‘No Time to Die,’ the latest James Bond film, is a bit of an anomaly in the series. It marks Daniel Craig’s third and final time playing the famous character, but it also comes at a time when many are wondering if he should have stuck around for more. The movie itself is not bad by any means. However, it feels like there was some pressure for this one to be as good as or better than his first two films with 007 – which were both great – and that might’ve led to some bloat on screen here and there.
The story is quite simple and it does a good job of blending in past elements from the franchise, while also giving us some new ones. James Bond (Craig) comes out of retirement when he finds his old friend and colleague, Bill Tanner (Rory Kinnear), murdered by the nefarious Orson Welles (Joe Chrest). He then goes on a globetrotting adventure to find out who is after him, why they’re trying to kill him, and ultimately get revenge against the man behind it all: Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz). He’s accused of killing Lea Seydoux’s Dr. Madeleine Swann in the previous film and is also believed to be responsible for all the other incidents that have occurred since then.
This would be enough to carry the story, but they go one step further by introducing a young man named David (Aidan Turner) who claims to work for British Intelligence and has been chasing after this mysterious figure as well. Their mission eventually leads them to a remote village in northern Italy where they join forces with Italian agent Sciarra (Ralph Fiennes) and discover the horrifying truth about what is happening there.
What makes this story interesting, however, has little to do with Blofeld or even Bond’s past experiences with him. Those parts of the narrative are engaging, but the more important story element has to do with Dr. Swann’s connection to Bond and her importance in what he is going through at the moment. It adds a new layer of depth to their relationship which makes it feel like there was still something there even after she seemingly died at the end of ‘Spectre.’
Where this film really shines is in its action sequences, which are some of the most exhilarating set pieces we’ve seen in the series to date. They include an escape from a sinking car (which feels like a spiritual successor to ‘Casino Royale’), a fight on top of a train, and a thrilling plane chase across several countries. The film also has a great opening sequence that feels like a throwback to the earlier times of Bond and uses it as a way to tie into what we see later on.
Another thing that works very well is its sense of humor, which often comes across as satirical in tone even though there’s nothing truly political about it. The best example of this comes from the scene where Bond is being interrogated by Italian police officers who are convinced that he’s a spy. He then gives them all the wrong information about what secret agents do, which leads to some funny moments as they discover his deception much later on in the film. Almost every interaction involving M (Ralph Fiennes) was also delightfully amusing. His dynamic with Bond is no longer as tense or adversarial as it once was, but there’s still a sense that he disapproves of how reckless his agent can be at times.
While most of the performances are good here, Waltz really stands out again as Blofeld. He’s not nearly as menacing or deadly here as he was in his previous two films (one of which was also directed by Sam Mendes), but there’s still a darker side to him that has yet to be fully explored. Waltz did enjoy working with Daniel Craig on this film and he gets the chance to share some powerful scenes with him, especially towards the end where both men get emotional for different reasons.
Other supporting members, such as Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, and Ben Whishaw also put in good work here. So much so that you almost don’t miss Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny or Q at all even though they are still around for the ride. Both women have their moments to shine across the film, but they’re mostly relegated to the supporting cast and don’t quite get as much screen time for this outing.