Daniel Craig’s fifth and final James Bond film, No Time To Die, has received rave reviews from critics.
The movie premiered at the Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday, following several delays prompted by the Covid pandemic.
In his five-star review of the film, Kevin Maher of The Times said: “It’s better than good. It’s magnificent.
“Craig is a towering charismatic presence from opening frame to closing shot, and he bows out in terrific, soulful, style.”
But while most critics were positive, some suggested the film did not quite justify its 163-minute running time.
This reviews round-up is spoiler free.
“It is of course a festival of absurdity and complication, a head-spinning world of giant plot mechanisms,” he said, but concluded the film as a whole is “very enjoyable and gleefully spectacular”.
Stephanie Zacharek of Time was broadly positive about the film, but suggested Craig’s swansong didn’t warrant its length.
“But forget all that. No Time To Die, its flaws notwithstanding, is perfectly tailored to the actor who is, to me, the best Bond of all.”
No Time To Die marks the culmination of an over-arching storyline that began with Craig’s first Bond film Casino Royale, released in 2006.
“We’ve been expecting you, Mr Bond, for quite some time,” he added, “and what a joy and relief it is to have you back.”
The Independent’s Clarisse Loughrey was less enthusiastic, awarding the film three stars and describing the premise as “generic spy nonsense”.
“Cary Joji Fukunaga has made a smashing piece of action cinema with No Time To Die – it’s just a shame it had to be a Bond film,” she said. “What’s most disappointing is how strangely anti-climatic the whole thing feels.”
She added: “Despite Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s much-publicised contributions to the film’s script, No Time to Die hardly feels like the radical feminist rewrite we were promised.”
There was a similarly lukewarm response from Screen Daily’s Jonathan Romney, who said: “It’s certainly a film that breaks many of the canonical rules of the series, though not entirely to dazzling effect.
Empire’s John Nugent agreed that the film was too long, writing that the middle third is “bogged down by plotting and exposition doesn’t justify that heaving runtime”.
However, he noted: “This film does things that no Bond film has ever done, and despite relying heavily on tropes that feel not only familiar but comforting, it is the unfamiliar things it does that make this such an exciting entry.”
Media caption,Members of the Royal Family joined stars of the new Bond film at its world premiere in London
The film’s length, however, wasn’t an issue for Digital Spy’s Ian Sandwell. “It’s densely plotted yet snappily paced, meaning that the movie rarely stops for breath before the next big action sequence or another revelation,” he said.
“Further viewings will likely decide No Time To Die’s fate in the ranking of Bond movies, especially as there are definitely moments likely to divide the fandom,” he continued.
“As an experience though, it delivers all the spectacle you’d expect from a 007 movie, throws a few surprises in along the way and proves to be an entertaining, affecting and bold finale for Daniel Craig.”
Many critics took the opportunity to reflect on and praise Craig’s portrayal of Bond, particularly the emotional elements he brings to the role.
“Craig, his hair chopped into a bristle cut, has mastered the art of making Bond a seemingly invincible force who is also a human being with hidden vulnerabilities,” said Variety’s Owen Gleiberman.
He was similarly positive about the film’s villain as Lyutsifer Safin, writing: “Rami Malek, with mottled skin, an all-seeing leer, and the caressing voice of a depraved monk, makes him a hypnotic creep.”
Several reviews also praised one of the new additions to the film’s cast. “The real standout is Lashana Lynch… and she holds her own marvellously well,” wrote Next Best Picture’s Josh Parham.
“The banter she has with Craig is effectively humorous and provides some of the most delightful moments in the film.”
The latest film, which is released in the UK on Thursday, is Craig’s fifth – following Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and Spectre.
“No Time To Die is a genre-bending Bond,” said Claire Gregory of Sky News. “Fans will be pleased that all the classic lines are delivered, sometimes with such humour that you can’t help but suspect they were improved by Phoebe Waller Bridge’s pass at the script.
“The film is chock full of tech, explosions, guns and car chases,” she continued. “In fact some of the scenes feel slightly gratuitous, with Daniel Craig getting one last opportunity to do pretty much everything you could ever expect from Bond.”
It was revealed on Wednesday that Craig will follow Bond by playing Macbeth on Broadway from April, with Ruth Negga starring as Lady Macbeth.
His final 007 film sees several actors from the Craig-era reprise their roles, including Ralph Fiennes as M, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, Ben Whishaw as Q, and Léa Seydoux as love interest Dr. Madeleine Swann.
“Even if the two-and-three-quarter hour running time is occasionally a slog, it ultimately delivers,” wrote The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney.
He said the film was “the most tender portrait of James Bond we’ve ever seen,” although he criticised the films “plotting deficiencies and occasional pacing lags”.
“It may not rank up there with Skyfall, but it’s a moving valedictory salute to the actor who has left arguably the most indelible mark on the character since Connery,” he concluded.
The Press Association’s film critic Damon Smith said No Time To Die broke with the film series’ previous tendency for a Bond actor’s last film to be weaker than his earlier ones.
“Sean Connery returned to MI6 for Diamonds Are Forever and promptly exited, beginning the swansong rot… Roger Moore’s 1985 farewell in A View To A Kill flatlined with inert sexual chemistry between [Moore] and Grace Jones,” he noted.
“Pierce Brosnan barely thawed out Die Another Day, which began well with Halle Berry’s orange bikinied entrance a la Ursula Andress then quickly lost the plot with a melting ice palace, an invisible car, another deadly satellite and Madonna’s leaden cameo as a vampy fencing instructor.
“No Time To Die, which concludes Daniel Craig’s muscular tour of duty as novelist Ian Fleming’s dapper spy, ends the losing streak in spectacular and moving fashion.”
The film “does deliver some impressive chases and action sequences,” said CNN’s Brian Lowry. But, he added: “No Time to Die feels as if it’s working too hard to provide Craig a send-off worthy of all the hype associated with it – an excess that might be summed up as simply, finally, by taking too much time to reach the finish.”
Alex Flood of NME praised the film in his four-star review, but added: “There are issues. Rami Malek’s disfigured Safin is another clichéd, empty bad guy – and while Ana de Armas thrills during one eye-popping party scene, her character is quickly discarded so that other, blander men can take the spotlight.
“For the most part though, and with so much at stake thanks to Covid decimating cinema, No Time To Die producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson should be applauded for taking some bold risks. The gobsmacking ending, in fact, may be the biggest in Bond history.
“When the credits finally roll on Daniel Craig’s last hurrah, [the] difficulties fade into the background. If we didn’t know better, we’d say it even looked like he enjoyed himself.”
No Time To Die is released in UK cinemas on Thursday 30 September.