After a switch in director, a script revamp, and a global pandemic which thrust its release into jeopardy, No Time to Die has finally landed in cinemas. It’s directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga and marks the fifth and final outing for Daniel Craig as the iconic secret agent James Bond.
Picking up from where 2015’s Spectre left off, Bond is enjoying retirement in Italy with Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) when he is ambushed by a gang of assassins, which leads him to fear that he’s been betrayed by his girlfriend. We’re then taken five years later to London, where an MI6 laboratory is targeted in an attack, and scientist Valdo Obruchev (David Dencik) is kidnapped. He is forced to co-operate with terrorist Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek) to help create a new bioweapon which, in the wrong hands, could be used to spread a deadly virus across the world.
In trademark style, an impressive sequence plays out ahead of the opening credits to establish the story of 007’s latest mission. We’re introduced to the new villain in an intense flashback scene and then the action begins with an exhilarating chase, smart quips, and over-the-top tech; all is right again in the landscape of cinematic espionage. However, what follows never really lives up to the promising start. Thrills make way for longwinded passages about DNA and nanobots, and the plot becomes mind-numbingly convoluted. There’s a brief spike of fun in Cuba where Bond and his charismatic associate Paloma infiltrate a villainous gathering, but poor pacing and lazy, contrived writing makes the severely drawn-out final act a dull, arduous slog.
Ever since James Bond was shot and presumed dead at the beginning of Skyfall, he’s been a reluctant hero, dragged back into the job to settle personal vendettas. Now, after publicly attempting to shake off the role for a number of years, we also appear to have a reluctant leading actor. This comes across as more than just typical aloofness, as if he doesn’t really want to be there at all. Many of the ensemble cast, old and new, are just making up the numbers, few bringing anything fresh or exciting to their roles. It’s only Ana de Armas that shines in her criminally short but memorable turn, bringing a playfulness that is sorely lacking from the rest of the film. Even the usually brilliant Christoph Waltz, who’s perfectly cast as the classic villain Blofeld, can’t muster the energy to leave a lasting impression.
Fukunaga’s No Time to Die brings Daniel Craig’s mixed bag of an era to a close in disappointingly lacklustre fashion, buckling under the weight of its own anticipation. We’ve been expecting you Mr Bond, but we expected a lot better than this.