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Daniel Craig’s final James Bond film is a dark, emotional epic. Deliberately and consistently harking back – musically, thematically, and tonally – to the purist’s secret favourite Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, No Time To Die is a love story, and a successful one: the complicated chemistry between Daniel Craig and Léa Seydoux is supremely well played. Acting at this level was simply absent in the pre-Daniel Craig era, and this is probably the best acted entry in the entire series.
It’s also a team effort: Bond is rarely solo for this film’s two hours and forty-three minutes, and watching him and his crew – including Q and M, plus a new female agent and good ol’ Moneypenny – share the third act feels entirely appropriate. Earlier, Craig shares the film’s best action set-piece, in Havana, with Ana De Armas, who makes a spectacular impression with very little screen time. She is simply delightful, and her ability to make a fast strong impression is very much in keeping with the historical tradition of the First Act Bond Girl.
The film, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, looks sublime, at times rivalling the cinematography of Skyfall. Most of the action is gripping, and the locations, particularly Norway, are moody and evocative.
The plot itself, featuring a biological weapon, is creepily Covid-prescient (of course unwittingly, as the film was finished by the advent of the pandemic and its release delayed for two years because of it). But plot is not story, and the story – the love story – is heartily and admirably committed to.
This is mature Bond for a mature audience, even if the (main) villain could have stepped out of the 60s Connerys. Played in a hard-to-hear weird dialect by Rami Malek, he’s a fun throwback, but no Silva (Javier Bardem in Skyfall), let alone a Goldfinger, a Scaramanga, or Terry Savalas’ Blofeld.
But this Bond is not about the villain. This Bond is about love, Léa Seydoux is very much the second lead, and she’s terrific. Dame Diana Rigg would approve.