No Time to Die

No Time to Die ★★★★½

The mission that changes everything begins...

It's finally here! The 25th James Bond film, No Time to Die, was supposed to be released in November of 2019 however, Danny Boyle leaving and then the Coronavirus pandemic put a stop to that. Nearly two years on, the world gets to see how Daniel Craig bows out of playing arguably the most iconic character in the history of cinema and speculation starts to ramp up in regards to who Craig will be passing the torch on to for the future of the franchise.

James Bond (Daniel Craig) has left active service. His peace is short-lived when Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), an old friend from the CIA, turns up asking for help, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.

No Time to Die has a lot to do as a film all round; closing out the Daniel Craig era being the momentous objective looming over proceedings, which includes tying up a number of loose strings that have been present right through Craig's four-film arc from Casino Royale to Spectre. As a whole, the film delivers an extremely satisfying conclusion to an era of the franchise many would agree hasn't been the plainest of sailing. It may run a little overlong however, with what's just been mentioned above, it's written in such a way that makes it flow so smoothly that can be ignored slightly.

This is the closest to classic James Bond any of the Craig films have got, fitting that it comes with his last hurrah. There's a playfulness to it all, even in the action which has always had a bit of a dead seriousness to it since Casino Royale. Phoebe Waller-Bridge was brought in to help with the screenplay and you can sense her presence throughout, Lashana Lynch's new agent Nomi and Ana de Armas' CIA agent Paloma getting plenty of quips of their own in with Bond, who himself feels to have a bit of personality back with some witty jokes thrown in to the mix. Don't worry though, this doesn't mean it just becomes a slapstick comedy instead of a spy thriller with panache.

There's an emotional heft to the film and not only because it's Craig's final outing as 007. Cary Joji Fukunaga handles it with nothing but confidence behind the camera, making this one of the most emotionally complex James Bond films we've ever seen, and probably will see for a long while. Linus Sandgren's cinematography is a work of art itself, rivalling Roger Deakins' work on Skyfall for the title of the best looking Bond film, his work on the action sequences, in particular a long take on a staircase being majestic. The action makes this film soar; the car chase through a beautiful Norwegian landscape and a fun Cuban shootout involving de Armas' Paloma and Lynch's Nomi injecting some adrenalin to keep the narrative ticking over. The balance between the emotional weight of the film and the more playful side of it all with the coy humour and pulsating action is helped by Hans Zimmer's score, soft when it needs to be but not afraid to be bombastic when shit starts to hit the fan.

Daniel Craig is suitably superb in his last outing as James Bond, an amalgamation of the steely and hot-headed Bond from Casino Royale and the suave spy we grew more accustomed to in Skyfall and Spectre. While he seemed to be on auto-pilot throughout parts of his last outing, in No Time to Die he appears to be giving his all to a role that really does deserve it from any actor put in his shoes. Craig is the best actor we've ever had as James Bond so far and his range is put to great use throughout this global adventure, making this icon of cinema possess such emotional gravitas one moment before being the perfect killing machine the next, the physicality that goes into a performance like this something not to be underestimated.

Craig is joined by an impressive ensemble cast to support his final outing, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw striking up great partnerships with his Bond over the years and playing their part in making this feel like a celebratory culmination. Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas both make their mark on the franchise with strong performances, something the franchise hasn't always been known for when it comes to female characters, the latter making one hell of an impression in such a short space of time which always signals proper talent. Léa Seydoux does the rare thing of being a Bond girl who makes an appearance in more than one film as Madeleine Swann and her relationship with Bond is one that drives this film forward, Seydoux doing an ace job of portraying such a broken soul to match up with Bond.

The film suffers a little with not having the best of villains in Rami Malek's Lyutsifer Safin, a man with a shady past and motivations that don't really weigh-up in the big scheme of things but his secret lair is a great throwback to the flamboyant Bond villains of the past. Malek doesn't even give a bad performance it's just his character that feels a little flat and incredibly late to goings in.

No Time to Die is a triumphant end to the Daniel Craig era of James Bond films, mashing this new iteration of the character together with some classic traits to make it a farewell to remember. Whoever takes up the mantle next has a lot to live up to and I hope they deviate away from plots that string across many-a-film and go back to spy thrillers that have a singular adventure with each film, keeping the playful nature that finally made its way into the Craig films. This is blockbuster filmmaking of the highest standard that it was great to see a packed cinema coming to see a James Bond film on the big screen again.

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