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  • Writer's pictureMatt Conway

No Time to Die: Review

No Time to Die Synopsis: James Bond (Daniel Craig) is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica after leaving active service. However, his peace is short-lived as his old CIA friend, Felix Leiter, shows up and asks for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond on the trail of a mysterious villain who’s armed with dangerous new technology.

Posing with debonair smolder and a calculated gaze, James Bond has been an instrumental figurehead in the growth of mainstream blockbusters. To restrained conspiracy spy thrillers like From Russia with Love to action-packed ruminations on government deceit in Skyfall, the character has fittingly grown along with the times during his epic 25-film run.

The latest 007 enterprise, No Time to Die, marks another marquee milestone in the Bond franchise. With series mainstay Daniel Craig taking a bow in his last time as Bond, True Detective director Cary Joji Fukunaga embarks on the challenging task of capping off Craig’s five-film run. The results are an enthralling and sleek picture that hits the 007 formula to a tee before stumbling in its efforts to further build upon the Craig era foundation.

In a world where CGI has become the homogenized norm for large-scale event films, No Time to Die delivers on the franchise’s trademark practicality. Fukunaga and Cinematographer Linus Sandgren embrace the super spy’s lush scale at every turn, implementing a steady hand behind the camera to capture each bullet-ridden setpiece with technical aplomb. From the roaring sound of high-speed chases to the lush window dressing of breathtaking vistas and suave outfits, it’s a blast to watch the series’ controlled indulgence unfold on the big screen again (Hanz Zimmer’s score makes for a perfect accouterment to the grandiosity).

Even as the franchise ages, No Time to Die comfortably wears the franchise’s tried and true formula on its sleeve. Bond finds himself going toe-to-toe with the latest manic psychopath looking to rain destruction upon the world, setting the course for another globe-trotting adventure full of peril and intrigue. In the wrong hands, playing to the brand’s greatest hits could reek of derivative pandering. However, Fukunaga and co-writers Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge infuse enough modern vitality to build upon the timeless traditions. Waller-Bridge especially makes her presence known – with No Time to Die possessing a daft comedic streak akin to the series more playful entries.

Ultimately, No Time to Die is Daniel Craig’s showcase – and he unsurprisingly makes every frame of it count. Ever since breaking barriers with his 007 debut Casino Royale, Craig continues to unearth meaningful emotional textures under the super spy’s charming facade. Bond’s newfound vulnerability serves No Time to Die particularly well – offering Craig a few gentle frames that wrestle with the character’s endless chase for an emotional foundation. Supporting performances from Ana de Armas and Lashana Lynch also add to the proceedings. Both actresses imbue charisma and a poised presence as two of Bond’s fellow super spy peers.

Throughout the massive, 163-minute runtime, No Time to Die attempts to set up an emotional crescendo before sadly missing the mark. Too much of the film’s second act gets bogged down in needlessly convoluted espionage machinations, delving into the background of Craig’s full roster of films while largely ignoring the human subtext behind the character’s growth. The script introduces an ingenious idea to ruminate on Bond’s emotional isolation, but the device could have used more development to build toward its fitting conclusion (Lea Seydoux returns with little to do). Rami Malek’s eccentric foe Lyutsifer Safin also doesn’t quite connect. The character feels more like an empty amalgamation of Bond villain cliches without building into his own lived-in person.

No Time to Die may not reach the heights of Casino Royale or Skyfall, but Craig’s final entry delivers a well-oiled swan song to the star’s superb tenure as 007. Under his tutelage, the Bond franchise evolved to a far more nuanced place, opening the door for more exciting opportunities to come for the next 007.

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