Time for rebirth: a spoiler-free review of “No Time to Die”

An era has come to an end.

No Time To Die, the latest film in the decades-long James Bond franchise, is the last movie that will star Daniel Craig as the eponymous super-spy. And with his exit, the series has reached a vital point in its life. Will James Bond continue as he has for the last 59 years? Or is this a chance for someone new to continue what Daniel Craig’s films began—a rebirth of the world’s most famous secret agent?

MGM Studios

The movie itself—the 25th installment in the franchise, and Craig’s fifth outing as 007—is a solid Bond adventure. It has everything you might expect from a typical James Bond film: thrilling car chases, flawlessly choreographed gun and fist fights, a smattering of dry British humor, beautiful women, and the lines we’ve all come to expect including “Bond, James Bond” and “shaken, not stirred.” It also has the level of humanity that became associated with Craig’s Bond early on; something deeper than most other Bonds experience, that reminds you that he’s much more than a killing machine. James Bond wants a life, and despite his best attempts at having something outside of MI6, he is continually thwarted…by bad luck, by Blofeld, and even by himself.

Near the beginning of the movie, there’s a huge, life-changing misunderstanding between James and Madeleine Swann (you remember her, the young psychiatrist and the daughter of antagonist Mr. White who becomes James’s lover in 2015’s Spectre). They’re in love, have run away together (or whatever it’s called when grownups ditch their real lives), and are traveling around Europe when it happens—James puts her on a train and tells her that she’ll never see him again. Despite her protestations, he’s adamant, and disappears in the way that only super spies can.

MGM Studios

Five years later, James is living alone in Jamaica. His retirement is uneventful, and lonely—the complete opposite of what he had envisioned when he left MI6 to be with Madeleine—until his old friend, CIA agent Felix Leiter, asks him for a favor. Bond takes to the assignment like a fish to water (because you can’t ever really stop being a secret agent, can you?) and before you can say “licence to kill” he’s back in the game. But he’s not the only player—in fact, he’s not really a player at this point, having quit his job—and there’s a new 007 in town. Nomi, played by Lashana Lynch of Captain Marvel fame, has not only joined the “00” program in James’s absence but has been assigned his old number. And boy, does she give it some melanin magic.

There are other new faces at large, notably Rami Malek as Lyutsifer Safin, the main villain, and Ana de Armas as Paloma, a CIA agent with a small but incredibly memorable role. And of course, we can’t have new characters without bringing back old ones like M, Q, and Moneypenny. The gang’s all here, the plot is just convoluted enough, and the technical aspects of the film are on point…the perfect setup for a satisfying Bond flick.

MGM Studios

But with a movie like No Time to Die, you can’t just focus on the storyline or the special effects. Whether you enjoyed the film of not, this is a significant turning point for James Bond, a crossroads he has never encountered before. Considering the events at the end of the film, the fact that MGM is now owned by streaming giant Amazon, and the reality that the world is not the same as it was when Ian Fleming first wrote about a suave womanizer in 1953, there’s a lot to think about when it comes to the future of 007.

While I have been a fangirl of James Bond since childhood (I definitely watched some of those movies too young), there’s no escaping the fact that he doesn’t fit into the cinemascape the same way that he used to. While Fleming’s original character is charismatic, he’s also a symbol of British superiority—of white authority and patriarchy. Bond is always right, even when he goes against orders (especially when he goes against orders). He sleeps his way through crowds of women who seem to like being tossed around. If you’ve watched even one of the older films, you can certainly add to this list. Craig’s iteration of James Bond started a shift of character, though, in 2006’s Casino Royale. While fans and critics were busy being annoyed by Craig’s blond hair, blue eyes, and shorter stature, Craig himself was reworking the character into someone more believable. A secret agent who secretly resents being a blunt instrument for the empire. Someone who could let himself be outshined by a woman like Vesper Lynd and not be emasculated because of it. He is surrounded by other characters we know, but who are also different than before: a woman of color as Moneypenny, a queer man as Q. And of course, Nomi—the new 007 who is a Black woman.

MGM Studios

These were the first steps in revitalizing the franchise. There’s still much work to be done, but the question remains…will Amazon have the guts to do it? Can they give us a James Bond who won’t just follow in Craig’s footsteps, but sprint past them?

Perhaps the title of the film is an indicator. There’s no time for this franchise to die—only time for it to be reborn. And Craig’s time as Bond will have been well worth it.