The actual swan-song for Daniel Craig (Knives Out) in his fifth outing as James Bond tries to be more than a sequel to the previous Spectre in foregoing strident spy adventure for sweeping drama.
The much-delayed, long-awaited No Time To Die (belying its moniker) can suddenly turn from romantic swooning to exhilarating vicious action as U.S. filmmaker Cary Fukumaga (Jane Eyre) diligently draws from the earlier Craig installments. The best of which were Casino Royale and Skyfall.
This end of an era of sorts has a character slant that offers some edge within the excitement and suspense in a mostly real-world, as the location work often resounds with set-pieces that warmly defer to earlier pictures (this is the 25th) in a series that dates back to 1962.
The peril for sympathetic figures emerges in convincing fashion with the main locations being London, Cuba, Jamaica and Italy as the longest and biggest of the 007 films to date has the longest prologue (which foreshadows a brawny thriller).
Of course Bond is lured out of retirement by CIA ally Felix (Jeffrey Wright) to ensnare a renegade scientist (David Dencki). Lashana Lynch (Captain Marvel) is the new 007 replacement at M16 that he joins in his freelancing too uncovering a conspiracy, where nanobots weaponize a DNA-rooted virus (perhaps not the ideal time for this storyline through concocted well before the initial Far Eastern mishaps).
The jaded, brooding aggression of the protagonist still has that twinkle as he gradually wades through the convolutions involving an old, incarcerated nemesis (Christophe Waltz) churning for a deserved grand adieu. Madeline Swann, subtly graceful Lea Seydoux, is the seemingly turncoat, if empathetic therapist key to the screenplay assisted on by Phoebe Waller-Bridge for a certain timeliness. You know a soured M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw), and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) are a part of a quest. As a creepy mastermind Safin (Rami Malek of Bohemian Rhapsody) is the actual if too shadowy, kabuki-masked antagonist (first seen in the pre-credits) whose megalomania has its clandestine advantages.
The banter with the boost in Lynch really isn’t as good when in Cuba with a more alluring agent endowed with coquettish empowerment by Ana de Armas, Craig’s co-star of the ingenue Rian Johnson whodunit. A surprise kick comes near the conclusion in greyish, concrete tone that makes the tension resonate a little more given the long-winded stuff that preceded it. No Time To Die still can live up to the hype from a formula predicated on what has influenced franchises like Mission: Impossible while borrowing from the heart-stopping swagger of superhero extravaganzas. The capper for Craig may lack a desired sense of fun but it’s hard to ignore a rugged, honest vulnerability for an icon that had his share of love and anguish.