Sunday, June 16, 2024

Review: Daniel Craig’s Final James Bond Movie, “No Time to Die,” Pulls Out All the Stops for an Explosive Finale…or a Cliffhanger




SPOILER ALERT (not big ones): The Daniel Craig era of James Bond comes to an explosive and shocking finale in the long awaited “No Time to Die.” I can’t tell you what happens, but this is the movie that will bring people back to theaters. It’s a long movie, but it’s never dull for a minute. You will be on the edge of your seats the entire time. It ends with what may be the cliffhanger of all cliffhangers, or a finale for the ages.

“No Time to Die,” Daniel Craig’s fifth and final Bond movie, was supposed to be released almost two years ago in November 2019. After many re-schedulings, the day has arrived. Today there have been simultaneous screenings in New York and Los Angeles for the press while at the same in London there’s a gala premiere at Royal Albert Hall.

“No Time to Die” has had other hardships, notably a change in director from Oscar winner Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”) to Cary Joji Fukunaga. The final screenplay is from screenplay by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Fukunaga, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the latter a recent sensation for her TV series, “Fleabag.”

The movie brings back Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Rory Kinnear, and Ralph Fiennes  from previous Bond films. It also adds Oscar winner Rami Malek as Bond’s newest foe, plus Lashana Lynch, Ana de Armas (who co-starred with Craig in “Knives Out”), Dali Benssalah, Billy Magnussen (in his second big role of the fall, after playing young Paulie Walnuts in “Many Saints of Newark”), and David Dencik.

The last time we saw James, at the end of “Spectre,” he was off on a happy romantic ending with beautiful Madeleine (Seydoux). Alas, they are forced to split up and we fast forward five years. Bond, retired from MI6 and unwanted by them (they sort of think he’s dead) is  called back into action by his old CIA pal, Felix Leiter (Wright), who he hasn’t seen for a couple of movies now. Leiter needs him to help find missing scientist Valdo Obruchev, a missing scientist (Dencik.)

When Bond meets up with Leiter, he’s got a CIA operative with him Logan Nash (played by the wily Billy Magnussen) who no one trusts because he smiles all the time. They send Bond on a mission to find Obruchev which of course has many twists and turns. The most fun of these is the reunion with Ana de Armas, a beautiful and fledgling spy in Havana. (No they do not have sex.) deArmas is as disarming as ever, and the pair’s jump into formal wear for a casino moment is well worth it.

This is a movie, the kind you have to see on a big screen. It’s long because it’s an epic, and it’s a summing up for Craig who first became James Bond in 2006 with “Casino Royale.” No other actor has had as long a run as Bond even though Sean Connery and Roger Moore sentimentally are just as identified with the character (no disrespect to Pierce Brosnan or Timothy Dalton).

“No Time to Die,” then, is a summing up of fifteen years of Craig and his association with Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, the daughter and step son of Albert Cubby Broccoli.  It’s the end of an era marked by a portrait of Dame Judi Dench as Craig’s memorable mentor, M. Not only does Wright’s Leiter come to say goodbye, but so does Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld (very subdued). Rami Malek, with facial prosthetics, is a perfectly slithery villain who’s so awful he makes his own skin crawl as well as ours.

If there’s a twist I can report it’s that during his absence from MI5, Bond has been replaced by a Black woman named Nomi, played with grace, intelligence, and energy by Lashana Lynch. M– Mallory aka Ralph Fiennes– has given her Bond’s number of 007. She is sensational, well written and fun but quite serious and deadly. She really needs her own offshoot movie or even an Amazon series. (When you see her and Bond together you want to make a “Two Jakes” kind of joke, “The Two 007s”).

I don’t know the books of Ian Fleming well enough, but he might have imagined James Bond finally getting a family, even if briefly, and a moment of human happiness. Other than “Skyfall,” this is Daniel Craig’s real acting achievement as Bond. You could tell that he was really showing off his chops here. Gone is all the campy fun, although the movie has quite few wry laughs. Craig is giving his Bond a send off that is most memorable and moving.

All good nods to the production. The set pieces are very, very intense with plenty of blood rushing excitement. Fukanaga fills the role of Bond director, bringing inventiveness to each situation. I always love it when the Aston Martin used as a character, and in this movie, even the car gets bravura wrap up moments.

Is this the cliffhanger of all cliffhanger? You better believe it.

Congrats to all on an enormous send off.



Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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