Swann and Bond have more chemistry than in Specter. It might not be as much as hoped, but I think what they really nailed was the haunting regret and loss that comes when a promising relationship ends under feelings of betrayal and misunderstanding. I think Craig has typically given a nuanced performance in all of the films (he's craggy and resilient on the surface, but underneath he's broody and marked by the pain of loss, which can manifest in his outer violence), esp this one, but I think Seydoux was better written/directed for this film. I also love that they acknowledged Bond's connection to Vesper Lynd, which we witnessed in Casino Royal so it was something we saw as real -- it still haunts him years later. I like how Blofeld, coincidentally, manages to screw Bond and Swann over by destroying their relationship just by insinuating Swann's complicity. that train scene is heartbreaking.
The music cues. NTTD hearkens back to some Connery bond films and primarily the Lazenby OHMSS, and there's a lot of musical textures from esp the latter film -- the one resolving Bond's brief marriage -- that reflect directly on the plot of this film.
PLotting and dialogue is also juxtaposed against those same films, especially Bond's relationship with Tracy. This is where having knowledge of the films (as well as the books -- see later comments) comes in very handy, because you will pick up on resonances from earlier Bond outings and have a richer experience because of it. I love that they did this.
Ana de Armas. She was utterly refreshing and disarming, and I really like the juxtaposition with her social nervousness against her actual skill at dealing with her opposition. Damn. Utterly gorgeous and insanely skilled. This could easily flip into a "bad" comment because of her only being in the film 10 minutes.
There is a full resolution for this film -- which is also "bad". Some Bond transitions end as if nothing is changing and suddenly there's a new guy. NTTD has the benefit of having FIVE films under Craig, so it actually has the luxury of having arcs to close out... and it does. There are a few notable deaths, including the ending of the film, and there is nothing really left to continue if the next film wants to start clean.
Fukunaga has a kind of gritty, dark/somber approaching to storytelling, his first big hit was TD Season 1, and it shows here. It's a weird combination, seeing all the callbacks to old Bond and even some of the sarcastic/targeted humor reminiscent of Connery, more gadgetry as well (again more Connery and less Moore), yet without the glowy extravagance of Moore or larger than life aspect of Connery, who somehow seemed above it all. Craig is very much a beaten and bruised yet relentless Bond who rolls in the mud without holding anything back... rather like the alley cat who is beaten within inches of his ninth life without ever letting up. Connery might have been above it all; Craig's strength is his relentless resilience, taking endless amounts of emotional and physical damage without ever quitting.
The action sequences again show Fukunaga's sensibilities. The precredits sequence is excellent, I was kind of stunned at how personally crazy it felt because Bond is reeling from an emotional blow while also trying to stay alive. There's an interesting fight later in a fog-filled forest, and something reminiscent near the end of TD, where Bond has to ascend a stairwell without cuts... so damned crazy and one of the better things I've seen in these films. They all feel a bit small at times and personal, but well-done. The sequence in the precredits where Bond just sits and lets them machine gun the car is particularly nerve-wracking.
A real sense of time passing and Craig's Bond being part of the old world. As someone working in a large systems environment where people who have been there for 35-40 years are retiring and replaced by new competent but inexperienced folks, I feel like this film really projects the same feelings. The new 007 is capable but... new. de Armas' spy is new, but also young and very very effective despite concerns about her early on. The old guard has been disappearing, the new guard is taking their place, and we actually got five Bond films with Craig to FEEL this way, from Bond being the new guy to saying farewell to Dench's M while Bond continued under Mallory, and now... how do you deal with a retiree who has been gone for a significant time but is shoving his head back into everyone's business? This wouldn't work for let's say Dalton's Bond, he only had two films, but you can get away with it for the Bonds who had a longer run.
Cutting back to the books -- it seems very clear that Fukunaga has read "You Only Live Twice," which ends with Blofield's castle on an island near Japan where he is living under an assumed name. The island contains a "garden of death" that suicidal Japanese travel to in order to end their lives, rather like the infamous forest that's shown up in movies over the last years. Blofeld's garden is full of poisonous plants, snakes, reptiles, acidic pools, boiling mud puts and hot springs, pretty much three zillion ways for you to terminate your life even by accident in the garden. At the end of the book, Bond kills Blofeld and then blows up the island, and in the resulting explosion Bond is truly believed to be dead. This ties in with the plotting for Safin's island in the same general location, with its garden of death (although not nearly the same as the book), and then the island being blown up resulting in Bond's apparent end. The obituary that appears for Bond at the end of the book uses the same line that M toasts him with in the film. So yeah... this is actually pretty great, since so much of the "You Only Live Twice" film with Connery had little to do with the book.
The whole sequence of the drop plane coming into Safin's island feels visually cribbed right off "The Incredibles" when Mr. Incredible approaches Nomaisan Island. Not a bad comparison, since The Incredibles is basically the 50-60's superhero spin on Bond. and Giacchino emulated musical themes from John Barry.
Fukunaga has grittier more real characters than prior films. Mallory for example is viewed first as a bureaucrat in Skyfall, but proves himself to be made of sterner stuff by taking a bullet for M and flexing to Q's plan later in the film... he's shown a bit more heroic and glamorized. As we know from TD, Fukunaga has a more mottled approach towards characters, where even the good guys are kind of shoddy at times. Mallory here is directly responsible for the Herakles project and opened a huge can of worms off the books that SHOULD have really been vetted before proceeding -- like, what kind of idiots worked on this to not understand how it could be exploited in a way that might easily wipe out humanity? The prior M (Olivia Mansfield) at least falls back on "I made hard choices, including the one that got Bond killed, but that was my job and someone has to do it." However, what Mallory has been doing is far worse, it's basically targeted bulk homicide that can easily be exploited into genocide... which is exactly what leads Nomi to take out the lead scientist when he starts mouthing off later in the film about how he could "wipe out her entire race" if he wanted. // This is a good or bad, depending on your preference.
This gives more light on why Bond was postponed for 18 months in the face of a pandemic -- the nanobyte plague is unsettingly similar to a global pandemic. Kind of awful timing. So they sat on the film for months.
... will add more as I get time.