Daniel Craig stars in “No Time To Die” the latest James Bond film.
MGM | Universal
After 18 months of waiting, the latest installment in the James Bond saga is finally arriving the in theaters.
A swan song for actor Daniel Craig, who has portrayed 007 since 2006’s “Casino Royale,” “No Time to Die” debuts in the U.K. on Friday before opening domestically Oct. 8.
The 25th Bond film isn’t perfect, but explosive stunt sequences and a magnetic performance from Craig are enough to overcome a complicated plot and long run time, critics say.
Years after apprehending Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), the main antagonist of 2015’s “Spectre,” James Bond has retired and is living a quiet life in Jamaica. When an old CIA agent contact asks for help with one last job, Bond finds himself confronting the sinister Safin (Rami Malek) as well as the woman he once loved Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux).
“No Time to Die” currently holds an 83% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 138 reviews.
Here’s what critics thought of Craig’s final James Bond film ahead of its U.K. opening:
It’s clear throughout “No Time to Die” that the film’s producers and writers were keenly aware that this was Craig’s final turn as the iconic 007.
A.O. Scott of The New York Times said the film “is uncommonly preoccupied with memory and leave-taking,” in his review of the film.
“Mortality looms over the quips and car chases — not only the expected slaughter of anonymous minions, but an inky cloud of grief, loss and weariness,” he wrote.
Bond refers to himself as “an old wreck” and Craig, 53, plays the part of a man who’s survived battle, but has not been left unscathed.
“[Director Cary] Fukunaga has a crisp, stylish way with action, and some of the set pieces have the flair and inventiveness of musical numbers, most notably a party in Havana where Ana de Armas shows up to play Cyd Charisse to Craig’s Gene Kelly,” Scott said. “That sequence feels like a throwback and an update, reprising the Bond tradition of elegance, charm and high silliness.”
Daniel Craig stars as James Bond in “No Time To Die.”
“No Time to Die” feels long, but “it packs in so much that you can hardly complain,” wrote Nicholas Barber in his review of the film for the BBC.
The film clocks in at two hours and 43 minutes, the longest of any James Bond flick to date.
“It piles on the grief and raises the emotional stakes, with the help of Hans Zimmer’s operatic music and Linus Sandgren’s warm cinematography,” said Barber. “But it also keeps the jokes and the silliness coming: it’s been decades since Bond had this many groan-worthy one-liners, and he’s never had this many Oliver Hardy-style exasperated glances.”
Barber said the latest James Bond film “does exactly what it was intended to do,” give Craig a proper send-off.
“Beyond that, it somehow succeeds in taking something from every single other Bond film, and sticking them all together,” he said.
John Nugent, a writer for Empire, also praised Fukunaga’s directing in his review of “No Time to Die.”
“Fukunaga, it seems, was an ideal choice of director, skillfully balancing the contradictions of the character and the franchise, and while he doesn’t quite escape the usual pitfalls — a middle third bogged down by plotting and exposition doesn’t justify that heaving runtime — he has always been an intuitive filmmaker, deeply interested in the humanity of his characters,” Nugent wrote.
He compared Fukunaga’s action sequences to that of John Wick, noting the emphasis on sharp and savage gunfights and intense chases.
“This is a Bond film that dutifully ticks all the boxes — but brilliantly, often doesn’t feel like a Bond film at all,” Nugent wrote. “For a 007 who strived to bring humanity to larger-than-life hero, it’s a fitting end to the Craig era.”
Daniel Craig stars as James Bond in “No Time To Die.”
For Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com, “No Time to Die” director Fukunaga “plays it too safe and too familiar.”
“Even as it’s closing character arcs that started years ago, it feels like a film with too little at stake, a movie produced by a machine that was fed the previous 24 flicks and programmed to spit out a greatest hits package,” he wrote in his review of the film.
Tallerico was particularly critical of how the film used its supporting cast, noting that returning actors like Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw are given little to do except “push the plot forward to its inevitable ending.”
Lashana Lynch, a new addition to the film as Bond’s 007 replacement, “feels like a self-aware nod to controversy around the casting of Bond, which is cool enough, but then she’s not given much of a character to make her interesting on her own,” he said.
And Ana de Armas, who appears as a fellow spy during a mission to Cuba, “pops up to give the film a completely different and welcome new energy in an action sequence set in Cuba, only to leave the movie ten minutes later.”
“‘No Time to Die’ will be remembered for its emotional impact above all,” wrote Jason Solomons in his review of the film for The Wrap. “And, to cap it all, Craig may well have delivered the most complex and layered Bond performance of them all.”
Many critics have agreed that Craig’s performance is one of the most emotional of any previous James Bond actor. Since “Casino Royale,” the character of Bond has been given more depth than any other portrayal of the iconic character.
“Suffice to say, then, that ‘No Time To Die’ is Daniel Craig’s best incarnation of an iconic role, an iteration that sees Bond travel to emotional spaces the character has never been to before, at least not since ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ or in certain passages of Ian Fleming’s books,” Solomons wrote.
“You feel all the wear and tear on Craig’s body and face, all the strain on Bond of having to save the world one last time (again) yet also all the tantalizing freedom of someone approaching the end of a long run,” he said.
Disclosure: Comcast owns NBCUniversal and CNBC. Universal is releasing “No Time To Die” internationally while MGM handles the domestic release. Rotten Tomatoes is owned by NBCUniversal.