Stepping out of the theater, I was a little overwhelmed. With a runtime of over two and a half hours, there was a lot to unpack. I can confidently say that rewatching all of the Daniel Craig James Bond movies prior to your viewing is the best way to go into this movie. The plot of each movie heavily references the ones before it and the people who accompanied me to the theater who hadn't seen the prior four found themselves lost.
One of my favorite hidden details of the movie is that I could tell that director Cary Joji Fukunaga was clearly a fan of some of the older Bond movies. The main villain of No Time to Die, Safin, owns an elaborate secret base set on a private island and employs a bunch of henchmen that wear matching clothes. I originally criticized the film for being too cartoony, but I soon realized that these features make the film very reminiscent of two of the more iconic James Bond films Dr. No (1962) and You Only Live Twice (1967), starring Sean Connery. Furthermore, a majority of the characters in No Time to Die are prone to quippy one-liners, one of the more iconic and memorable features found in the Connery era of James Bond. These features did admittedly feel a little out of place considering none of the other Daniel Craig movies used these tropes, but they were too much fun to feel negative towards.
Lyutsifer Safin, Rami Malek’s villain character, worked well for me too. Having Safin be the man that invaded Madeline Swann’s house as a child, a backstory that was given one movie prior in Spectre (2015), was not only a neat tie-in to a prior installment but also just worked really well from a plot standpoint. However, Safin as a character began to crumble as the movie continued. There is a scene in the third act where Bond's daughter bites Safin's finger and Safin just lets her run away. It didn’t make sense for Safin to do this, as he was, up until this point, shown to be ruthless towards all things James Bond, so it just came off as lazy writing. Safin was by no means my favorite Bond villain (looking at you Javiar Bardem), but I do like that he got his revenge on Madeline by killing Bond. Bond’s death gave Safin a happier ending than he did which was an odd choice but not one that I entirely disagree with.
I liked the story. It wasn't perfect, for example killing off Spectre and Blofield, the big overarching villains from the entire franchise so unceremoniously was frustrating, but besides that, it was all pretty decent. I wish the main disease used in the movie didn't parallel so much with COVID, but the movie was filmed before the pandemic so I won't be too harsh about that. It is, however, very interesting how that not only happened to line up but that the studio decided to keep it in too. I know that parallels to COVID have scared movie studios in the past, I think Locked Down (2021) set a good example moving forward for how audiences want Hollywood to treat the pandemic. Locked Down is a movie about a heist that takes place during COVID that performed poorly at the box office presumably because people wanted to escape from the virus, not consume more content about it. One instance of a studio changing their work to avoid parallels to COVID was Marvel Studios’ The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021). The show had a subplot involving a viral disease and was reshot to work around it. I respect No Time to Die for not trying to rush and change the plot last minute, as The Falcon and the Winter Soldier didn’t exactly turn out amazing. However, parallels or not, I just wish they hadn't included the prefix "nano-" in the virus description. It’s such a cliché name for a MacGuffin and felt very out of place here.