James Bond No Time To Die review: Daniel Craig goes out with a whimper not a bang

No Time to Die: Final international trailer for new Bond film

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The royals glittered from the royal box in the Royal Albert Hall as the much delayed and even more highly anticipated fifth and final film in Craig’s tenure as the secret agent came to an end. The actor has spoken a lot recently about his passionate drive to get to the metaphorical and beating heart of the iconic character. Across almost three hours this film certainly tries to do that, but along with a weak script and underwhelming directing from Cary Fukunaga, it fatally sacrifices too much of the viscerally, unapologetically anti-hero that has towered across six decades of cinema.

It all starts with such promise with a superbly taut opening hour. We pick up from where Spectre left off, with Bond and Madeleine (Lea Seydoux) swanning around sun-drenched Italy in a romantic haze.

Naturally, trouble soon comes calling and we get classic death-defying Bond stunts and a villain with a ludicrously wonderful fake eye, all topped off with a machine-gun-toting Aston Martin firing on all cylinders. Absolute bliss.

Pretty soon the wonderful Jeffery Wright is back as Felix, delivering the stand-out emotional scene of the movie. He’s matched by Lashanna Lynch, who is an absolute force of nature as the new 007 Nomi, while Ana de Armas is a giddy delight as the kooky and kick-ass agent Paloma.

The highly publicised involvement of Phoebe Waller-Bridge in polishing the script may be why so many of their scenes sing.

No Time to Die: Royal family arrive at Bond movie premiere

Craig is an absolute beast as Bond, dominating every moment on screen. We can feel every punishing ache and pain the character (and the actor) has gone through. He remains magnificently believable in explosive action

The actor also convinces as he peels away the layers to reveal a man standing in front of a woman (and literally hundreds of gun-toting enemies who can’t manage to hit him) asking her to love him. Unfortunately, this version of Bond has no place in his own cinematic universe. It was fine when he was tortured and brooding but this new emo Bond is, frankly, strangely unsatisfying.

It doesn’t help that his supposedly grand love with Madeleine never ignites, partly due to a weak script and also Seydoux’s muted performance. References back to Eva Greens’ Vesper Lynd only highlight how extraordinarily powerful and palpable their connection was.

Rami Malek is absolutely fine as Safin but is stuck with a rather conventional Bond villain with a hideous disfigurement, thick accent and a kitchy concrete island lair that any Thunderbirds baddie would die for. He also has some impenetrable plan to do something terrible to millions of people with DNA-targetted nanobots. Why is absolutely never explained.

It’s symptomatic of a pilot that moves storylines and characters around, retroactively working backwards from an operatically overblown finale, solely with the intention to give Bond lots of feelings and then make the audience feel them too.

It just doesn’t succeed and much of that lies with the predictable and undercooked script. For example, the repeated use of “we/you have all the time in the world” is cute the first time, becomes a bit twee and then when it is delivered at the end, it is unbearably cheesy. It made me cringe at a moment when I was supposed to be feeling all the feelings in the world. 

Similarly, the cinematography never reaches the lavishly opulent heights of recent Bond movies. Nor do any of the action scenes, which are already too few and too far in between, match up to the pulse-pounding magnificence of what has come before. Bond hits absolutely everyone he shoots at while they can’t hit a barn door, and rolls every car that attempts to ram him. There is little feeling of jeopardy or consequence until the screeching gear change at the very end. 

The filmmakers are clearly hoping this will be the Bond to end all Bonds, a new benchmark, a cathartic ending and the promise of a beginning. Unfortunately, it doesn’t even come close to being the best of the Craig era, let alone the entire franchise.

The end credits take their time before they finally flash up the iconic message “James Bond will return.” When he does, it will definitely be time for something new. 

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