Danny boy, we’re gonna miss you.
As most James Bond fans know, “No Time to Die” (PG-13, 163 minutes, in theaters starting Oct. 7) is Daniel Craig’s last film as British agent 007. At least, that’s what we’ve been told, and there’s no reason not to believe it. Apparently, Craig has decided to move on after this, his fifth, go-round in the role.
It’s been quite a run. Others have followed in Sean Connery’s footsteps as Bond – George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan – but Craig’s understated man of action is the only one to vie with Connery for the title of greatest 007 of all.
Directed by Cary Joji Funkunaga (“Sin Nombre,” HBO’s “True Detective”), “No Time to Die” delivers a worthy sendoff for Craig. There’s so much to savor: familiar Bond colleagues M (Ralph Fiennes), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), Q (Ben Whishaw) and CIA agent Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright); a love interest (Lea Seydoux) with whom Bond has an unusually deep emotional attachment; a memorably creepy villain (Rami Malek); the introduction of other highly skilled agents (Ana de Armas and Lashana Lynch); a Hannibal Lecter-like appearance by longtime 007 nemesis Ernst Blofeld (Christoph Waltz); and the first-rate roller-coaster action for which the series has long been celebrated.
Is it really necessary to get into the plot? Nah. The villain has a secret weapon that puts the world at risk, and it’s up to Bond to travel to various exotic locales to save the day. Not exactly a surprise.
With Bond movies, a threat to humanity or some other large-scale dastardly scheme has always served as the Hitchcockian “MacGuffin,” or excuse, for the entertaining details. The stakes are higher in “No Time to Die” – because of the uncertainty over how Craig will bow out of the series – and so there is an unusual overall seriousness to this entry. But a large part of Craig’s appeal has been his serious take on Bond – certainly compared to, say, Moore’s tongue-in-cheek portrayal, which tended to make the spy proceedings one big joke. Craig’s intensity has always made his Bond films more, not less, fun to watch, and that’s the case here. The 163-minute running time flies by.
It’s hard to know which direction the series will now take, and maybe it’s time to try something new. But Craig’s Bonds – “Casino Royale,” “Quantum of Solace,” “Skyfall” (for my money, the best 007 movie ever), “Spectre” and, now, “No Time to Die” – are going to be tough to top. ***½ (out of four)
Best of the Bonds
So the question is: Who’s the best Bond?
Sean Connery defined the role for movie audiences. Starting in 1962 with “Dr. No,” his 007 was the personification of animal magnetism. Taken out of the context of the times, or even making allowances for that context, the way Bond uses women as sexual playthings might appall modern audiences. Then again, he is a cold-blooded killer, not a paragon of virtue.
I hate ties, and they seem like a cop-out when used in “best of” lists. So as tempted as I am to put Connery and Daniel Craig together at the top of the “Ranking the Bonds” list, I’m going to bite the bullet (so to speak) and make a choice:
1. Daniel Craig. In the end, I’ll take Craig’s fire to Connery’s ice. Craig’s Bond exhibits more evidence of heart and soul, and I prefer that – even in assassins.
2. Sean Connery. Larger than life, but in the right way. Without Connery paving the way with his charisma and toughness, the series probably would not have lasted as long as it has.
3. Pierce Brosnan. He fits somewhere between Craig and Connery in terms of his Bond’s attitude and temperament. He’s serious and suave.
4. George Lazenby. The Australian actor made only one 007 film, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969), but it is one of the best. Of the Bonds, he’s the most like Connery.
5. Roger Moore. He’s too easy-going as Bond, but at least he has personality.
6. Timothy Dalton. He made so little of an impression that it’s difficult even to remember him as the character.
** Click here for Tim Miller’s previous movie columns for Cape Cod Wave **
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Tim Miller is a Cape-based member of the Boston Society of Film Critics. He and Tony Raine host “Tim ’n’ Tony’s Rock ’n’ Pop Show” from midnight to 2 a.m. Sunday nights/Monday mornings on WOMR (92.1-FM), WFMR (91.3-FM) and womr.org (archived shows at https://womr.org/schedule/broadcast-archive/). He also teaches film at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or follow him onTwitter @TimMillerCritic. Or you can ignore him completely.