Finales don’t often hit the high notes that No Time To Die, Daniel Craig’s final outing as James Bond, hits and hits hard. The action is well choreographed and once again Bond is racing to stop a plot that could kill millions. And as it brings the Craig-era of the James Bond franchise to a close, it secures his five film run as perhaps the most overall cohesive, and quite possibly the best overall actor run, of the franchise.
No Time To Die pulls together a number of plot and thematical threads that the series has been spinning over the past four films. But mostly this is about Bond’s emotional journey, from cold, detached killer to a man who hides his emotional scars with his brutality to ultimately walking away from the British MI6 at the end of the last film.
We join Bond and his love Madeline (Lea Seydoux, holding over from the last film) as they are enjoying their new life together. But we know that happiness for Bond won’t last long, and a revelation soon comes along that causes Bond to question the trust he had placed in her, shattering the brief joy he had in his life. Five years later, Bond, who has been living in virtual solitude in the Caribbean, finds himself drawn back into the intrigues of the British intelligence services and once again confronting old enemies.
We’ve seen Craig slowly build put the pieces of Bond’s character in place over the previous four films he has headlined, and the complete picture they form here really is the actor at the height of his talent. Bond is emotionally mature here, having found the capacity for love and forgiveness. He also has a sense of humor that isn’t always tinged with the darkness from his profession that he lives with. This overall character arc has been an incredible work of storytelling, and audiences, as well asthe franchise, are all the better for it.
Fittingly for a grand final of this current cycle of films, much of the continuing sporting cast gets a few moments of their own to shine. And it is somewhat heartwarming to see Bond working together with colleagues as much as we see here, giving him a sense of family that perhaps he never had before. Special notice should also be given to Ana de Armas, as a CIA agent who briefly helps Bond for a portion of his mission. Their chemistry – forged worked together in Rian Johnson’s Knives Out – is fun and breezy, as she proves herself to be as much of an ass-kicker as Bond is. Perhaps a spinoff featuring her?
The film also continues to explore the idea of what use is there for a governmental assassin long after the end of the Cold War which spawned the character. Bond and M have a conversation about that, while the film literalizes the dilemma in the form of the Heracles weapon that Bond is tasked to destroy. Even the film’s main villain Safin (Rami Malek) taunts Bond, telling him “I want to make the world evolve, you want it to remain the same.” The film seems to answer that question definitively for this iteration of writer Ian Flemming’s famed creation, while still leaving it for the creatives behind the next inevitable James Bond film to answer in their own way.