There’s an undeniable feeling of melancholy to No Time to Die right from the start, where Hans Zimmer‘s soaring score references the theme from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. As Daniel Craig‘s final outing as Bond, this feels appropriate and very intentional, but the film is never miserable and there’s a lot of fun to be had, as both the gadgets and the one-liners are back.
After his controversial comments about the franchise following Spectre, Craig seems like he’s having fun with the role again (maybe because he doesn’t have to make any more) and gives what might be his most well-rounded performance as Bond – the most vulnerable he’s been since Casino Royale, while remaining effortlessly cool, and acting the hell out of every character beat he’s given.
For once in a Bond film there are actual stakes involved here, especially towards the end, where the fighting gets increasingly frenetic as time runs out. It is a long film (and feels it) but there’s still very little fat on it – each set-piece is distinct and feels vital to the plot. The chase sequence where Bond and Madeline are hunted through the woods is especially eerie, and beautifully shot, with a nice payoff that recalls Licence to Kill.
Refreshingly, the film is full of well-written female characters; Lashana Lynch is a great no-nonsense foil to Bond – a younger, hungrier agent who revels in getting under his skin. Naomie Harris actually gets to leave her desk as Moneypenny, and Ana De Armas is weirdly reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe as the guileless yet efficient CIA newbie Paloma. Meanwhile Léa Seydoux – one of the few redeeming features of Spectre – is given much more to do here, playing a crucial role in the story – it is she who has the personal relationship with the villain, and her scenes with Craig are filled with a pathos that feels genuine and earned. The Bond series has never been known for its feminist undertones or strong female characters, but No Time to Die marks a noticeable improvement over previous entries – even though it may not quite be as big a leap forward one may expect from a screenplay co-written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
Rami Malek has a great look as the ridiculously named Lyutsifer Safin, clad in the customary evil genius outfit. His evil plan is one of the more diabolical of the Craig era, and he delivers his lines with a characteristically offbeat intensity, but he doesn’t have the same sinister presence as Silva or Le Chiffre, and is ultimately a little bland – the worst thing a Bond villain can be. Having said that, after the clichéd personal connection between Bond and Blofeld in the previous film, it’s refreshing that Safin doesn’t even seem aware of Bond’s existence until late in the day – he’s just yet another thorn in his side.
The cameos from Jeffrey Wright‘s Felix Leiter and Christoph Waltz‘s Blofeld are welcome and essentially serve as a curtain call for their characters. Of the two, Wright’s appearance feels more impactful – Leiter hasn’t appeared onscreen since Quantum of Solace but he and Craig have such an easy chemistry it feels like he’s never been away. Waltz is less successful reprising Blofeld, with his Hannibal Lecter-esque appearance often threatening to veer into parody.
No Time to Die is the first James Bond movie to be filmed in IMAX, with 40 minutes captured with IMAX 15/70mm film cameras – including the entire pre-titles sequence – providing audiences with up to 26% more picture only in IMAX cinemas. The IMAX presentation is superb, adding an extra sense of immersion to the action spectacle, with the enhanced picture and incredible sound system making every explosion, gun shot and Hans Zimmer music cue even more exhilarating. The 35mm sequences look great on the big screen, but the IMAX film sequences look even better, as the aspect ratio shifts from 2.35:1 to 1.90:1 (or 1.43:1 depending on the venue). If you are planning to see No Time to Die, IMAX is definitely the way to go.
No Time to Die wraps up Craig’s tenure nicely and makes his run unique – no other actor has played Bond from recruit through to seasoned veteran, with a proper sense of continuity and closure. A measured, poignant film that still delivers everything you want from a Bond film, this is the perfect farewell for Craig.