[The following review contains MAJOR SPOILERS; YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!]
From its mournful reprise of Louis Armstrong’s “We Have All the Time in the World” to the central gimmick of its antagonist’s evil lair (which is torn straight from the pages of the original novel version of You Only Live Twice), No Time to Die clearly demonstrates Cary Joji Fukunaga’s immense respect for the history of the James Bond franchise.
The director isn’t so slavishly reverent towards tradition that he is averse to taking a few significant narrative risks, however. After decades of close calls and near misses, for example, 007’s American counterpart and longtime ally Felix Leiter meets his tragic demise at the end of Act One; recurring villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld dies rather unceremoniously a short time later. Our hero is also forced to confront the logical consequences of his "love 'em and leave 'em" approach to relationships: a daughter that was totally unaware of his existence, raised by a heartbroken single mother.
And last—but certainly not least!—Fukunaga manages to accomplish the one thing that Ian Fleming never could (despite his best efforts; see From Russia with Love): killing off James Bond in spectacular fashion.
The end credits are quick to reassure the audience that the suave, debonair super-spy will, of course, eventually (inevitably) return; he is, after all, a cultural icon—immortal, eternal, and everlasting. But the specific incarnation of Bond played by Daniel Craig is definitively, irrevocably gone.
And that’s a rare and beautiful gift: for the first time in this otherwise formulaic series, an actor has been allowed to fully explore the character, from his inaugural mission to his final moments. As uneven as it may have been in terms of overall quality (for every Casino Royale, there was a Quantum of Solace), the Craig Era has delivered a complete story—and No Time to Die is an immaculately crafted, emotionally resonant conclusion.
Whoever the next guy is, he has big shoes to fill.