No Time to Die doesn’t lean as heavily on tropes previously used in the 007 franchise. Sure, there’s the requisite Aston Martin and tuxedo, and Bond has his drink shaken, not stirred, but there are no flings – instead, it begins with a meaningful relationship as he and Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) check into a hotel in the gorgeous town of Matera in southern Italy. Time is definitely one of the themes of this film, as he tells her, “We have all the time in the world.”
Unfortunately, he’s mistaken, and his sense of foreboding as he constantly looks over his shoulder turns out to be spot-on when an explosion knocks him to the ground while he's visiting Vesper's grave. He races to find Madeleine, but believing her to be the only person who knew where he was, he becomes suspicious that she’s the one who leaked his whereabouts to Spectre.
Five years later Bond is living a quiet life, alone in Jamaica when he’s approached by his old CIA pal Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), who wants Bond to come out of retirement long enough to help him find a missing Russian scientist in Cuba. There Bond meets new CIA agent Paloma, who boasts that she has three weeks of training. That turns out to be a very modest claim, as she turns out to have the skills of a highly trained agent. The character, as played by Ana de Armas is a real highlight of the movie — and an incredible asset as a partner to Bond — but unfortunately, once the action moves on from Cuba, we don’t see her again — hopefully she'll be written into the next film.
Having also met Nomi (Lashana Lynch), the new 007, in Cuba, Bond is then called in by M (Ralph Fiennes) and reluctantly agrees to team with Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) to stop his old nemesis, Blofeld (Christoph Waltz).
But a new criminal mastermind also demands Bond’s attention — Safin (Rami Malek), who, as it turns out, has a history with Madeleine, although it’s something she’d rather forget.
Malek plays the villain with a quiet deliberation. He’s soft-spoken, pleasant, and even has a heart, as we learn at one point. Although he’s frightening — he lives on an island complete with a poisonous garden and a high-tech laboratory where he's plotting the demise of millions — he also has a calm exterior that masks his dangerousness. Safin, who as a child was the only one to survive an attack on his family, wants revenge.
Craig has played the role of Bond four times previously, and has it down pat, although he has more at stake personally in this one, which gives him a chance to use more of his range as an actor. As Madeleine, Léa Seydoux also turns in a nuanced performance as a woman with a tragic past who gets dealt yet another blow.
Beautifully directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, this installment can even be viewed as a single film -- if you have friends who are somewhat unfamiliar with Bond movies, they'll still be able to follow what's going on -- at least, enough to immensely enjoy the film.
There’s plenty of action to please fans of the spy franchise, including magnificent car and motorcycle chases through the tight backstreets of Italy. The locales take us from Italy to Jamaica, Cuba, Scotland, Norway, England and the Faroe Islands of Denmark.
But there’s also a new layer to Bond in this installment. He personally has something major to lose in No Time to Die and that desperation gives this film a new urgency that keeps the audience engaged.
Without giving anything away, the ending to Craig’s fifth and final outing as Bond is spectacular, with an equal amount of action and emotion. ~Alexandra Heilbron
5 out of 5 stars
No Time to Die opens in theaters on Friday, October 8, 2021.