‘No Time to Die’ is a Fitting, Touching Goodbye for Daniel Craig


Daniel Craig in a screenshot of the “No Time To Die” trailer. (Courtesy of MGM)

By Megan Fisher, Arts Writer


Since first appearing on screen in 1954, James Bond has been played by seven actors and saved the world twenty-seven times on film. The series has functioned as a sort of long-running serial — each movie is a self-contained adventure that did not reference the previous outing, and only pays a vague, myopic glance at continuity.

The James Bond series has no memory. The actors replace one another, introducing themselves as “Bond, James Bond,” with perhaps only a winking quip acknowledging that a change in appearance has happened. Not even Sean Connery was given a chance to say goodbye to the character on screen.

From the very beginning of “Casino Royale,” the Daniel Craig run has established itself as an autonomous entity, distinct from earlier installments. We met “007” as a rookie, at the beginning of his career, and each following installment built from the others in ways that no other James Bond movies had done. “No Time to Die,” just being released after several delays due to the on-going pandemic, is a firm, respectful and surprisingly touching final chapter.

We Have All the Time in the World

Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (“Jane Eyre,” “True Detective”), “No Time to Die” picks up where the previous entry, “Spectre,” left off — Bond and Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) driving through the Italian countryside. “We have all the time in the world,” Bond tells Madeleine as she contentedly rests her head on his shoulder.

In the Bond world, that simple phrase acts as a curse. It was first uttered in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969) in a conversation between Bond and Tracy Draco (Diana Rigg), the woman who would become Mrs. James Bond until being murdered on their wedding day.

Picking up five years after the excursion through Italy, “No Time to Die” finds Bond retired to Jamaica. But just when he thought he was out, Bond is approached by an old friend, CIA Agent Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), with a mission.

On a Ken Adam-inspired Island lair, Lyutsifer Safrin, played by a Rami Malek who had likely seen too many previous Bond villains and struggled to know what to do beyond imitation, plans to use poisonous technology to wreak havoc on the world. Can Bond stop him?

Looking Back at the Classics

It’s very classic Bond. All of the elements that one expects from the series are on the table, even ones that have previously been missing from the Craig movies.

Bond drives an Aston Martin while being chased by the villain’s henchman. He orders a Martini, shaken, not stirred. He lives in a world complete with gadgets from Q (Ben Whishaw), briefings from M (Ralph Fiennes), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) behind the desk of the outer office and a villain who loves to explain the details of his evil plans.

Along the way the audience is also led to believe they are going to meet a classic “Bond girl” in Paloma, a jittery and nervous agent played by Ana de Armas. Quickly, de Armas deconstructs the very notion of a Bond girl. Her performance is charming, funny and lingers in the mind, despite her short screen time.

Overcomplicated Plot but Doesn’t Feel Lengthy

“No Time to Die” is a very ambitious movie, with a lot of ideas that work and even more that don’t. Individual sequences play brilliantly, such as the opening sequence and a shoot-out in Cuba, but often what should be simple is needlessly complicated.

The way that ideas did not fully blend together makes it rather obvious that there were six credited screenwriters. Still, it is a testament to Fukunaga’s talent as a storyteller that “No Time to Die” did not feel its two hour and forty-three minute running time in the theater.

Rather famously, in a 2015 interview, Craig said that he would rather “slash [his] wrists” than play Bond again, but if there was any hesitation or unwillingness to make this movie, it is not evident in his performance.

Above all else, “No Time to Die” is a tribute to Craig’s Bond — it’s the best performance that has ever been given in a Bond movie. Craig finds emotion within the car chases and explosions, giving a performance that is gentle, vulnerable and moving.

Connery gave birth to the character, but Craig helped him grow up. He gave Bond a heart and the ability to evolve. The Bond franchise is not known for character arcs and emotional pathos, but “No Time to Die” delivers both.


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