No time to die

Stars: 4/5

James Bond returns for the 25th entry into the franchise with "No Time To Die," a fantastic blend of action, mystery and tragedy.

Daniel Craig’s rendition of the character has always been Bond at his most thought-provoking. Casting away the goofier aspects of the franchise–evil lairs, eccentric villains and oddly specific gadgets–for a grittier look at Bond has always been the Craig formula.

"Casino Royale" and "Skyfall" perfected this, but "No Time To Die" blends these two versions of Bond to create a thrilling and dramatic film that is completely unique within the franchise.

The evil lairs and eccentric villains are back, but this time they’re mixed with romantic melodrama and enchanting visuals, befitting of this era in action cinema. Jaw-dropping action sequences, exotic locales and beautiful cinematography aren’t enough. Audiences need to care about the protagonist while they commit mass murder.

And if there’s one thing "No Time To Die" does, it makes the audience care. From the opening sequence in a lonely Norwegian cabin, the audience is thrust into a creepy environment where no one, not even a little French girl, is safe from the masked murderer haunting the house. This scene introduces the audience to the driving force behind the plot, Lyutsifer Safin, played by Rami Malek, and his mysterious relationship with Bond’s amour, Dr. Madeleine Swann, played by Léa Seydoux.

While a Bond girl returning in a sequel is certainly a first for the franchise, "No Time To Die" weaves Swann’s romantic plot into the fabric of the almost three-hour film. She is more than just a romantic object for Bond to gawk at. Instead, she drives the story forward and furthers Bond’s mistrust of the relationships he forms throughout the film. A mistrust that began through Vesper Lynd in "Casino Royale" and has been a fundamental aspect of Daniel Craig’s entries.

Most of the introduction of "No Time To Die" is spent in an old Italian village where Bond and Swann meet for a romantic getaway. “We have all the time in the world,” Bond tells Swann. A promise that is promptly broken as the next 15 minutes are spent with Bond and Swann weaving an Aston Martin through tight Italian alleys and blazing past pedestrians in the piazzas. Assassins might fail to get to Bond, but the potential of Swann’s betrayal causes a rift in their relationship, leaving the couple broken up romantically and broken down emotionally.

The Bond in "No Time To Die" is retired, jaded and old. Not even a visually stunning title card sequence with Billie Eilish furthering the theme of lost time can uplift this Bond. How can someone who always has to look over their shoulder ever trust someone again? The cost of having a license to kill weighs down on James to the point that the main villain’s plot to murder millions with vague nanobot technology is a subplot to James’s larger arc of reuniting with Swann.

Thrilling chases through Norwegian woods get paired with Bond brutally shooting his way up a staircase in a breathtaking one-shot. Every action scene in the film is completely enthralling and intense, showcasing Daniel Craig’s animalistic interpretation of Bond as an unstoppable killer. While Rami Malek’s villain might be weak and underwhelming for one of the best actors working right now, the production and surrounding characters more than make up for it.

'No Time To Die' is packed tight with emotion, drama and action. Bond can never catch a break and neither does the audience. The film meanders about from scene to scene, somewhat irrelevant to each other, but all playing into the larger theme that Bond is out of place and out of time. The world has moved on from having middle-aged white Brits decide its outcomes. Instead, women decide those outcomes.

None of the women are blatant sex objects, however. Bond is actually in love and has a family. In fact, Bond isn’t even 007, instead, that rank belongs to a young black woman played by Lashana Lynch. The best action sequence is from a spiffy young CIA agent, played by Ana de Armas, in a chaotic SPECTRE-filled Cuban bar.

This film reckons with Bond’s role in society as a playboy/murderer and largely rejects that Bond must stay that way. The conclusion leaves the door open for future Bonds and even hints at the possibility of a woman 007.

The finale is a tragic and heartfelt farewell to the man who has defined James Bond for a generation of viewers. At the same time, the film recontextualizes Bond for a modern era, transforming him from a suave sex pest into a tragic figure, drowning in his own stoicism and paranoia.

"No Time To Die" is one of the best Bond films ever made and is a thrilling swan song for Daniel Craig’s time with the character.

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