No Time to Die Daniel Craig

No Time to Die is as good as James Bond movies get

Daniel Craig’s last turn in the franchise is a fitting send-off and one of his best outings as Bond.

Much of No Time to Die, Daniel Craig’s last film as James Bond, happens at twilight. Shot in misty, pastel blues that echo the icy colour of his eyes, the film counterbalances that mournful goodbye with the crystalline gold of dawn. Considering the washed-out aesthetics of most contemporary cinema out of major studios and streaming services, this touch feels surprising and beautiful. This colour balance offers the film a symbolic richness and attention we rarely see from films of this scale. 

As far as contemporary blockbusters go, No Time to Die may be the best we can hope for (interpret that as you will via the current state of blockbuster filmmaking). The film is sumptuous and thoughtful and follows a reasonably conventional plotline. After being betrayed, Bond retreats from his service to her majesty’s secret service until he’s pulled back into the fray when the CIA offers him a commissioned job. Behind the scenes, a laboratory leak has landed some very dangerous biotech in the wrong hands, threatening the nation’s security. 

Craig is exemplary as Bond and at his best since Casino Royale. He’s more hardened and bitter, but his cleverness and sensuality come through. The demands of the script and the role overtake what most other Bond entries attempted, and Craig demonstrates himself as comfortable in the light theatrics as he does the more heady existentialism. Above all else, he reveals a tremendous tenderness as a physical performer, understanding that the smallest gestures, the touch of a hand, the curl of a lip, speak larger than the sweeping generalities of the action sequences.

Much like the more classic Bond films, the film builds itself around personalities, most already well-established in earlier films. Ana de Armas as Paloma, a spy in Cuba, stands out as an incredible addition to the film. Her role — flighty, sexy and comedic — seems to make good on her future performance of Marilyn Monroe in the upcoming adaptation of Blonde — her chemistry with Craig is palpable and playful. David Dencik as Valdo Obruchev, a scientist from the bio lab, similarly stands out as a robust comedic antagonist, regularly spouting some of the movie’s best lines. 

Rami Malek as the film’s main villain may be more divisive as a casting choice. For one thing, he’s too young for the role despite some gnarly makeup. Yet, overall, his presence is appropriately discomforting. While Malek is ill-suited for roles that demand heart-on-your sleeve emotional openness (*cough* Freddy Mercury), his performance style is better suited to vague and interior motives. As an actor, he’s inscrutable even if the dialogue has him lay all his cards on the table. 

Otherwise, the other major new character, Lashana Lynch as Nomi — the new double 007 — has a rougher go at things. Lynch has timing and charisma, but the role feels needled into the script. Judging from the presence of screenwriting credit for Phoebe Waller-Bridge, it seems as though they tried to contemporize and humanize the double-agent character. She’s bright and competitive but also wracked with insecurity. In a world where characters are painted in broad strokes, the attempts to create someone a little more nuanced backfires, and she seems the least credible of all the characters. Nomi is simultaneously over and underwritten, and though she does her best, it feels out of place within the scope of the film’s universe.

Cary Joji Fukunaga, best known for directing season 1 of True Detective, handles the franchise with tremendous care and attention. He has a strong sense of atmosphere and an even better sense of pacing; the film feels deeply considered from an aesthetic point of view. Unlike many other contemporary filmmakers, he also has an understanding of the scope and a fascination with masculinity. Craig’s Bond was never really the womanizer of his predecessors, his persona and the culture, assuring more equilibrium. At its heart, though, this film examines (even if superficially) questions of worth and value associated with what it means to be a man; how family, relationships and work play into self-worth and masculinity and what happens when those preconceptions are challenged. 

Despite being slightly more attuned to an audience’s distrust in authority, especially from the government, the film doesn’t channel the franchise’s rather explicit nationalism and imperialism. That’s hardly unexpected and not necessarily a criticism, but worth noting. When we discuss these major blockbusters, Bond, Marvel or otherwise, it would be remiss to ignore that many of them have support from the State and expectations in upholding the status quo. For all the hee-hawing from certain corners of the Internet that Bond is “too woke” now, the franchise remains firmly rooted in conservative values. It maintains its reverence for the power and likely always will.

As far as Bond films go, few get better than No Time to Die, but it is still a Bond movie at the end of the day. The movie exemplifies the dreamy, aspirational tone with just the right hint of menace and risk. It’s a movie that dreams big and, for the most part, doesn’t condescend to its audience. Ultimately, it’s a good time at the cinema, assuming you have three hours to spare. ■

No Time to Die opens in Montreal theatres on Friday, Oct. 8.

No Time to Die, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, starring Daniel Craig

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