Daniel Craig’s final James Bond movie comes full-circle

Oct 7, 2021, 5:56 AM | Updated: Oct 8, 2021, 5:25 pm

The 25th installment in the James Bond movie franchise may be titled “No Time to Die,” but “Too Much Time to Die” may be more fitting. Clocking in at 163 minutes, it’s a full half-hour longer than the average Bond film and it feels like it. But given this is Daniel Craig’s swan song as Bond, perhaps the thought was he had earned the indulgence.

It doesn’t make for a better movie, but it is a fitting tribute to Craig’s singular interpretation of Agent 007. His Bond films are by far the most emotionally ambitious of all of them. Now that may not be what the fans care about but the actor Daniel Craig certainly seems to.

But Bond fans need not worry. The familiar trappings of the James Bond universe are all on fine display: spectacular stunts, elaborate chases, exotic locales, sleek cars, flashy gunplay, and beautiful women in fancy clothes. And the regulars all show up as well: M, and Q, and Moneypenny.

A few contemporary touches are also thrown in. For instance, the new temporary replacement 007 is a young Black woman, and we get to hear a few sex-positive cracks from a woman’s point of view.

The villain is yet another version of the madman-out-for-revenge cliché, as Rami Malik is playing a guy with an appropriately ludicrous name: Lyutsifer Safin. The only fresh face that makes much of an impression is actress Ana de Armas, who plays a CIA agent in Havana, Cuba. She’s a newbie agent whose playful sexiness leads everyone to underestimate her. She leaves the movie so abruptly after only 10 minutes of screen time, that she leaves Bond and the audience wanting more.

Unusual for a Bond film, the movie begins and ends not with Agent 007, but rather with Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), Bond’s love interest at the end of “Spectre.” The fact that she bookends the film signals that, for his final go-round, Craig wants to put Bond’s love-life front and center for a change. Of course, he spends plenty of time fighting off all the bad guys — Spectre, Blofeld, Safin — but when it comes to the dramatic climax, the culmination of his five-film odyssey as Bond, it’s all about Swann for him.

Bond’s inner life has never been explored as deeply as it has with Craig’s portrayal. Ever since his first Bond film, “Casino Royale,” 007 has been haunted by the suicide of a former love, Vesper Lynd. Although Bond and Swann exchange “je taime”s early in the film, Swann realizes that until he comes to grips with his grief over Lynd, the two of them don’t have a chance as a couple. (She’s not a psychotherapist for nothing.) When things literally blow up at Lynd’s gravesite, Bond decides he’ll never be able to trust Swann either and puts her on a train, determined never to see her again.

When she reappears much later in the movie, Bond’s feelings for her deepen, some might say “mature.” Quite out of character, he ends up professing the most profound regret for abandoning her and then utters the most heartfelt and straight-forward expression of love any James Bond has ever uttered. By film’s end, he’s willing to die for love. He’s even talky about it.

As odd as this may sound for the always-in-control James Bond, it is an appropriate culmination of Craig’s character arc for Bond. It’s remarkable, looking back, how much attention was paid to Bond’s emotional vulnerabilities. Vesper Lynd’s sacrificial suicide in the first film still haunts him in his fifth and that doesn’t get resolved until he can offer a similar sacrifice to Madeleine Swann. Craig’s Bond goes out with an emotional bang.

It may not be the ending fans want but, in Craig’s eyes, Bond has finally come full-circle.

Find more movie reviews from Tom here.

John Curley and Shari Elliker on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
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Daniel Craig’s final James Bond movie comes full-circle