Synopsis: James Bond has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. His peace is short-lived when his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA turns up asking for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading the former MI6 agent onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.
Stars: Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Billy Magnussen, Ana de Armas, David Dencik, Rory Kinnear
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Running Length: 163 minutes
Trailer Review: Here
TMMM Score: (9/10)
Review: So…here we are. After a long, very long, extremely long, wait…the new 007 film has arrived. It’s also the last time Daniel Craig will don the James Bond suits, drive the fancy cars, and play with the cool gadgets, so it’s understandable why the producers and studio behind No Time to Die kept firm with their decision to push back the release date over and over again so audiences could only experience this important chapter in theaters. This, after the movie was initially delayed on its way to the screen because of a departing director (Oscar-winner Danny Boyle left after disagreements on how the story should go), cast injuries, and damage to the filming studio. For a time, it looked like James Bond would NOT return, to riff on the famous last words at the end of each previous films’ closing credits. A release date was finally locked in but then…pandemic.
All that is behind us because the movie is arriving and now the question for the viewer will likely be two-fold. 1) was it worth the wait and 2) is it a fulfilling sequel? For me, as a life-long Bond fan and with a certain affinity for most of this last cycle of Bond movies with Craig as the star I will tell you what I responded when both the studio and my friend asked me what I thought. To me, when the 163-minute No Time to Die was over I felt like I had eaten a nine-course meal of my favorite dishes and then topped it off with an extra dessert. After something so huge, you need time to digest so I was happy to have over a week to think more about it. Craig’s tenure as Bond has had its highs (Skyfall, Casino Royale) and lows (Quantum of Solace, Spectre) and I would place No Time to Die smack dab in the center of them all, leaning strongly toward high praise for the elegant way it manages to close this part of what has already been a long adventure.
For the first time, a James Bond opening begins in the past and doesn’t even feature Bond at all. This intro becomes a key piece in action and location later in the movie and is but the beginning of the longest pre-credit sequence in any Bond film yet. By the time Daniel Kleinman’s haunting opening credit sequence pays over Billie Eilish’s spine-tingling title track (I originally found this song to be slow and boring but, in the context of the movie, the tone and purpose make it near perfect), retired 00-agent Bond and his love Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux, The Grand Budapest Hotel) have faced down a vicious attack in Southern Italy and in the process revealed certain secrets from the past that have come back to snap at both of their hearts. Five years later, Bond is alone in Jamaica when he is visited by both his old friend Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright, The Good Dinosaur) from the CIA and an MI6 agent (Lashana Lynch, Captain Marvel) who has been assigned his 007 number in the field. Both are interested in Bond getting involved with Project Heracles, a chemical weapon that has been stolen by a rogue villain. The CIA wants Bond’s help, 007 wants him to stay out of her way.
Bond can’t help but be curious and when he travels to Cuba to investigate, he’s teamed with new CIA agent Paloma (Ana de Armas, reuniting with her Knives Out co-star Craig) to infiltrate a secret SPECTRE party where they find an old friend has been keeping a watchful eye over them all. The deeper Bond seeks the truth, the more he finds that Project Heracles has ties not just to his old foe Ernst Blofeld but to a new enemy, Safin (Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody), as well as Madeleine. And all three are about to re-enter his life in a big way…with a number of surprises yet to come.
As is usually the case, there are a stable of screenwriters credited for this 25th Bond film but it doesn’t feel slap-a-dash or story by committee. Aside from usual suspects Neil Purvis and Robert Wade, director Cary Joji Fukunaga (Jane Eyre) contributed to the final script, and it’s widely known that Emmy winner Phoebe Waller-Bridge was brought in to punch up some of the dialogue and give the film some humor. Hold that wince if you are thinking there’s an extra dose of comedy that’s been shaken and stirred…yes there is more of a sense of humor to the proceedings, but they are small touches here and there which result in the characters feeling more fleshed out than anything.
It’s great to see the players back in action, from Ben Whishaw’s (Cloud Atlas) tech-guy Q to Naomie Harris’s (Rampage) Moneypenny. I’m glad the writers gave Ralph Fiennes (Dolittle) as M a bit more depth this time around because in Spectre there seemed to be a bit of stunted growth after being introduced so nicely in Skyfall. (Note, make sure to keep your eyes open for a scene where M is sitting in a portrait gallery and observe the paintings – it’s just one of several nice touches that callback not just to other Craig films, but all the way back to the beginning.) Waltz (Big Eyes) had his chance in the previous film to make an impression and he was sort of just…Waltz. There’s little more to elaborate on than that. Of the new crop, Lynch has the best success in a role that feels like a good step forward for the series but, like Halle Berry’s Jinx who played opposite Pierce Brosnan in Die Another Day, the character becomes a second thought once Bond decides to get back in on the action. Per usual, I’m not entirely sure what Malek is up to in performance or accent but it’s one of the weaker villains in the Bond franchise…yet he has one of the deadliest lairs. The appeal of Billy Magnussen (Into the Woods) is totally lost on me. So, there’s that.
Fans have been waiting eons for Bond to return and he’s come back with a high-wire epic that delivers maximum bang for your buck. It’s a hefty movie with a generous run time so be prepared to settle in and I’d advise skipping any/all bathroom breaks so you don’t miss any action. Things change on a dime in the life of a secret agent and despite the constant aural reminder of another title tune from an older Bond film, you do not have all the time in the world to take it in. When the stakes are this high, there’s no time to wait for No Time to Die.