By: Jacob Gross
The most recent installment in the James Bond franchise, “No Time to Die” subverts initial expectations, offering a vulnerable story juxtaposed with the action spectacles that the series is known for. The film is the fifth and final Bond movie starring Daniel Craig as 007 and served as a proper send-off. Any Craig-Bond fan should enjoy this film, as it has all the making of a typical Bond film, while further developing the character and exposing him in a more exposed light.
The scene that sets the plot in motion is the kidnapping of Valdo Obruchev, a scientist who worked on a bioweapon for the British government. The virus, named Heracles, can kill on a mass scale in a matter of seconds. Heracles was developed off the books, designed for a future where MI6 could kill their designated targets without having to enlist the help of 007.
In retirement, Bond is asked to track down and rescue Obruchev by Felix Leiter, one of Bond’s old friends from the CIA. This favor takes Bond on a grand adventure, and forces him to struggle with his identity of being a retired 007.
The main villain, Lyutsifer Safin, wants to use Heracles to take down the unjust organizations of the world. As a child born into organized crime, he sees Heracles as a way to mitigate the world’s suffering. Safin likens himself to Bond, saying that they are the same kind of men, but Safin is moving into a future without the collateral damage of guns and bombs.
One criticism I have for the film is there was not enough characterization of the antagonist. Safin gave the impression of an intriguing and determined villain, but nearly all the character’s development occurred in exposition and info-dumps.
During the mission, Bond meets the new 007, Nomi. Played by Lashana Lynch, she is the first Black female to take up the mantle of 007. Bond and Nomi eventually earn each other’s respect, but there was palpable tension from Bond as he realized that he was no longer 007.
“No Time to Die” is notably different from other Craig-Bond films in that it ties into the previous Bond films. The film is most closely a direct sequel to “Spectre,” but it uses the relationships that Bond has made in each of his films as a backdrop to tell a much grander story.
The previous film, “Spectre,” helped set up this different take on Bond. At the end of the movie, Bond maintained his relationship to Madeleine Swann, a psychologist who is the daughter of Mr. White. A stereotypical Bond trope is to have the love interest used as a trap for Bond, making him lower his guard to his enemies. Their relationship seemed to fall into that Bond trope within the opening thirty minutes. Swann has secrets and Bond believes that she is out to betray him.
Swann’s secrets end up being ones of trauma and not of betrayal, but it was far too late for Bond to make up for lost time. “No Time to Die” is self-aware of the tropes of Bond films and uses those tropes to subvert the audience’s expectations, showing a growth in Bond’s character.
In this film, Craig explored the depths of Bond in a more tender, vulnerable manner than previous Craig films. While there are certainly moments of the reserved, spy movie Bond, there hasn’t been a Craig-Bond film thus far where Craig has been as free and expressive with the character.
The theme song was written by Billie Eilish and shares the namesake of the film. While the theme song shares many of the musical motifs of the Bond themes, it takes a notably different turn. The theme songs have generally always had theatrical singers, who force the limits of their vocal range throughout the duration of the theme. Eilish’s vocal performance was more reserved and almost contemplative, leaving space for reflection on the previous Craig-Bond films. The song does an exceptional job at setting the tone for the film, letting the audience know that the film will be more contemplative in nature than a typical Bond film.
“No Time to Die” is an exceptionally refreshing take on James Bond, offering a more dramatic, contemplative story. It served as a proper sendoff for this version of James Bond, solidifying Daniel Craig in the pantheon of James Bonds. With the modernization of certain aspects of the standard Bond story, “No Time to Die” will leave you wondering about the ways they might continue to innovate 007.