Higher Culture Aside: Daniel Craig Takes a Bow as Bond in 'No Time to Die'

(AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)

“Essential Viewing” considers the fifth and last James Bond outing for Daniel Craig

 

(Spoiler-free review)

Unlike some people, I loved “Spectre” (2017). There were more than a few movie goers who described Daniel Craig’s performance in the last film featuring 007 as cold and depressing, but as the first Bond film I’d seen in the theaters in many years, I found it achingly beautiful and profound.

Since hearing that “No Time To Die” would be the fifth and final bow for actor Daniel Craig, I knew I wanted to see it on the big screen, too. It’s hard to fathom that it’s been that long since “Spectre” came out. And even that six-year span includes a pandemic-forced delay (the first of many) to the release date of United Artists’ new entry in the 25-film series — it was originally set to hit theaters last November.

It’s also crazy to realize that Craig has now spent more than 15 years in the role of the master spy. Before anyone even watched a frame of his first film, Casino Royale (2006), Bond fanboy purists were in an uproar about the actor’s blonde hair and blue eyes. But it’s a mistake to fixate on the mold created by years of the “Who’s the better James Bond: Sean Connery or Roger Moore?” argument.

Let me suggest a better comparison. Only once has an actor portrayed James Bond just one time, and in 1969, it was a darker, different take than audiences were used to. “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” starred George Lazenby, as Bond going up against evil mastermind Ernst Stavro Blofeld. I’m going to bet that most people who watch the movies have never heard Lazenby’s name, and that’s part of the problem. I’ll admit I’m one of those people. Growing up, my family watched many Bond movies (on cable and in the theaters), and I don’t remember ever seeing this one. In fact, I first watched it this week.

Fittingly, Blofeld is included in “No Time to Die”s plot, as the character (played by Christoph Waltz) wasn’t killed off during his reappearance in “Spectre.” It isn’t just fan service, either. He’s integral to the path that Craig’s Bond takes at the end of this movie. And as much as I loved Rami Malek’s portrayal of Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” he’s just adequate as the villain here.

Something that surprised me about the story were moments when Bond espoused very clear, conservative views. Here’s is a good example. There’s also an obvious point of view expressed in the film that fathers should take an active role in family life. Not something you expect to hear from the former, swinging bachelor character.

Now, readers can wait and watch the movie through streaming online later this fall, instead of catching it during the theatrical release. And you’re welcome to do the former, if that’s your thing. But I feel like you’ll be missing out on a few important parts of the experience as the filmmakers intended.

There are two points in the movie when a specific sound effect is important to the plot. It would be a spoiler to be more specific, but I’m fairly sure it can’t be recreated at home.

Streaming viewers would also miss hearing the gorgeous soundtrack by Hans Zimmer how it was meant to be heard, which I cannot get out of my head, even after leaving the theater last night.

In an interview promoting “No Time to Die” with Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz, Craig explained when he knew he could pick up the mantle of the James Bond role that had been stamped so heavily by others; As the interviewer put it, Craig wanted to do it “his way: a darker and more sober 007 than the heavyweights who came before him.”

Warning: contains coarse language

“When I got to a line in the script that said — you know, when he ordered a vodka martini, and the guy said, “Shaken, not stirred?”

And it said in the script, ‘Do I look like I give a f***?’ I went, ‘I’m in.'”

Just like he began playing James Bond, Daniel Craig has finished the role on his own terms.

Essential viewing verdict: “No Time to Die” left me with the same impression “Spectre” did as the closing credits rolled — dark and profound and just right. But this is an even better film.

As the trailer for “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” proclaimed, “If you think you know your Bond, think again. This one’s different.” I can’t think of any better way to end this review than that. It applies just as equally to Daniel Craig. Enjoy!

Editor’s note: this article was edited for content after publication.