Blu-ray Review: No Time to Die

STUDIO: Universal | DIRECTOR: Cary Joji Fukunaga | CAST: Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux, Rami Malek, Lashana Lynch, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Ana de Armas
RELEASE DATE: Dec. 21, 2021 | PRICE: 4K UHD $26.99; DVD $23.99, Blu-ray $24.96
BONUSES: featurettes, “Anatomy of a Scene”
SPECS: pg-13 | 163 min. | Action thriller drama | 2.39:1 widescreen | Dolby Atmos/Dolby Digital 2.0

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie   | Audio  | Video  | Overall 

No Time to Die, the 25th installment in the celebrated 007 film series based on the best-selling novels of Ian Fleming, marks the fifth and final outing for actor Daniel Craig as super-spy James Bond, a role he first portrayed in 2006’s Casino Royale.

The broad strokes of No Time to Die’s story, which takes place five years after the ending of the franchise’s previous film, 2015’s Spectre, finds Bond retired from Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and living a quiet, secluded life in Jamaica. It’s not too long before Bond is approached by his old CIA buddy Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) and convinced to slip back into his shoulder holster to help Leiter track down a missing scientist who’s developed a lethal bioweapon. MI6 also gets involved, including a new agent named Nomi (Lashana Lynch), who has taken Bond’s place in the organization, even inheriting his code number and literally becoming the new “007,” the successor to Bond’s “007” code number. Orbiting the unsanctioned mission are Bond’s former love, psychotherapist Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) and the supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), who Bond took down in the previous film and has since been locked up, Hannibal Lecter-style, in a high-security British prison.

No Time to Die is the first Bond film ever to be directed by an American, the Oakland-born Cary Fukunaga, who’s best known for the 2014 HBO crime series True Detective and the war drama Beasts of No Nation (2015). Filled with intricacies and, regrettably, a handful of contrivances, it clocks in at a daunting 163 minutes, making it the longest-ever entry in the Bond canon. But even as it occasionally drowns in its own plot, most of the key Bond elements are still in place: the exotic locales, the slinky opening credits and song (sung here by Billie Eilish), the magnificently mounted action scenes and chases, and the striking women, including lovely Ana de Armas, a standout as a high-kicking agent who briefly teams up with Bond in Cuba.

There are also the requisite appearances by Bond’s work family (Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw and Naomie Harris as “M,” “Q” and “Moneypenny,” respectively) and a menacing baddie determined to do nasty things to the Free World (an unexceptional Rami Malek, whose dearth of screen time doesn’t make him as menacing as he should be). What’s not there? Bond’s once-routine bed-hopping and his weaponized gadgetry are nowhere to be seen. (As Wishaw’s “Q” said a couple of movies back, “Were you expecting an exploding pen? We don’t really go in for that sort of thing anymore.”) Taking their place are growing questions about the viability of a field agent like Bond and the existence of shadowy spy organizations in a post-Cold War world of computer hackers and cyber-terrorists.

Over the course of the film, there’s plenty of respect and fan service offered in tribute to Bond’s proud cinematic legacy. They stretch from the opening credit sequence which echo those from Dr. No (the franchise’s 1961 debut) to a number of familiar music cues that hearken back to previous Bond films to several notable snatches of dialogue. (Bond murmurs “We’ve got all the time in the world…” several times, which is a key line in the Bond pantheon).

Emotional resonance, love betrayed and Bond’s self-reflection have all played a part in the Daniel Craig era, moving the character away from the traditional adventure-seeking, wisecracking and dapper dude of previous incarnations more to that of a troubled and tragic hero.

Craig’s Bond has been on that course for his entire cycle of connected films, ever since the seeming betrayal and violent death of the love of his life, treasury agent Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) in Casino Royale. Indeed, with each subsequent entry since Craig’s debut, the films have inched closer and closer to being romantic tragedies—as opposed to straight-on spy adventures—shooting, strangling, globe-trotting and car chasing, notwithstanding.

Maybe that’s why Craig’s inaugural Bond effort from 16 years back remains the best of his five films, as it was the first to embrace the classic elements of the Bond film franchise (which had been alive and thriving for 35 years old when he took over) while offering a far more serious, pensive and emotional character than previous Bonds Sean Connery, Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan ever did. Craig makes Bond’s vulnerability his defining characteristic, and it’s been on full display for a decade-and-a-half, all the way up to the closing minutes of No Time to Die. And for Craig’s quintet of films, it works. It really does. And I think that the climax and conclusion of Craig’s swansong, while it takes a long time to get to, is a satisfying one.

When pondering the enduring popularity and longevity of the Bond franchise, I remind myself that every Bond era over the past 60 years has produced at least one or two very good or maybe even great films. Sure, some of them are merely passable, but practically all of them represent, at the very least, a fine way to spend a unscheduled evening in front of the TV (or at a revival house, if you can find one playing a gorgeous, newly struck Bond print). Now, this might sound like I’m settling or even condescending, but I promise you I’m not. When you think about all the—wait for it—product that’s out there these days, that a Bond film can be revisited with a minimum of impatience and a degree of pleasure is truly saying a lot. And that’s the way it’s been since I starting watching them on the ABC Sunday Night Movie back in the early Seventies.

As for No Time to Die, don’t grieve if you don’t dig the whole thing or if you feel it should have gone in another direction, because there will always be another Bond movie around the bend. Just like it said on the screen of the empty pandemic multiplex at the end of No Time to Die’s lengthy credit crawl: JAMES BOND WILL RETURN. And that’s enough to leave any fan, serious or casual, both shaken and stirred.

Buy or Rent No Time to Die

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.