davidehrlich’s review published on Letterboxd:
James Bond has saved the world two dozen times during the last half-century, but the stakes have never been higher than they are in Cary Joji Fukunaga’s long-awaited (and even longer-delayed) “No Time to Die,” a mega-blockbuster saddled with the extraordinary pressure of salvaging the Daniel Craig era from the ruins of “Spectre,” justifying the spy franchise’s decision to abandon standalone adventures in favor of a more serialized arc, and resolving its current run in a way that allows the 007 brand to stay relevant in the face of a Marvel-dominated future that has little room for 59-year-old sex pests on her majesty’s secret service. Phew. Needless to say, that’s a lot of ground to cover — even for an 163-minute epic.
While several Bonds have come and gone before, none of them have ever really needed to say goodbye — they were all effectively just replacing each other on the same deathless merry-go-round. One unflappably suave British man would get off, and another would step into the open car he left behind. These were movies without a memory, and that was a signature part of their timeless (if always trend-driven) charm; even after 007’s new wife was assassinated in the closing moments of one film, he was literally a different person by the time the next began.
But the Craig saga has played by its own rules from the start. “Casino Royale” cut Bond too deep for his scars to be Etch-a-Sketched away overnight, and so “Quantum of Solace” became the series’ first proper sequel. “Skyfall” explored the past of a character who had always existed in an eternal present, while “Spectre” clumsily attempted to connect that present to a past the character had long outgrown (thereby inventing a template that “Rise of the Skywalker” would later perfect into a miserable artform).
And so, in what now seems like an inevitable course-correction, “No Time to Die” is a story about the need to leave certain things behind. It’s the modern spy movie equivalent of “The Last Jedi,” as the universe tells James Bond that he has no choice but to let the past die — to kill it if he has to — and dares Craig to pull the trigger. The actor barely even blinks. Instead, he limps, smirks, and shoots his way through five erratic movies’ worth of pent-up emotion in order to make you cry. The result might be the least exciting Bond film of the 21st century, but it’s undeniably also the most moving.