No Time to Die

No Time to Die ★★★★½

85

With No Time to Die, we reach the end of Daniel Craig's tenure as James Bond, and with it, oddly enough, the arrival of his first stock and trade 'Bond' movie. Snappy banter, exotic locales, dashing agents, vague supervillains and evocative super-lairs, it's a burger with everything on it, the works. Plenty of those standard tropes have popped up in previous Craig-era entries, but here it's rejuvenated and laid out on a silver platter. This is a feast for Bond fans. Shades of Ken Adams' production design and Lewis Gilbert's globetrotting flare, while also being a fitting coda to the in-universe emotional baggage of the modern continuity. A few instances of uneven tonal shifts and plot-lines occur, but nothing that threatens the epic propulsion of Cary Joji Fukunaga's steady hand. The stuffy stateliness of Sam Mendes, no matter his merits, has been replaced with a director who reinvigorates the feeling.

The first fifty or so minutes might be the *greatest* stretch of a Bond movie in the Craig-era. One banger sequence after another, all in different registers, so effortlessly setting up the pieces for what is to follow. Ana de Armas melted my heart in roughly five seconds and then ran away with it for the remaining five minutes of her screen-time. Saying that she's a delight is a fucking understatement. And let's not forget Lashana Lynch, who absolutely rules.

A slight dip in the middle stretch is a small price to pay for the gripping final reel, with Rami Malek playing a typical 'weird freak' Bond villain that 007 himself doesn't have any patience for. No Time to Die is an entry that recognizes when to stick with convention and when to elaborate on the thornier complexities of the character. If Skyfall and Spectre were overtly conservative examinations of a morally ambiguous and digital world, asking cheap rhetorical questions about Bond's 'place' in the modern age, it's about time that we push most of that to the fringes and focus on the rich creep trying to destroy the world with...nanobots? Who cares what it means, check out his lair! And this is all within the structure of a productive and romantic expansion of the relationship between Bond and Madeline, played by Léa Seydoux. If you didn't buy it in Spectre, No Time to Die might not change your mind, but they commit to it, and it caught me swooning.

Aesthetically, this is a show-stopper, too. Halfway through, I thought to myself - "blockbusters can still look like this?". Obviously an exaggeration but not by much. Maybe it was the horrific aftermath of sitting through that godawful Eternals trailer, but I digress. It's true though - Cary Joji Fukunaga and DP Linus Sandgren really make the most of every location, frequently delving into fits of abstraction and kinetic energy. It's directed with a hefty dose of kick and excitement, but it's never too showy, thankfully. Gorgeous colors only heighten the dynamic movement on display, especially in a foggy forest shootout and a staircase brawl. The grandeur is worth the IMAX surcharge.

Anyway, No Time to Die completely shredded my expectations. Top 2 of the Craig era. Great theme song from Billie Eilish, paired with a marvelous title sequence. Repeat viewings will confirm whether it rises above Casino Royale for the top spot, but as a swan song for this iteration of 007, I'm impressed with its focus in feeling like Classic Bond, only repurposed with modern components. Loved it.

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