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The Stew Review: ‘No Time To Die’ a fitting sendoff for Daniel Craig’s James Bond

Daniel Craig as Ian Fleming's James Bond 007.
Daniel Craig as Ian Fleming's James Bond 007.(Source: MGM Pictures (custom credit) | Source: MGM Pictures)
Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 9:20 AM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - No Time To Die is an excellent send-off for Daniel Craig’s tenure as the world’s most iconic superspy.

When Craig stepped into the tuxedo, it felt like a seismic shift. Previous iterations of Bond had touched on the existential dread and remorse that stem from a life lived dangerously, but never had the films seemed so intent on diving quite so deep into Bond’s psyche as he saved the world. Given that this version emerged in the shadow of the rise of Jason Bourne, it meant so too must Bond eschew the need for silly gadgets and villains with outlandish schemes. Bond was capital-s Serious now and by god, his movies needed to reflect that.

There’s a lot to be debated as to the merits of such an approach for a character who has, traditionally, been treated with a more playful spirit. I’ve enjoyed Craig’s run more than I haven’t. But by the end of Spectre, after we’d learned some absurdly unnecessary backstory about Bond’s childhood and how his older stepbrother was actually behind every bad thing that had ever happened to him, personally and professionally, I had grown weary of the approach. I longed for the days when Bond simply saved the world, no muss, no fuss.

Thankfully, No Time To Die lands the deft trick of not only paying off all the existential dread sown in Casino Royale by giving Craig’s Bond meaningful closure, but we get a “traditional” save-the-world-from-potential-doom mission that’s every bit as fun as I’d hoped while never betraying the “serious” tone of the previous four films.

This time out Bond faces off against Safin (Rami Malek), an assassin whose nanobot super virus can wreak unimaginable havoc on the world. Normally this would be just another day at the office for an international superspy, but there are numerous wrinkles that make this anything but a typical work week for Bond. For starters, he’s been replaced. Nomi (Lashawna Lynch) is MI-6′s 007 now and she’s all too happy to remind Bond that he’s past his prime. Then there’s Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), with whom he ran off in the last film, but then abandons early on here before going off the grid for five years. She’s then unexpectedly thrust back into his life, bearing more than a few secrets of her own.

All of this creates a web of emotional complexity for Bond to navigate in a way that none of his previous films achieved, but that also wouldn’t have been possible without the groundwork that those films put in place. It all comes to a head with a finale that was both surprising and yet perfectly fitting given the trajectory set in motion with Casino Royale. The entire throughline of these films has been that of a man questioning his place as an agent, as a man, as someone who does or does not add anything of value to an already violent and uncaring world. No Time To Die brings all of that to a full and satisfying resolution. It’s a definitive bit of punctuation, but I can honestly think of no better way to send Craig off than how it’s achieved here.

But make no mistake, this isn’t simply a grim rumination on mortality or Bond simply pondering his own existential dread for nearly three hours. It’s a cracking good time at the movies. The runtime is longer than any previous movie in the series, but it moves like a rocket and never once did I feel like it dragged or should have spent less time in any one portion. If anything, there were times when I wished it would have lingered. More specifically, I’m sad we only got about 15 minutes (tops) with Paloma (Ana de Armas), a charmingly enthusiastic rookie agent with whom Bond all-too-briefly meets up with in Cuba. Their soiree is light on its feet, action-packed and made me wish more of its energy had been found in Craig’s films as a whole. If nothing else, I want a series of spinoff films starring Paloma and Nomi, as Lynch also delivers standout work as an agent coming into her own.

It’s a handsome film, to boot. I’m not sure any Bond film will ever match the sheer visual richness of Roger Deakins’ cinematography on Skyfall, but Linus Sandgren’s work here is no slouch. His eye for naturalistic settings is superb. It also sounds great thanks to a wonderful score by Hans Zimmer, whose compositions may be familiar but that’s a somewhat welcome feeling after previous, recent films which could often feel a bit too contemporary.

At its core this was everything I was hoping for from a finale for this iteration of the character. Craig’s comedic abilities were rarely put to use in the role, but his Bond finally gets to fire off several perfect one-liners. The aversion to gadgets and tricked-out cars is gone, granting us a delightful return to form for Bond’s iconic Aston Martin. And he gets to save the world while still experiencing what is perhaps the most definitive arc of growth the character has seen on film.

I have no idea what the future of Bond looks like. My hope is that the character can go back to a more devil-may-care tone with less of a focus on “serious” storylines and a grander sense of adventure and just outright fun. Until then, I’m just glad Daniel Craig was able to go out with a proper bang.

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