First things first: Fear no spoilers here. Though most people know Daniel Craig left the role of James Bond in “No Time to Die,” how it happens won’t be detailed here.
The nearly three-hour 2021 adventure — starting Saturday, July 9, on EPIX while also streaming on Prime Video — certainly puts virtually everything possible into the exit. And those who made it had plenty of time to do that; the film’s release was delayed for the better part of two years, largely because of the coronavirus pandemic and the producers’ insistence that the movie open in theaters rather than on a streaming service. (As it happens, “No Time to Die” lead studio MGM now is owned by Amazon, which also operates Prime Video.)
As the saga begins, Bond has retired from the British Secret Service and is settling comfortably into a life with Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux, reprising her “Spectre” role), but he finds that he can’t shake off his enemies easily … nor some espionage acquaintances, since CIA pal Felix Leiter (series returnee Jeffrey Wright) wants him to help locate a missing scientist.
Things escalate from there, and director Cary Joji Fukunaga and the screenwriters (including “Fleabag’s” Phoebe Waller-Bridge) throw in everything including the kitchen sink, resulting in the longest Bond movie to date. The picture easily could have been shorter and tighter, but if the aim was to give Craig a thorough farewell to the world of Agent 007 — well, mission accomplished.
Notable cast newcomers include Rami Malek as menacing-enough chief villain Safin, Ana de Armas (who worked with Craig earlier in “Knives Out,” and who could have stood a few more minutes of screen time here) and Lashana Lynch as new colleagues for Bond, and Billy Magnussen as … well, as we said, no spoilers. As for others who return to the fold for what presumably is the last time, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw and Rory Kinnear all are given their moments. And the soundtrack features a throwback to one memorable Bond melody.
In fact, thanks to the Billie Eilish-performed title tune, “No Time to Die” became the third Bond movie in a row to win an Oscar for its theme song. Fueling the means for that is just one of the kudos Craig deserves for his tenure as Bond; through his five films in the franchise, he really made the Ian Fleming-created character his own, effectively putting to rest the initial carping of those who thought upon his casting that he’d be inadequate. He quickly and lastingly proved he was anything but that.
As the end credits always promise, James Bond will return, or so the movies’ makers vow. In the meantime, “No Time to Die” offers one last time to appreciate what the most recent steward of 007 brought to the part. And that was plenty.