As of late, movie franchises have been working in moments that are meant to shock and surprise the audience, whether it is the post-credit revelation that a bigger baddie is on the hunt of The Avengers, or the sudden death of a long-beloved hero like Han Solo in Star Wars.

The James Bond franchise can now jump on this what may be now a movie cliché of the sudden plot twist that puts things into a new perspective.  But while “No Time To Die” is certainly worthy of the Bond franchise, it also gives viewers a possible full-stop ending to Daniel Craig’s run as Ian Fleming’s long-running secret agent.

The pre-credit sequence shows Madeline Swan as a child, witnessing the murder of her mother by a mysterious masked man, later revealed to be Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek).  After she is spared, the scene makes a brilliant jump cut to today, where Swan is in Southern Italy with Bond, and the two are in love.

But when Bond goes to Vesper Lynd’s tomb, Spectre ambushes with a bomb attack followed by a chase through the city.  Believing that Swan has lead Spectre to him, he leaves her, never to see her again.

Fast forward five years, and an MI-6 scientist that developed a bioweapon to use nanobots to infect people is kidnapped.  The difference is that the nanobots are coded to an individual’s DNA, rendering it lethal to the target but harmless to everyone else.

But Bond has retired in the five years since the incident in Italy and the only way he is brought back in is through his CIA contact, Felix Leiter.  Bond is also warned by a new British agent, Nomi (Lashana Lynch) that if he interferes, she will not hesitate to take him out.  This is further cemented that she has been given Bond’s old identifier….007.

To go further would be to spoil the many secrets that this film has, but suffice it to say that the reappearance of Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter, along with seeing Craig’s crew of Ben Whitshaw as Q, Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny, Ralph Fiennes as Mallory/M and even Christoph Waltz as Bond’s mortal enemy Blofeld, will bring some comfort, but these characters are just as important as Bond as they, in a way, represent the common person, and their emotional tie to Bond.

Daniel Craig, throughout his run as Bond, has given the character something that few of the other noteworthy actors in the franchise have not: depth and emotion.  Connery’s Bond was a “taking care of business” man, Pierce Brosnan was the man of over-the-top action, Roger Moore was the sense of humor, Timothy Dalton showed loyalty.  Only once did Bond show as deep an affection for another woman.

That was a one-off performance by George Lazenby in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” where James Bond fell in love when it wasn’t in the performance of his duties.  Up until Craig’s performances in this run of Bond, any hint of a romance outside of the one-night-stand style relationships never happened.

It came close, but never to the level of “OHMSS” or “No Time to Die”.

Whomever is going to take Daniel Craig’s place has a big Saville Row-tailored suit to fill, but in some cases, a Bond film is only as good as it’s villain.  And while Malek was very creepy in his villainous role, his performance was muted and quiet, compared to Bond villains of the past.  It was very different, and it made me feel upset, but also very appreciated.

It was a different take on the bombastic Bond Villain trope.

For die-hard James Bond fans, there are more than a few touches to previous films in the franchise, and not just linking the plots from the Daniel Craig era together, but also other films.  These range from the blatant to the subtle, which includes the song that the film ends on, which is something you’ll have to watch and listen for to understand.

But the Aston Martin DB5 does return, which has become a sort of trademark for Daniel Craig’s run just as much as it has become a trademark for Sean Connery’s run, and of course, the classic modifications are in play, to make the pre-credit sequence something to make your mouth water.

Once again, the main disappointment for me is the trademark Bond title song.  Only two singers have done truly monumental Bond songs: Shirley Bassey with “Goldfinger” and Adele with “Skyfall”.   The opening credits montage is wonderful, but Billie Eilish’s song just doesn’t seem to fit with my expectations of a Bond film.  Many artists have tried, and few have succeeded.

Maybe make the title sequence music an instrumental instead?

All in all, “No Time To Die” left me breathless and jaw-dropped, but we’ve been getting a lot of that in action films as of late.  It’s become a game of “can you top this?”  As far as the Bond franchise goes, there is no limit.  This film will be topped at some point.

How?  Don’t put me at the end of that gun barrel!

Rating: 3 stars out of four.

Summary: Worthy of the franchise title, but with a few minor problems. Daniel Craig’s swan song as Bond is satisfying.  Let whoever comes next try to beat it!

Josh Widdowson is a frequent guest writer for “The Inscriber” from Western Pennsylvania, and has written pieces on many different topics from sports to entertainment to editorials.  His loves include sports, food, his girlfriend, movies, game shows and music, but not necessarily in that order.



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