[WARNING: Article contains major spoilers for James Bond: No Time to Die. Read on at your own risk.] I, like pretty much everyone else, went into No Time to Die with high expectations. The film would be, after all, Daniel Craig’s final turn in the title role. Craig has, as we know, portrayed Ian Fleming’s debonair 007 since 2006’s Casino Royale. Many consider him the best Bond ever… which is why his departure from the franchise needed to be impactful, and meaningful. I wasn’t prepared for just how much.
As the film opens, it appears that James Bond will finally get his happy ending. He and Madeleine (Léa Seydoux) take holiday in the hills of Italy, each doing their part to exorcise the ghosts of their sordid pasts. The spectres that plague James won’t let him go, however, as a bomb at Vesper Lynd’s tomb leaves him shattered, physically and emotionally. Unable to reconcile whether or not Madeleine betrayed him, he leaves her alone on a train, never to see here again. That’s No Time to Die gut-punch number one.
James Bond: No Time to Die… or cry
They would meet again, of course, in an unavoidable collision of fate. Rami Malik’s Lyutsifer Safin exterminates Spectre with a weapon of MI-6’s own making – a genetically coded bioweapon with no possible antidote or cure. Safin uses Madeleine, and by extension James Bond himself, to set his nefarious plan in motion. The process ultimately kills Bond, in so many more ways than one.
No Time to Die does borrow from the tortured hero trope a little heavily with one of the film’s big reveals: Madeleine bore James Bond a daughter, Mathilde. That was the secret Madeleine tried to tell James before Spectre came calling in Italy. The revelation not unsurprisingly gives Bond new purpose, especially as Safin kidnaps the now two loves of his life. He and his 007 replacement Nomi (Lashana Lynch) infiltrate Safin’s poison factory island, and of course save Madeleine and Mathilde in the process…
And then the film mercilessly rips your heart out. Safin is able to exact one, last, and lasting act of cruelty – he infects Bond with the bioweapon coded to Madeleine and Mathilde’s DNA. Should he survive, he could never be near them again. The newly re-anointed 007 kills Safin, but the villain’s soul-crushing legacy remains. James Bond finally finds the love that had painfully avoided him for so long, only to have it slip literally and figuratively just out of grasp.
No more happy endings
Hollywood has seemingly now decided that heroes must die and no longer deserve happy endings. (Luke Skywalker and Tony Stark come to mind). Bond’s death, as he martyrs himself to save his family and the world, hit me especially hard. As a father of daughters, seeing Bond denied the joy of watching his daughter grow absolutely gutted me. Sure, he gets a fleeting moment of peace knowing that Madeleine and Mathilde survived, but hadn’t he earned more?
Notwithstanding, No Time to Die reminds us that there’s no time to cry. The film’s credits end with the familiar words “James Bond will return…” Just not with Daniel Craig. That leaves the next Bond with some big shoes to fill.