There’s no doubt that Daniel Craig has had an incredible run as the debonair secret agent James Bond. Since taking the mantle of 007 with the release of Casino Royale in 2006, Craig’s Bond has been one steeped in realism and humanity. With his piercing blue eyes, blond hair, and muscular physique, Craig was a genuine departure from the more uniform Bonds that came before his turn as the British man of mystery. To familiarize yourself, here’s a quick ranked list of every actor who has played Bond thus far.
If you haven’t seen the film that secured Criag his license to kill, do yourself a favor and go watch 2005’s Layer Cake. It’s basically his audition tape for the role, and it’s absolutely fantastic.
Instead of a womanizing, boozed-up, heartless killing machine, Craig came to the table with a Bond that felt pain, love, and everything in between. Moving beyond the unemotional playboy audiences had come to expect, Craig took 007 to new heights with a hero that was constantly playing behind the eight ball. He shifted in and out of peril about as quickly as you could say “shaken, not stirred” and he wasn’t happy about it.
In many ways, Craig ushered the Bond franchise into the 21st century, adding a refined sense of practicality to the classic Ian Fleming character. Yet, with the latest and final portion of his tenure as Bond, No Time To Die stands as an unsatisfying bookend to a series that had much more potential left on the table. But is it Craig’s worst go-around as Bond?
The first and third installments of the franchise are its shining stars. They present their hero’s mortality while connecting him to larger thematic ideas about what it means to get your hands dirty while saving the world.
Casino Royle is a brilliant film. It takes Bond back to basics and uses contemporary influences while doing so. In 2002, a different Bond was helmed by Irish actor Pierce Brosnan. By the time his last film Die Another Day came out, it had clearly jumped the shark. With all the wacky gadgets, ridiculous situations, and horrible dialogue, Bond felt more like a cartoon character than a hardened man of espionage. Enter another 2002 film, The Bourne Identity.
As soon as Matt Damon brought the character of Jason Bourne into the zeitgeist, everything changed. Gone were the days of exploding pens and kiteboards, and along came those of legitimate weapons and practical tools. Fight scenes in action movies became much more gritty and down to earth, presenting a realism never before seen on screen. In Casino Royale, Bond is an actual spy. He does real work, faces real world problems, and gets the crap kicked out of him a time or two.
Then there’s Quantum of Solace, which is far and away the worst film of the franchise. There honestly isn’t much to say about it because it’s shot and edited so choppily that no one has any real clue what’s going on, especially the characters on screen. The opening car chase is particularly bad, and it doesn’t get any better from there.
Here it is below. Grab a barf bag if jerks and jolts aren’t your thing.
Skyfall, on the other hand, is a masterpiece. It’s not just a good Bond film or action movie, it’s a great film in general. Javier Bardem’s villain Silva is chilling, Judi Dench’s final performance as M is a triumph, and by taking Bond back to some of his more personal roots, the plot is as introspective as it is thrilling. Not to mention Roger Deakins as cinematographer knocks the visual socks off of this film more than any other in Bond’s 26-movie career.
One would expect No Time To Die to follow the pattern of Craig’s franchise as a whole, flip-flopping from great to almost unwatchable at each new entry. Where Casino Royale sang, Quantum of Solace was unbearable. When Skyfall blew the minds of movie goers across the world, Spectre acted as a reflection of a predecessor that did it all undeniably better.
Before going any further, please proceed with caution. Safeties off and spoilers ahead.
As a love letter to Craig, No Time To Die really works, and what’s not to love? The cinematography is beautiful, the set pieces are immaculate, the action is heart-pounding, and the music is spot-on. The story takes us around the world as Bond fights through the streets of Cuba and off-roads across Norway, putting some serious miles on the odometer in this tale of daring-do.
Yet, that does little to save the overall narrative. With plenty of plot contrivances and story beats that feel far too convenient, No Time To Die self-indulgently plods along over the course of its almost 3-hour runtime. This movie could have been cut in half by a megalomaniac’s laser and still gotten its point across. Still, No Time To Die is a fun ride that gets you to the end feeling a slight tingle of emotion along the way.
First of all, James Bond has a daughter, which is fair. Nothing motivates a parent more than caring for their child, and a roughed-up James Bond protecting his little girl is oddly refreshing. Since Bond is a fairly promiscuous hero, a kid was bound to crop up eventually.
Yet it’s the way his daughter is revealed and the love story that brought her into being that causes the subplot to fall flat. His love interest, Madeleine Swann (played beautifully by Léa Seydoux) comes via the previous film Spectre. However, the attempts of the franchise to create viable connections across films falls flat when each is so inconsistently tied to the other.
If No Time To Die is inoffensive, then Spectre isn’t even a part of the conversation. Christoph Waltz’s Spectre villain Blofeld also appears in the movie, and is quickly killed off⏤undersold and underused. Speaking of, Ana de Armas’ Agent Paloma spends almost zero time on screen but still manages to redefine what it means to be a classic “Bond girl.” Fighting alongside Bond during arguably the film’s best sequence, Armas charms her way to becoming an unforgettable addition to this particular world.
Taking aim at villains, Rami Malek’s Lyutsifer Safin is about as forgettable as they come. A solid Bond film is only as good as its villain, and if anything Safin underwhemlingly proves this to be the case. His backstory is so convoluted that he’s really just evil for the sake of being evil. He appears when he needs to deliver some ominous diatribe and then disappears again until James deserves a good beating. With classic villains like Dr. No, Goldfinger, and Le Chiffre, Safin never stood a chance.
The biggest surprise of this movie (besides the ending, which we’ll get to) is the addition of Lashana Lynch as the first female 007, Nomi. She is dashing, poised, and carries the mantle of 007 with an assured reverence that is freshly female. Nomi holds her own against Bond, and by the closing credits their friendly reliance on each other is a well-earned surprise. Although this particular Bond story may have come to an end, it’s safe to say it’s in good hands with the new 007⏤even if we never get a chance to see it.
Finally we come to the most contentious part of the film, its ending. Without mincing words, first and foremost, if you don’t want a watermark change to the Bond universe spoiled, DO NOT CONTINUE READING. You’ve been warned.
They kill James Bond. Since 1953, Bond has been saving the world as an immortal character, primed to take on new adventures over and over again. Times may change, but James remains forever unaltered. With each generation he is reborn as the same unstoppable super spy. New Bond films aren’t reboots as much as they are an addition to the collection of countless Bond stories. That history seems to have been reworked, for now.
Only time will tell where James Bond will find himself when a new actor is chosen to take on the historic role. Until then all we can do is wonder how the filmmakers will be able to recapture the magic of a 68-year-old icon of modern fiction.