If 19 months' worth of couchbound pandemic moviegoing hasn't left you pining for Daniel Craig flooring it in his Aston Martin, guzzling copious amounts of martini, offing bad guys left and right, and doing so suspiciously without getting a wrinkle in his blazer, you’re a stronger person than I am.
No Time to Die, the bombastic finale to Craig’s run of James Bond flicks, is big, and proud to be big. Films like this one should just want to take up the whole screen with their ideas, explosions, death-defying stunts, the works. Practical sets, real human emotions, timeless orchestral cues and a sense of wonder shouldn’t be in short supply in today’s big-ass-budget ecosystem. But alas, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a thing, and Ryan Coogler and James Gunn can’t direct all their movies.
We should be more than glad to get a film like No Time to Die — one that embraces the beauty of seeing movies in the grandest fashion possible. It wears its theatrical exclusivity as a badge of honor and rewards IMAX more than streaming. It’s also miles and miles ahead of the MCU’s Bond-wannabe Black Widow, a film that fumbled an opportunity to build a spy thriller into its greater convoluted universe.
Beasts of No Nation director Cary Joji Fukunaga (he also directed the first season of True Detective) harnesses a murderers' row of craftspeople (cinematographer Linus Sandgren, composer Hans Zimmer, editors Tom Cross and Elliot Graham) and a spirited script written in part by Phoebe Waller-Bridge to unpack nearly 60 years of Bond-itude. Craig’s Bond, of course, has taken a beating over the years, as has the character’s reputation. In 2021, the womanizing, devil-may-care attitude of Sean Connery or Roger Moore’s Bond has been largely replaced by a more emotionally vulnerable, scarred 007, which Craig has portrayed with aplomb. It’s richened the character and deepened the potential of what these movies can be.
Here, Bond gets his most emotional tale yet — one that requires you to recall the plots of the past four Bond flick at least somewhat (especially 2015’s better-than-you-remember Spectre — rewatch it and thank us later), as the secret agent grapples with his own fragility and the question of whether it means anything to risk your life if there’s no one around to risk it for. Love of queen and country alone can’t cut it for Bond this time, and Craig sends his best performance yet in the series as a man who is racing against the clock and against his own self-destructive attitudes to not only save the world but save himself in the process.
Complete with some of the best acting of Craig’s career, Fukunaga’s Bond entry stands as a beacon of how Tinseltown should treat its intellectual property — with actual intellect and care for the craft of proper moviemaking, not to mention a bit of the riskiness that made 007 an iconic character in the first place.