Ah, Mr. Bond. We’ve been expecting you … After a seven-year hiatus and a number of production issues, the final installment in the Daniel Craig canon, No Time to Die, finally drops this weekend, and it might be the most emotional episode yet.
The Craig films have been less about flash and escapism, and more about Bond and his personal life, so director Cary Fukanaga strips away everything that resembles those early Connery/ Moore/ Lazenby pictures. There are no zingers, poker games, or crocodile submarines. What we have here is pure espionage wrapped around a twisty tale of loss, regret, and the one man who stands between the world and world domination, James Bond.
Things pick up where Spectre left off, with Bond and psychologist/ love interest/ Girl-With-A-Secret Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) having a dreamy vacation in Italy and making the most of their spacious hotel room. When an explosion sends Bond hurtling into space, twists, turns, breakups and car chases, callbacks and shootouts, emerge from the rubble. And that’s just the prologue.
A summary of No Time to Die’s bloated plot would take weeks to read, so we’ll just give you the basics: the ruthless Lyutsifur Safin (Rami Malek) is back with a virus that will wipe out humanity. Why? Because he can. Bond’s mission is to stop the virus from getting to London, so he leaves his home in Jamaica, slugs a couple martinis, and teams up with old friends Q (Ben Whishaw), M (Ralph Fiennes) and Moneypenny (Naomi Harris). After throwing on a tux, he flies across the globe, shoots some bad guys, takes some punches, gets outclassed by newcomers Lashana Lynch and Ana De Armas (Knives Out), tries to win back Madeleine, and fights a mechanical-eyed baddie.
Got all that? Well, there are about 30 more subplots between the time Bond meets up with Madeleine and Bond faces off with Lyutsifur on his private, Dr. No-inspired island. It’s three hours of non-stop, whiz-bang action, but it’s all grounded by Craig’s world-weary performance. Bond, jaded after decades of espionage, is grappling with questions all of us grapple with from time to time: Does anyone care? Is Madeline the one? Is love worth the risk? As he progresses from heroic to tragic, ladies’ man to family man, Craig capably conveys the uncertainty of the character, and Fukanga gives those moments time to breathe.
What makes No Time to Die work is not necessarily the fight scenes or the globe-trotting adventure (though that helps), but the deep emotional undercurrent that courses through the film like a virus courses through your veins. Fukankga’s script infects you with feeling, and Craig is so skilled at balancing the pathos and the adrenaline-fueled-stunts, that even some of the action sequences — like the one where Bond saves Madeleine in a forest — are moving.
All too often, the human aspects get lost in the spectacle of a Bond movie. But Fukanga foregrounds those elements to create something with stakes, heart, and depth. He makes sure Craig goes out with a bang, and a box of tissues. With any luck, you’ll leave the theater shaken and stirred.