No Time to Die
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Cast: Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, and Ralph Fiennes
Driving down the spectacular winding roads of Matera in Italy, Madeline (Léa Seydoux) tells an aging James Bond (Daniel Craig) at the wheel, “Can we go any faster?” He replies, “We don’t have to go any faster, we have all the time in the world.” The statement seems ominous, as it should, but also an ironical reference to Craig’s last time as Bond, and the long wait to watch him on the big screen on the other side of the pandemic.
There are many ways to describe No Time to Die. It’s the 25th film in the 60-year-long James Bond franchise, and Daniel Craig’s swansong, which he returned to after much convincing. It is also a long-awaited one, being delayed by two years due to the pandemic, and also survived a quitting director (Danny Boyle), due to ‘creative differences’. From the very first frame it is evident the film has overcome several obstacles to emerge as one of the most dazzlingly beautiful and heartbreakingly romantic Bond films ever.
The storyline has too many uncanny similarities with real life. The agent gets recalled from his downtime in Jamaica to assist Felix Leiter in a mission to save a scientist kidnapped by Rami Malek’s Lyutsifer Safin. Craig’s retired Bond is a reflection of the actor’s own resigned self from the film franchise, and reluctant re-entry to deliver a role no one else can be imagined in. Craig added the much-needed emotions to Bond long ago, we just see the culmination of it all in this one. The look of determination balanced with inner turmoil, ruthlessness against the vulnerability – this is a more well-rounded Bond than ever. Unfortunately, it is the last from Craig.
Bond films have some tropes of their own, and this one takes those forward too. The franchise has evolved, though the progression seems a little half-hearted. We have Ana De Armas in a brilliant sequence fighting goons in a ball gown and heels, as a nod to the Bond girl stereotype. The film deviates from the norm in handing over the 007 badge to a woman of colour, but there’s very little of the sassy Lashana Lynch that we get to see. In the climax, she hands over centrestage to Craig and moves to the sidelines, leaving you wondering if the franchise has really progressed at all.
More menace was expected from the new Bond villain, Rami Malek as Safin. He begins with a bang, but as soon as Bond enters the scene, you know the film belongs to him. Malek’s restrained performance somewhat pales in front of the brilliance of Craig and you have the camera and direction to blame for that. Craig meets his match in Lea Léa Seydoux though, and together they deliver some of the most emotional scenes in the film where we see Bond at his most vulnerable.
The makers knew they had to make Craig’s last Bond appearance the best, and that’s evident from every scene that’s skewed towards glorifying him. A viewer with not much background to Bond’s character will not understand why the spy with a ‘license to kill’ is not subject to unanimous love. Add to that the humanizing yet glorifying aspects of No Time to Die that makes Bond’s character almost god-like. And you forgive the makers for it because you are too busy admiring the view.
It is a beautifully made film. The production design, stunts, action sequences, look and feel of each character is so carefully crafted that even when the story feels overlong, you want to continue watching. Every Bond film has stunning backdrops, remarkable frames and heart-stopping moments, and No Time to Die takes it to another breathtaking level. It is a visual and emotional treat, one that is satisfying but will leave you with a sense of incompletion in the end.