After Spectre, Daniel Craig coming back to the Bond franchise was as unlikely as the spy refusing a Vodka Martini.
The producers, to their credit, gave Craig breathing space to rethink - and we guess a massive paycheck - and here we are with No Time To Die, a film that has also given its audience some forced elongated breathing space, too.
For many of us, the Covid-related delay may have meant rewatching Spectre and realising it wasn't quite the swan song that Craig - or Bond - deserved. A fun movie, yes, but one that felt forced, paying lip service to Her Majesty's Secret Service.
Enter No Time To Die. An ending to Craig's fantastic tenure and one with scenes that will have Bond fans talking about for years to come.
Here are five things to know about No Time To Die…
We have tried to keep this review as spoiler free as possible!
1 It balances the old and new in spectacular style
Cary Fukunaga is the first American to helm a Bond movie so it's fitting that the plot is infused with MI6 and CIA machinations. But beside this, the callbacks to previous Bond movies are strong.
From cars to famous lines, locations to bad guys the past haunts Bond once more - while Spectre did a lot of the heavy lifting to try and tie Craig's tenure together, there are still many loose ends to tie up and No Time To Die (mostly) manages to do this.
But, for a film that feels the weight of its past, it's the new that keeps it refreshing. Lashana Lynch is a 00 that can match Bond beat for beat and is excellent folly to the Bond of old. And she thankfully puts a stop to the old Etonian crew with a much-needed glottal stop or two.
Ana De Armas' Paloma is the most refreshing 'Bond girl' in years and it feels like this is where co-scripter Phoebe Waller-Bridge weaves her word brilliance the most.
The old brigade of Q, Moneypenny and M are still vital but you yearn for more scenes with the new characters and unfortunately don’t always get them
2 Rami Malek is a bad guy that gets under your skin
The bad guys in Bond movies always range from the sublime to the ridiculous and No Time To Die is no exception.
From the first scenes, there is real fear with what you are seeing - it’s horror-movie-esque. Malek throughout matches the icy-ness of many of the locations in the movie but his character only works if you really believe in both his motive and how he is carrying out his plans.
In some places this plan is outlandish - with many a Sean Connery eyebrow raised in the audience we were in - and the sci-fi-tinged plot may date pretty quickly.
But, bloody hell, it’s so Bond that the scriptwriters, self-referentially, are more than happy to head to tucked away islands and tackle the ‘end of world’ plots of yore. And there is a villain with the most ridiculous ‘quirk’ since Jaws unleashed his metal smile on the world.
But just when you think it gets too silly, the film smacks you with emotion and you are left stunned for some time after.
3 Bond is back, with some fun to be had
There is a moment in Not Time To Die when Bond just stops what he is doing, has a shot of vodka and gets on with it again. It’s a pause in a movie that works wonderfully, proving that as much as this spy has gone through the world has to wait when he needs his fix.
And there’s plenty more nods of fun - from gadgets that will make you clap out loud, wry quips to make you cheer and action that proves that Bond is a badass, as is the people surrounding him and helping. Yes, there’s emotional heft throughout but, boy, does this movie know how to have fun.
4 Hans Zimmer's score is perfect for a Bond film
While there was a moment that felt like Craig would leave on a sour note, instead he leaves on a Hans Zimmer one - and it will ring loud for a long time to come.
The score throughout No Time To Die, complete with guitars from Johnny Marr, is fantastic. At times it may have you yearning to finally get that Chris Nolan (who Zimmer has collaborated with on many a film) Bond movie that’s been teased for so long, but the composer does a fantastic job melding new music with some surprising familiar themes coming through.
5 It’s the best send-off for a Bond yet
For the James Bond franchise, there is no time to die. But there is time for breathing space and that is exactly what the ending of Craig’s final movie offers.
It’s a coda that wraps up 15 years of one of the best Bonds ever, all the while helping shape what the franchise is going to do next. Yes, it’s bloated in places and loses its way trying to pretend that every Craig movie was part of a cohesive whole but you will stay invested throughout.
This is a Bond movie that drags 007 out of retirement and firmly into the 21st Century - and we can’t wait to see what happens next.
No Time To Die is in cinemas now, courtesy of Eon Productions, Metro Goldwyn Mayer and Universal Pictures.