Time To Die” is the 25th James Bond film, released 59 years after the first installment, starring the sixth actor to play Bond, Daniel Craig, in his fifth and final outing as the dashing MI6 super-spy. It runs a beefy 2 hours and 43 minutes, and the film’s release was postponed three times by the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of 007s in the movie is two, a declaration that “No Time to Die” delivers everything you could want, and more, from a Bond movie.

Director and co-writer Cary Joji Fukunaga has delivered the goods for Daniel Craig’s farewell tour: exciting locales, jaw-dropping stunts, a beguiling Bond girl, a ridiculous villain, and of course, some romance. Plus, there’s double the 007s, as Lashana Lynch’s Nomi takes on Bond’s retired number as MI6’s newest superstar.

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Fukunaga and award-winning “Fleabag” writer and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge joined longtime Bond screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade in penning the screenplay for “No Time To Die,” which features a predictably twisty, globe-trotting plot and crackling dialogue (some of the spicier lines clearly bear Waller-Bridge’s influence), which makes frequent idiomatic references to, well, time, of course.

The plot is nestled within two flashbacks revolving around Bond’s latest love, comely psychologist Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux). After a perceived betrayal, Bond retreats into retirement in Jamaica (where author Ian Fleming lived and wrote the James Bond novels). But despite his attempts to get away from it all, the gig finds him, as it always does, and he’s roped back into a world he thought he’d left behind.

Lashana Lynch, left, and Daniel Craig star in "No Time To Die." The movie opens Friday at Regal West Manchester, Queensgate Movies 13 and Hanover Movies 16.

There’s precious little reason to describe the plot of a Bond film; suffice to say they play all the hits: he dashes from exotic location to exotic location, flirting with dangerous women, looking good in a suit, delivering his signature catchphrases, tangling with M (Ralph Fiennes) and Moneypenny (Naomi Harris), and playing with cool gadgets from Q (Ben Whishaw), all in the name of saving the world from a high-tech weapon.

But the most notable innovation is also the most exciting, in Lashana Lynch’s ultra-confident and ultra-cool performance as the newest 007 on the block, Nomi, who is gunning for Bond’s neck, before they reluctantly become allies. Lynch is magnetic on screen and easily makes her case for taking over the whole franchise herself. Ana de Armas also makes a memorable appearance, and her twist on the Bond girl, as a bubbly novice rather than femme fatale, is criminally charming and all-too brief.

On the other hand, Rami Malek’s stiff, disfigured villain, who sows revenge from a remote island lair, feels like an unfortunate throwback; he might as well be straight from the Roger Moore years. Billy Magnussen’s sub-villain, an American intelligence agent, would have been the far more fascinating and contemporary character, but he’s jettisoned too soon.

Daniel Craig stars in "No Time To Die." The movie opens Friday at Regal West Manchester, Queensgate Movies 13 and Hanover Movies 16.

Despite these minor quibbles, Fukunaga gives Craig a stunning send-off as Bond, in this beautifully shot and epic adventure. Though the script is often delightfully light and saucy, what eventually comes to the foreground is the romance between Bond and Madeline. It offers Bond the chance to indulge in a love story that’s much more grounded and domestic than any of his previous flings, and it underscores the deep emotion of his farewell to this character, which is ultimately incredibly moving. Despite the delays, “No Time To Die” is worth the wait.

‘NO TIME TO DIE’

3 stars (out of 4)

MPAA rating: PG-13 (for sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images, brief strong language and some suggestive material)

Running time: 2:43