Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond has seen its fair share of rises and dips. His debut, Casino Royale, might be the best Bond film ever made, while its follow-up, Quantum of Solace, was a primary victim of the 2007-08 writers’ strike.
Then came 2012’s Skyfall, which instantly became a classic, followed by 2015’s Spectre, which started with promise before crumbling into an embarrassing shlock-fest by the third act. And we now come down to No Time To Die. Will it finish Craig’s time as 007 on a high?
Craig’s portrayal of Bond has always been a deviation from the Bond mythos.
James Bond has always been more of a power-fantasy imprint than a real character, but Craig’s rendition gives it new depth. He’s cold, vulnerable, reckless, and in No Time To Die, is shown in a light never seen before.
That is the highlight of this film for me: Daniel Craig is just mesmeric in the role as usual, but the character has never been more compelling here. He’s a lot more jaded; wearier.
While still stoic, determined and robust as an agent, there’s this sense of urgency to him that is warranted after years of harrowing missions. It adds so much more depth to the character.
How are the action set-pieces? Well, not much can be said for most of the shootouts. They’re pretty standard gunfights with not much added. Where the action really excels are the fights in tightly contained areas with little room to breathe.
In particular, a short, brutal fistfight aboard a small boat and a tense, gripping stairwell battle are the standouts for me.
The fierce understanding of Craig’s Bond shines through in the writing. Although, it’s sad say that the supporting characters are rather hit-and-miss.
Stealing the show in the short time she’s on screen is Ana De Armas’ Paloma, a plucky young agent who shares several comedic moments with Bond. She shows instantly that she’s no Bond girl, and relishes the situation. Those moments lend themselves well to the deconstructionist nature of the film.
Dr. Madeleine Swann returns from Spectre and plays a more active role, showcasing the nature of care in both vulnerable and aggressive forms. Lashana Lynch comes in as the 00 agent that clickbait websites tried to sell as the “new Bond”, but she brings some much-needed bathos.
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However, the staff of M16 leaves a lot to be desired. With the exception of Q, I was left very disappointed by their roles in the film.
Miss Moneypenny is literally relegated to the role of secretary, while M gets away with the most heinous crimes imaginable. Watch the film, you’ll know what this means.
This brings us to the plot, which is stuck in an awkward place. Avoiding the characterisation of Bond, it’s a very silly premise that takes itself way too seriously. So it lacks fun factor and self-awareness.
Then there’s Rami Malek as the villain. And I have no idea what he’s doing here. His motivation is completely dubious, his role in the story is baffling, and Malek’s performance made me unintentionally giggle. It showed so much promise, but it completely falls apart.
The villain and the plot are two huge factors when it comes to Bond. And if I had to judge purely on those, this film would be a failure.
However, the absolutely stellar writing with Bond, as well as Daniel Craig’s outstanding performance, salvages everything. It’s rare for a film to be placed on the shoulders of one character, but the work done with this iconic figure is next level.
It’s not an excellent film by any means, but Craig cements himself as the best actor who’s ever touched the role. He will be missed sorely, and his successor will have some lofty heights to reach.