Spoiler-free territory as Daniel Craig steps into 007’s shoes for the last time in the lengthy and long-delayed No Time To Die
“You know, history isn’t kind to men who play God”
If anything has characterised Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond, then it has been a marked inconsistency in the quality of those films. The heights of Casino Royale were followed by the disappointments of Quantum of Solace, the game-changing Skyfall chased by an underwhelming Spectre. So the hope was certainly that No Time To Die, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga
would follow the pattern of soaring to a high peak to round off this era.
And whilst it certainly climbs somewhat out of the valley, it is by no means an all-time classic Bond movie, despite the raft of rave reviews. It could safely be an hour shorter, it has one of those villains whose plan you’re never really quite sure about and much as I like Léa Seydoux, her Madeleine Swann being the Bond woman who gets to have a second film is a real heard-scratcher as the chemistry with Craig just isn’t there.
But there’s plenty of blockbuster moments to compensate for this – car chases in Italian villages and fights in skyscraper stairwells – and wryly comic moments as Ben Whishaw’s Q and Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny surreptitiously help Bond who has been retired for five years by the time that this film gets going. This leads into the introduction of Lashana Lynch’s Nomi, whose presence at MI6 causes a little frisson – in some ways, it’s a shame we don’t get to see more of her but that’s the way of most supporting characters in Bond films.
Ana de Armas gets a striking cameo as CIA agent Paloma and it is tempting to say that you can feel the impact of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s script work on Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Cary Joji Fukunaga’s screenplay on the micro level. But when plots revolve around world domination rather than personal vengeance, there’s always a challenge around making us care and Rami Malek’s Safin just isn’t up to the job. The epic swerve of the storytelling finally gets us there in the end, with a suitably huge finale but even then, an extended coda draws out the film with a touch of self-indulgence.