This is the one Bond fans have been waiting for. “No Time to Die,” Daniel Craig’s fifth and final outing as the iconic James Bond, had its world premiere Sept. 28 in London following more than a year of COVID-related release delays.
The premiere — and simultaneous press screenings in other cities, including Los Angeles and New York — marked the public debut for a franchise entry shrouded in immense secrecy.
Among the key details that were already known: Craig is joined by returning co-stars including Lea Seydoux (Bond love interest Madeleine Swann), Christoph Waltz (the villainous Blofeld), Ben Whishaw (Q), Naomie Harris (Moneypenny), Jeffrey Wright (Felix Leiter) and Ralph Fiennes (M). New additions to the cast include Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”) as a mysterious adversary, Lashana Lynch as a 00 agent and Ana de Armas as a “don’t call her a Bond girl” spy sidekick.
It’s the first time Bond has been directed by an American filmmaker — “True Detective” and “Beasts of No Nation” helmer Cary Joji Fukunaga — and one of the few times the film has been scripted, at least in part, by a woman: “Fleabag” creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a credited writer alongside Fukunaga, Robert Wade and Neal Purvis.
But now that we’ve finally seen “No Time to Die,” we know a whole lot more than that. Without getting too deep into spoiler territory (we’ll save that for when the film hits U.S. theaters on Oct. 8), here’s a taste of what we learned.
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‘No Time to Die’ looks backward
There are a number of Easter eggs for true Bond fans only, nods to previous films and even to previous actors. Most are as subtle as an early shot of a happy Bond and his significant other — in this case, Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann — driving up a mountainside with faint strains of “We Have All the Time in the World” embedded in the score’s DNA. It’ll make “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” fans fearful for Madeleine’s life. (After all, she is the daughter of a Bond villain, right?)
There’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it re-creation of the signature “gun barrel” shot, the return of M’s ceramic bulldog and a poignant echo of the “Brother from Langley” line from “Casino Royale.” There’s even a cameo of sorts by the late, great Bernard Lee that sharp-eyed Bond lovers will appreciate.
It also looks forward
That this is Daniel Craig’s final Bond entry is well known by now, as is the casting of “Captain Marvel’s” Lynch as Nomi, the new 007. The decision runs a circle around endless online arguments over whether EON Productions should cast a Black James Bond, a female James Bond or anyone else that isn’t a white, male James Bond: As one character says, the 00 designation is “just a number.”
The doors are open for the series to feature a cast, and an onscreen universe, that is far more inclusive than it has been in the past. Whether it will or not remains to be seen. But Nomi isn’t the only new butt-kicking character of whom audiences will want to see more.
Rami Malek nails the Bond villain
Aside from a masked appearance in the pre-credits opening sequence, it’s well over an hour before Oscar winner Malek properly enters the story as its primary villain, Safin. With a backstory connection to Madeleine Swann — Swann’s father was involved in killing his family — his character is initially motivated by a desire for revenge. Of course that desire — as so often happens with Bond villains — has mutated into a hunger for power, control and world domination.
His weapon of choice is a nanobot bioweapon — which plays a bit scarier post-COVID than it might have initially — as he works from an island somewhere in the North Atlantic full of exotic poison plants first cultivated by his father. His character’s face disfigured by a nerve agent, Malek approaches the role with a quiet steeliness, making him initially more just unnerving than frightening.
But once Safin goes full Bond villain — with a complex secret lair, an army of minions and soldiers in oddball outfits and a finely tailored, kimono-like jacket — Malek really leans into the part.
The Daniel Craig era comes to a truly unique end
“No Time to Die” brings the story that began with “Casino Royale” to an actual conclusion, and brings back elements from each of Craig’s previous outings. In that way, the film puts the button on a fully fleshed-out cinematic world and a five-film saga with a beginning, middle and end — something never attempted with any seriousness in the series’ long history.
And Fukunaga manages to put his own stamp on the material. There’s a stalking sequence in the beginning that’s probably the scariest in any Bond movie (Fukunaga originally was tapped to direct the “It” movies). He and his fellow screenwriters have crafted “No Time to Die” to feel less like an action movie than a character drama with bursts of impressive violence; the film is shot and moves with the pace and rhythm of a drama that takes relationships seriously. The people really are the center of the film.
Thus, when characters are seriously threatened or even die (and several familiar faces do perish), those moments have weight. It’s also the longest Bond movie, by about 15 minutes over “Spectre,” but rather than the haphazard mess that movie became by the end, “No Time’s” running time is due to taking the time with its characters and relationships.
The dominant themes are time and aging
Even before Billie Ellish’s title song kicks in for the opening credits animation set amidst the moving gears of a clock and the sands of an hourglass, the notion of time and aging has already been set in place as a major theme of the movie.
The film opens with a flashback to Madeleine’s childhood, establishing that she too has been haunted by death and setting the stage for another key character with a seemingly innocent worldview to enter the action later on.
The line “We have all the time in the world” is uttered by James Bond more than once. And if you didn’t catch the insider reference, the end credits feature the song of the same name sung by Louis Armstrong and composed by John Barry with lyrics by Hal David that originally appeared in 1969’s Bond outing “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”
Throughout the film, Craig’s Bond repeatedly underestimates or discounts younger characters, such as Lynch’s fellow MI6 agent, de Armas’ CIA agent Paloma and Billy Magnussen’s State Department emissary Logan Ash, each time setting him back.
One confrontation ends with a character literally telling another that it’s “time to die.” And during Bond’s face-to-face interrogation of his erstwhile foster brother turned international supervillain as head of SPECTRE, Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld dismisses them both as just two old men. Notions of legacy and what one truly leaves behind are also sprinkled throughout the story.
Women shall inherit … the franchise?
Although it doesn’t reinvent so much as reconsider Bond’s old dynamics with women, “No Time to Die” grants more dimension and humanity to those in his orbit. A forceful presence throughout the film as Nomi — the new 007 agent out to prove Bond obsolete — Lynch mounts a convincing case for making the future of the franchise female.
And as Paloma, the effervescent junior CIA operative who teams up with Bond in Cuba, de Armas makes an impressive meal out of a morsel of screen time, matching her “Knives Out” co-star Craig’s action chops and style (while doing it all in a slit-thigh evening gown and killer heels).
But “No Time to Die” is still a man’s world, passing the Bechdel Test only barely — even with Harris’ Moneypenny among the characters with more on their minds than Bond’s now cheesy one-liners.
Still, in prompting the aging Bond to realize that he’s no longer the center of his slick spy universe, “No Time to Die” allows the character to grow, and to make room for him to leave behind a richer legacy.
The four most important words to remember
As promised onscreen after the credits: “James Bond will return.” But played by who?
That’s the next question Bond fans will be waiting to have answered ... when the time is right.