In writer and director Cary Joji Fukunaga’s No Time to Die, James Bond, played by Daniel Craig, and the new love of his life Madeleine Swan, played by Lea Seydoux, are on an Italian holiday. Madeleine asks James, “Can you forgive her [Vesper]?” In the movie Casino Royale, beautiful, strong Eva Green played Vesper, the love of James’s life, until she betrayed him. In her redemption, Vesper sacrificed her life for James. That betrayal sourced James becoming the cold calculated Agent 007, licensed to kill. Vesper’s grave resides in that Italian town.
Abiding the Italian local tradition, James burns a letter at Vesper’s gravesite. The letter reads, “Forgive me.” Bond whispers, “I miss you.” Suddenly, the clandestine organization Spectre launches its vicious attack upon him. Director Cary masterfully orchestrates the controlled mayhem as James dispatches Spectre assassins while escaping on a motorcycle.
His path leads back to Madeleine. James yells, “How did he know I was here?” The he would be arch-nemesis Blofeld, played by Christoph Waltz, the leader of Spectre and James’s surrogate brother. Previously in the movie Spectre, Bond spared Blofeld’s life, placing him in criminal asylum. Madeleine is measurably linked to Blofeld and Spectre. Her father Mr. White worked for Blofeld and failed to kill James. James took Mr. White’s life agreeing to be Madeleine’s protector. James fell in love with Madeleine. At the conclusion of Spectre, James and Madeleine rode off into the sunset in his shiny Aston-Martin.
Seemingly, Madeleine betrayed James, albeit in inadvertent association. For James, is this Vesper repeating itself? Is he forever cursed in love? James valiantly rescues Madeleine. He lets her go at the local train station. It’s done.
Back in the opening screen narrative by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Pheobe Waller-Bridge, and Cary Joji Fukunaga, we see young Madeleine, played by Coline Defaud, with her mom, played by Mathilde Bourbin, at their home in snowy Norway. The ceramic masked assassin invades their home to kill Madeleine’s Father on a mission of vengeance. However, Mr. White is away. So, the assassin murders the Mother. Escaping onto the frozen lake, young Madeleine falls through the ice. The assassin targets her and opens fire through the ice.
Now 5 years after the Italian holiday, James lives in reclusive retirement from MI-6, in Jamaica. He’s got the cool beach house and spends his days fishing from his sailboat. Daniel’s James retains his shredded body, looking worthy of his license to kill. Just saying.
Meanwhile, cloaked figure Lyutsifer Safin, played with chilling stillness by Academy Award Winner Rami Malek, orders his men to steal the deadly nano-tech weaponized virus in his master plan for world “oblivion”. Safin was the masked assassin, who murdered Madeleine’s mother. The virus inception traces back to MI-6’s M, played with Machiavellian zeal by Ralph Fiennes. British MI-6 seeks to recover the virus. So does the CIA.
Old friend, CIA operative Felix Leiter, played by solid and whimsical Jeffrey Wright, asks Bond for a favor: Help him recover the virus for the CIA. James agrees, thus emerging from a self-imposed retirement. James teams with 2-year CIA operative Paloma, played by spirited Ana de Armas, in Cuba. Although inexperienced, Paloma possesses killer martial arts skills.
Their overt CIA operation draws M’s attention. Thus, MI-6 reels Bond back in. M reinstates James, but he’s no longer Agent 007. That would be Nomi, played with convincing swag by beautiful Lashana Lynch. Apparently, Bond’s number wasn’t retired in homage. James smirks, “What’s in a number?”
Blofed holds the key to the virus and Safin. Ironically, his psychiatrist Dr. Madeleine Swan is the only one, whom he trusts. Consequently, James and Madeliene reunite. Christoph displays menacing calm as Blofeld, who only wants to see James suffer. He confides regarding Madeleine, “When her secrets get out, that will be the death of him.”
Perhaps, one of those secrets is Madeleine’s daughter Mathilde, played by Lisa-Dorah Sonnet. James notices that Mathilde has his blue eyes. Madeleine assures, “Not yours.” Yet, we can do the math. Just saying.
No Time to Die might be a good as Casino Royale, my all-time favorite Bond movie. That’s largely sourced in Daniel Craig. In his final performance as James Bond, Agent 007, Daniel is powerful, vulnerable, and human. At times Cary’s convoluted plot occurs as a distraction. Still, Daniel makes Bond’s journey the most compelling narrative. Lea Seydoux falters at times in Madeleine’s indistinguishable duplicity. Yet, Madeleine’s love for Mathilde and for James lands authentically.
Perhaps, the dominant weakness of No Time to Die lies in Rami Malek’s interpretation of Safin. Safin could have come across as restrained danger instead of uncomfortable creepiness. In terms of physicality, Rami’s Safin seems no formidable match for Daniel’s brutal Bond. Their climatic narrative arc punctuates the singularity of Daniel’s Bond over his 15 year tenure.
Daniel Craig virtually resurrected the James Bond cultural dinosaur and franchise. He reinvented Bond as relevant, as a living breathing human being, not some archaic caricature. Back in Casino Royale, Daniel’s James sits on the shower floor comforting Eva’s Vesper, who shivers in despair. His James Bond is gentle, compassionate, kind. His James Bond is a good man. Daniel Craig is good man, too.
In No Time to Die, James Bond said of his beloved Vesper Lynd, “I miss you.” I too will miss Daniel Craig as James Bond. He reinvented Bond. He reinvented the movie Hero, too. No Time to Die is both brilliant and flawed. No Time to Die poignantly completes the journey of James Bond, the man seemingly cursed in love. James could save the world, but could never find true love. Daniel Craig’s legacy is gifting James Bond humanity, giving him a soul. Mad love and respect to Daniel. No Time to Die is a worthy legacy.
Watch the official movie trailer