Film Review: What Craig’s final Bond film ‘No Time to Die’ lacks in plot it makes up for in character

Daniel Craig in "No Time to Die." (MGM Studios/TNS)
Photo courtesy of MGM Studios

I never thought I would cry during a Bond film. Bond films are supposed to be cheesy action flicks. They’re meant to be time fillers with surface-level plots and a bit of good action to keep things interesting. However, as I watched both the beginning credits and closing moments of Daniel Craig’s final Bond film, I cried. I teared up at the beginning, and I bawled at the end. 

I bawled for many reasons, but mostly because I’m sad to see Craig go. I’m very glad “Spectre” was not Craig’s final Bond film because it was obvious he was at the end of his rope. However, there was not the same feeling in this film. His performance in “No Time to Die” feels more earnest. It feels sincere. It’s a proper end to his era as James Bond.

Different actors bring new perspectives to the character, but the writing of the character has an even bigger impact. In contrast to other Bond films, Craig’s Bond had character development, especially in this film. “No Time to Die” is the pinnacle of that character growth. 

“No Time to Die” benefited greatly by having Phoebe Waller-Bridge on their writing team. Waller-Bridge said in a red-carpet interview that she wanted to give him “real character nuance which is all I really care about and character growth … which is what [Craig] really wanted.” Her character writing could very much be felt within the film. 

Not only is she an incredible writer, but she is also the first woman to be on a Bond’s films writing team since 1963. James Bond films have always been a boys club. It’s nice to see a woman on board. 

Although there was change in the writing team and character development, the plot remained vastly similar to all other Bond films (minus a slight twist at the end… but no spoilers). 

A particularly disappointing aspect of the film was a lack of screentime for Rami Malek and Ana de Armas. For how much Rami Malek and Ana de Armas were marketed during this film… they sure did not have a lot of screen time. This is a common story for many movies, but it still felt shallow. 

Albeit briefly, it did show de Armas’ ability to take on the anti-femme fatale Bond girl and Malek’s ability to play a vaguely motivated villain. Quite frankly, both characters left much to be desired. 

I suppose Bond’s film villains are never anything special. However, “Skyfall” very much subverted the plot with a personal connection outside of Bond. The intended victim of Raoul Silva was M rather than Bond. Those personal connections always seem to be a big hit, as with Alec Trevelyan in “Goldeneye” and Silva in “Skyfall.” 

Daniel Craig in "No Time to Die." (MGM Studios/TNS)
[Photo of Daniel Craig in “No Time to Die”]
Photo courtesy of MGM Studios

“No Time to Die ” attempted to do the same thing with Lyutsifer Safin, however, it was a feeble attempt. At first, it seemed to head in that direction, but quickly he became another forgettable Bond villain. In the middle of the film, M and Bond have a telling conversation about how all Safin wants is world domination, to which Bond replies “just the usual.” Why bother giving the villain a backstory if he’s going to be “just the usual”? 

Lashana Lynch’s character, however, was perfect. Nomi was the perfect foil to Bond. Even if we never see a female Bond (I would argue we shouldn’t see one but that’s a whole other conversation), the equivalent of Nomi should always be present. A real support and foil to the male lead that isn’t a femme fatale and isn’t traditionally attractive. It’s a positive indication for the future of Bond films. 

At the very beginning of the film, Billie Eilish’s voice sings the words, “Faces from my past return. Another lesson yet to learn.” If there’s a lesson to be learned from this film, it’s to leave the past behind. It’s almost stifling how obvious this film is about leaving the past behind.

The film begins with both Bond and Madeleine (Léa Seydoux) literally burning pieces of their past. The film features nods to previous characters throughout (including a portrait of Judi Dench which I very much appreciated). Perhaps, that’s another reason why I had such an emotional reaction to the film.

It’s an appropriate topic considering we’ll be waiting for another Bond. Whomever they cast, they will have very very large shoes to fill.

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