After long delay, Craig’s Bond takes a fitting bow in ‘No Time to Die’

The action scenes still deliver, but the new Bond film also packs a surprising emotional punch

Brad Keefe
"No Time to Die"

There is probably no movie that more closely defines Hollywood’s navigation of theatrical releases during the pandemic than “No Time to Die.”

The movie was initially slated to hit theaters in November 2019, but a change of directors led to it being postponed until February 2020 and then April 2020. It turns out a lot can happen in just a couple of months.

The release of “No Time to Die” then became the bellwether for Hollywood’s estimation of when it would be safe for people to return to theaters. First it was delayed until November 2020, and then April 2021. It’s now November, and Daniel Craig’s last turn as James Bond is finally in theaters.

I can’t say I was waiting for it all this time, as there were other things to think about, but it does feel like a strange moment to see it on a big screen.

Oddly, it is worth the wait, but not for the reasons I might have expected.

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The movie concludes the arc of Daniel Craig’s Bond, and the grittier, more sullen tone that has been a part of the resurgent modern Bond remains.

At the beginning of the film, Bond has left active duty with MI6, enjoying his days in Jamaica with Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux, returning from 2015’s “Spectre,” which was also Bond’s last big-screen adventure). Soon, tragic events tear the two apart, and we move forward five years. Bond is still enjoying his version of retirement when, of course, a nefarious plot brings him back.

“No Time to Die” is also notable for being the longest Bond movie yet, clocking in at a hefty 2 hours and 45 minutes. I generally balk at movies going over like 2:20, but this one looks more daunting on paper.

Director Cary Joji Fukunaga (who took over for Danny Boyle) maintains good pacing, making this one feel shorter than it is, but much will depend on how much the story engages you.

Fukanaga actually directed a Bond movie that seems more engaged in its story than spectacle. The usual wild fights and thrilling car chases, displaying some of the best real stunt work around, are sharp, though, if not among the bigger “wow” moments of the recent series.

One action-oriented highlight involves Bond teaming with Paloma (Craig’s “Knives Out” co-star Ana De Armas, whom he brought into the film) for some good old spy stuff. It’s the lightest, most fun segment of the film.

There’s also a fine new Bond villain played by Rami Malek and a return of Christoph Waltz, which actually somehow dilutes both villains. And there’s another key character best left a surprise.

After the long delay, I was surprised by what actually struck me most about the movie. It wasn’t the big-screen action. It actually was the story, which hit with surprising emotion. I can’t remember another Bond movie that got me a little choked up.

Craig’s Bond rejuvenated this series from his debut in “Casino Royale,” and he’s made it clear this film is his last. The “next Bond” debate has been swirling for about a decade anyway, so we can wait and see.

I’m already more excited for Craig’s return in the two upcoming “Knives Out” sequels, but this is a fittingly emotional end for the actor who played the most vulnerable Bond.

“No Time to Die”

Now playing in theaters

4 stars out of 5