Now that enough time has passed, let’s talk about the good, the bad, and the Bond himself in his final outing. If you haven’t seen No Time to Die yet, stop reading this and go see it in theaters because this will delve into all the spoilers that have people praising this as a worthy finale to Daniel Craig’s run, or shunning it for keeping to tradition by sending the lead off on a disappointing conclusion.
Madeleine + Bond
At the beginning, Madeleine and Bond are getting to know each other, but he’s still attached to Vesper Lynd from Casino Royale, which is a smart carryover. It gives Bond a reason for not trusting relationships in his field and why he tends to either drop women like flies or retire when he finds love. Because he makes so many enemies, it’s hard to hold down both fronts. This rings true in the opening action sequence when he scraps with Spectre agents that are still all over the world, causing Bond to break off his relationship with Madeleine as he escorts her on a train where they part ways. This comes into play down the line and it hits home how human this James Bond is when it comes to dealing with relationship issues. Many have complained that 007 is a ladies man and having him in a relationship strips part of his character. That was excusable in the Connery, Moore and Brosnan era, but as proven by the other entries, this interpretation is about trying new things, even if it doesn’t always work. Though the romance from Spectre was weak, both Daniel Craig and Léa Seydoux salvage everything with their acting.
The New Agent + New Era
From the first trailer, the biggest complaint was the possibility of Bond being replaced by a female agent (Lashana Lynch), which comes off the debunked rumors that Idris Elba could be next in line to take over the role. In a post #MeToo society, there has been a push for more leading female characters like Wonder Woman, and this narrative works for a number of reasons. First of all, Bond has been out of the service for five years, so of course there’s going to be a new agent at MI6. Second, as far as their professional relationship is concerned, Lynch and Craig work well off each other as both contentious rivals and eventual allies. Finally, she later relinquishes her 007 title to Bond before they head out on their final mission, so there’s character progression on both sides.
However, as great as she is, Lynch is overshadowed by CIA agent Paloma (Ana de Armas). Coming off her performance in Knives Out, she has a livelier personality with a martini or a machine gun as she helps Bond capture an important scientist. They even subvert the idea of Bond hitting on random women as they enter a wine cellar so that he can change into a tuxedo. This will alienate longtime fans who claim the series is the ultimate male fantasy: exotic locations, good food, attractive women, and a chance to save the world. But again, something like this hasn’t been tested in the franchise, so it’s interesting where they take this direction.
Another important element is project Heracles: nanobots that can infect people like a virus and spread with casual contact. Though it is coded through DNA before it can infect anyone, Q (Ben Wishaw) points out that there is no cure: Once you have it, there’s no getting rid of it. This is an element lifted from the video game Everything or Nothing, except these affect humans rather than metal. Given that this was supposed to release in early 2020, it’s both timeless and relevant in a delta variant pandemic world. There’s even some blurred lines with Ralph Fiennes’s M having a part in developing the technology and it leads to strong banter between him and Bond on the greater good. But as crucial as it is in the story, there’s never a resolution to the spread amongst people after the climax. MI6 succeeds in stopping the villain’s plan, but what about the citizens that are already infected? Are they quarantined? Is there a cure developed down the line? This might sound like a nitpick, but the entire plot revolves around this bioweapon of mass destruction.
Spectre + Blofeld
Since this continues the story from Spectre, both the organization and Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) return. Despite being captured, Blofeld’s grip on the world remains strong, as he attends his birthday party that ends up killing all the agents of Spectre. This leads to Bond confronting him in jail for information. After getting nowhere, Bond loses control and tries to choke him, not realizing that Madeleine slipped some poison on Bond to kill Blofeld with a single touch. So in addition to having little development in the last film, Blofeld takes up more time that could’ve been devoted to the new villain despite being two hours and forty minutes long. And because of this, Spectre is even more pointless when the entire organization is killed off at the halfway point. On paper, it’s chilling to see Bond surrounded by all his enemies only to have this new bioweapon terminate them, but in practice it’s probably the main reason why this is the longest film in the series.
A good portion into the adventure, Bond reunites with Madeleine and they reconcile, only to find out she has a child and it’s later revealed to be his, citing the blue eyes that everyone complained about when Craig was first cast in 2006. Longtime fans have voiced their disappointment of domesticating a character that has been a “player” for nearly sixty years, but this era is all about taking old elements and putting a new spin on them. And though there could’ve been more development with Bond as a father, the fact that his child is brought into the only world he has ever known, espionage, makes sense and puts him to the test as someone who’s willing to lay down his life for the few people he is close with outside the office. The child actress is also fluent in French making her stand out from other child actors as she plays off the adults in both calm and tense situations.
Of all the elements to neglect in this finale, the villain bares the brunt of the ignorance. Coming off of his Oscar winning performance as Freddie Mercury, Rami Malek puts everything on the table, but between sharing the screen with Blofeld, it’s one of the worst written villains in the series, especially when his second in commands are more memorable in both life and death. At first, he has an interesting backstory, killing Madeleine’s mother when she was a child to exact revenge on her father killing his family, and he even saves her from an icy death. After that, it all goes down the drain when he shows up again years later to collect his debt. His motivation is admirable, but his monologuing takes over once he captures Madeleine and her daughter. He barely has any facetime with Bond despite claiming that they are both the same and it slows down an already unevenly paced adventure. And to answer everyone’s question, this character isn’t Dr. No, even if there are a few allusions to the first Bond film: an island in the middle of nowhere, the facial similarities, a peculiar accent, the minions in radiation suits, and using missiles to kill people. But they never confirm that he is a new version of said antagonist originated by Joseph Wiseman.
The Death of James Bond and Why it Works
In his attempt to destroy the missiles that will infect everyone on the planet, Bond is poisoned by Safin with the vial he was saving for Madeleine and her daughter. After returning the favor with several rounds of lead, Bond opens the missile hatch so that they can be destroyed by world governments, but he stays knowing that he would only spread the virus to those he loves if he left, as Q makes it clear that once you’re infected, there is no cure. So Bond climbs to the roof of the facility, has one last chat with Madeleine, and bids her goodbye before succumbing to the barrage of counter missiles raining down on the island. A small funeral is held in his honor by M, Q, Money Penny, and Nomi as the world celebrates in silence. Madeleine travels to Italy with her daughter finally opening up about who her father was as they enter a tunnel and the light fades on this now closed chapter in the franchise.
You read that correctly: James Bond dies in this series. A daring choice to make for a long running character, but given that this is Craig’s last film in a series that has been more interconnected compared to other eras, it works in bringing that conclusive feeling by the time the credits roll with the song We Have All the Time in the World from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Many people are going Annie Wilkes on the idea of killing Bond, but in a time when most reboots rehash old material without taking new steps, this doesn’t hold back and goes in a direction without any regrets. In fact, it’s the sole element that saves the entire experience. Without that sacrifice, this would’ve been another mediocre send-off in a franchise of disappointing finales. Plus, all the other endings have been done in the previous films: he dropped his iconic catchphrase in Casino Royale, came back to the service in Skyfall, and rode off into the sunset with Madeleine in Spectre. Since this has already repeated several narrative choices from those films, anything less would’ve been anti-climactic. Hans Zimmer’s score also adds to the sorrow felt from watching Craig go out in a blaze of glory after fifteen years of carrying the torch. As of now, producer Barbara Broccoli has stated that they will hold off from recasting Bond until 2022:
“We’re not thinking about it at all. We want Daniel to have his time of celebration. Next year we’ll start thinking about the future.”
Given that the world is still living in a pandemic society, it makes sense to hold off any plans until progression is made to a new normal and until everyone has had a chance to digest that final scene. You could say it was an explosive swan song.