Producers Chris Brigham and Barbara Broccoli and director Cary Joji Fukunaga have packed so much breakneck physical excitement and stunning visual attractions into “No Time to Die” that the disappointment of Daniel Craig’s exit from playing James Bond is almost forgotten by the movie’s conclusion.
The latest 007 epic ranks among the finest in the series and completes the full reinvention of the James Bond character and legend that began with “Skyfall” and continued with “Spectre.” Several members from the cast of the latter film reappear in the new movie to tie up the loose ends and prepare for the series’ next phase.
The creative contributions of editors Tom Cross and Elliot Graham, second unit director Samantha Arnold, director of photography Linus Sandgren, special effects supervisor Chris Corbould and production designer Mark Tildesley elevate what might have been a routine victory lap into an adventure of unrelenting excitement.
“No Time to Die” is the 25th official movie in the action cinema’s most successful franchise and Craig is playing James Bond for the fifth and final time, a string that started in 2006 with “Casino Royale.” The film opens with the patented Bond pre-credits sequence that is achieved in a three-part chase on foot, with motorcycles and finally automobiles speeding through the narrow streets of a Greek seaside town.
It’s a thrilling start, and the action never lets up from there, right to the hideout of the villain, Lyusitfer Safin, played with reptilian malevolence by Rami Malek. Perched at the base of an island cliffside, the stronghold is part garden paradise, part horror-movie laboratory and part exotic fortress. Safin is experimenting with a biological warfare weapon code-named Heracles stolen from its inventor, British intelligence agency MI6, developed under the guise of a cure for genetic disorders.
The supercharged script credited to Fukunaga, Robert Wade, Neal Purvis and Phoebe Waller-Bridge is more than merely a plot line for the action. It provides built-in continuity with Bond’s previous adventures. When Bond angrily confronts his boss “M” (Ralph Fiennes) over creating a deadly plague and then letting it fall into Safin’s hands, the two talk casually about yet another world domination plot. “Back to the usual,” “M” says. “Yes,” 007 agrees. “That’s the usual.” The fetishes of Bondism turn up, from the classic Aston Martin to a watch that melts electronic equipment. Composer Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack is a flashback to the series’ iconic themes.
Bond not only falls in love with psychiatrist Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), but he might be the father of her little girl. Christoph Waltz gets one brief but memorable scene as archvillain Blofeld and agent Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) hires Bond to find Heracles for the CIA. There is another 007, Nomi (Lashana Lynch), who joins Bond as his partner and pilot.
Ana de Armas plays a Cuban agent named Paloma, who uses karate kicks and a marksman’s eye to help Bond escape a shootout in a Havana nightclub. The editing, photography and acting create a suspense sequence of electric tension.