by Alaisdair Leith.
Daniel Craig returns one last time to the Bond franchise for an explosive sequel full of plenty of action, whacky gadgets, and a personal story that showcases the best of the Bond franchise’s history while setting it up for a glorious future.
James Bond (Daniel Craig) has retired and is living comfortably in Jamaica when his old friend Felix (Jeffrey Wright) from the CIA pulls Bond back into service with his protege Logan Ash (Billy Magnussen). They convince Bond to help them find a scientist named Valdo Obruchev (David Dencik), who has been kidnapped from a high-security bio-weapon laboratory with a deadly virus in his possession. Bond teams up with local MI6 agent Nomi (Lashana Lynch), who has taken over his 007 number since retirement. The two take on Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek), who wants to weaponise the virus and take revenge on the world for shunning him.
This may make the story sound like something you have heard before; the backbone of the plot revolves around Bond and his relationship with Madeleine Swan (Lea Seydoux). Bond seems set in his retirement and happy life and is only forced back into service out of absolute necessity. This could have been the plot of a film 5 years down the track if Craig needed some more Bond money; however, placing it here really does help create a personal story that injects this flighty franchise with some much-needed heart and family that it has been lacking. This is, of course, supported by Craig’s performance which will go down as the best Bond of our time.
One of the highlights of the movie is the scene-stealing Paloma (Ana de Armas), a CIA agent tasked with the job of assisting Bond in locating the scientist. The performance from Armas is incredible. The humour, warmth, and chemistry with Craig is infectious. The acrobatics involved in her action sequences are jaw-dropping, and director Cary Joki Fukunaga gives you just enough of a taste to keep you wanting more.
Bringing back Spectre was a brave choice and ultimately one that pays off. Incorporating a storyline of a group of elites who want to control who lives and who dies in the world through an airborne virus may hit a little too close to home in a Covid world; here, it adds to the loose ends that the previous films have left dangling to draw James back into action. The action sequences are spectacular; they are action-packed and larger than life, heralding back to old Bond classics that incorporate cars filled with gadgets and spectacular stunts that make these movies worth a trip to the big screen. Fukunaga lays it on thick and fast with the best action sequences bookending the film. There is quite a bit of downtime in between to allow the story to get personal, so by the time the epic finale lands, you are fully invested in what happens.
Performance-wise everyone brings their A-game here. Lashana Lynch plays Nomi, the new 007 who is clearly in charge after Bond’s retirement. While she is initially miffed at the idea of Bond coming back for the mission, the filmmakers cleverly never make the two have a rivalry or arguments over who is better, etc. Nomi also stands strong and holds her own when things fall apart in a way that Bond never could. Lynch gives a fun and calculated performance that could easily carry through to future films. Likewise, Ana de Armas deserves to be involved in future films as a collaboration. The fierce energy and whimsy she brings in her limited screen time is infectious while still being packed full of action. Rami Malek delivers a mustache-twirling villain with a vendetta against the world for shunning him, and honestly, you could not expect anything less than camp here. The dastardly one-liners would appear cheesy in a typical film, but with Bond’s 25-year history, it feels like an omage to the fun villains from the older films that fit Craig’s farewell to the franchise perfectly.
Daniel Craig himself delivers undoubtedly his best performance since Casino Royale. His performance goes beyond his piercing blue eyes as he is living relatively like a civilian and is unhappily pulled back into the world he was so desperate to get out of. You can feel the finality in his performance, and his resolution to sail off into the sunset and not come back is reflected in his desperation for this escalating threat to be eliminated. While his chemistry with Armas and Lynch is fantastic, Bond’s relationship with Madeleine (Lea Seydoux) feels flat and lifeless. It took a bit to buy into this was the love of his life worth leaving everything for. On their own, their performances are great but didn’t seem to work when together.
A running time of 2 hours and 43 minutes gives enough time for the love story, get the band back together, more love story and dramatic finale to breathe and take us on a ride with these characters and this Bond we have all grown to love over the last decade. It is the perfect swan song for Craig and the ideal way to end his legacy as James Bond of our generation.
No Time To Die is now showing in Australian cinemas.