Like a well crafted Martini Daniel Craig’s fifth and final mission as super spy James Bond shakes up the franchise’s traditional formula while still retaining all the identifiable ingredients that have made it a classic for almost 60 years.
As you’d expect there’s adrenaline-pumping set-pieces, thrilling high speed pursuits, bone crunching action sequences, glamorous women, sharp suited men and an arsenal of nifty gadgets that leave you grinning with satisfaction whenever Bond deploys them in Her Majesty’s Service.
It’s true that Craig’s previous outings as Bond have tended towards the convoluted but thankfully No Time to Die does an admirable job of keeping confusion at bay, the cost of which is its fairly lengthy running time.
Still, it’s no mean feat as its story links back and wraps up the strands of earlier films in satisfying fashion while also staking out its own contained plot, complete with a new villain for Bond to match wits with.
This time it’s Rami Malek’s (Bohemian Rhapsody) Lyutsifer Safin, a terrorist with an interest in botany who has grand designs to infect the world with a deadly virus. Bond films are nothing if not reflections of their time.
Like all good Bond villains he lives on a secret island and also enjoys a good plan-detailing monologue. Malek brings his trademark oddity to the role and a dispassionate sense of menace as his character gets swept up in his need for revenge, even if he’s not hugely memorable.
Meanwhile Bond has retired to live the good life in Jamaica when an attack on a top secret bio-facility drags him back into the world of spy craft. Where he promptly learns he’s been replaced as 007 by a new agent named Nomi, played by Lashana Lynch.
From there it’s a bullet-flying sprint through some of the world’s most beautiful and exotic locations as Bond attempts to piece the puzzle together and save the world.
So far, so Bond. The twist here is that this time, its personal. Once a love ’em and leave ’em Lothario, Bond now finds himself fighting not just for the world, but also to save the woman he loves. Okay, that sounds a bit corny, but director and co-writer Cary Joji Fukunaga (True Detective) never allows things to get cheesy or saccharine. Instead it all feels very real.
In the past Craig made a lot of disparaging, albeit rather humorous, comments about his desire to play Bond again after the previous film, Skyfall. But having committed himself he really delivers, bringing a genuine believability and humanity to the more poignant beats of the film.
The result is that this is the first Bond movie in its long history that really hits hard on an emotional level.
Yes, No Time to Die certainly goes down smooth, and its kick is guaranteed to leave you feeling a little light headed at the finish.
Cast: Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Naomie Harris
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Running time: 163 minutes
Rating: M (Violence & offensive language)
Verdict: Craig’s explosive final outing as 007 will leave you shaken and stirred.
No Time to Die is screening in cinemas around the country now. Auckland release TBC.
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