'No Time to Die' and Finding Closure for Daniel Craig's Bond
“We all have our secrets,” James Bond says in the first trailer for No Time to Die, and by the looks of things they’re all about to come crashing down around him. The 25th Bond film, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, marks Daniel Craig’s final outing as the iconic M16 secret agent. If the trailer is any indication, 007 will be going out in style, with new gadgets, new allies, new adversaries and the welcome return of some familiar faces. No Time to Die is truly shaping up to be the culmination of all the story threads introduced over the course of Craig’s previous four Bond films: Casino Royale (2006), Quantum of Solace (2008), Skyfall (2012) and Spectre (2015). While it’s a given that Bond will continue on, with rumors circulating for years about who will replace Craig, will the arc of these five pics give this iteration of Bond a sense of closure?
For a series that has traditionally shown little investment in continuity or over-arching storylines, Craig’s series has favored the character development that relying on the previous installment can provide. While Casino Royale acted as reboot, Quantum of Solace dispensed with the idea of a stand-alone adventure and provided a coda to Craig’s first outing. Skyfall, a celebration of Bond’s 50-year history, seemed to operate as a stand-alone film, while also giving us a sense that Craig’s Bond had been operating much longer than his two-film history would suggest. Spectre, much like Quantum, proved to be somewhat controversial, not only by tying to the previous movie, but creating a master plan at the heart of Craig’s run, all orchestrated by Bond’s adopted brother, Franz Oberhauser better known as Blofield (Christoph Waltz). Complaints that this connective tissue weakened previous entries, and the agency of characters like Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) and Silva (Javier Bardem), led many to speculate that Craig’s final outing would go the stand-alone route, with Craig evoking the films of Roger Moore and a lighter tone than what had come before. But the latest trailer proves that’s not the case and that, if anything, No Time to Die is doubling down on the connective tissue that has defined this most recent iteration of Ian Fleming’s famed spy.
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Although Bond and Dr. Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) rode off into the sunset at the end of Spectre, their honeymoon seems short-lived. While many fans presumed that Swann would be killed off in the film’s opening, an allusion to Tracy’s (Diana Rigg) death in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), it looks like No Time to Die has something far more interesting in store than the dead-wife trope. Bond’s paranoia appears to drive a wedge between him and Madeline. His trust issues come naturally, having been betrayed by Vesper in Casino Royale, which became the defining moment in Craig’s take on the character. Bond’s inability to form lasting relationships feels crucial to the stakes of this film. Whatever happens between Bond and Madeleine, it appears that some time passes between the ambush at the opening of the trailer and the later minutes that see a retired Bond called back into action by M (Ralph Fiennes) and Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright).
It seems that Bond’s position as MI6’s top agent has been passed on to Nomi (Lashana Lynch), who is rumored to have taken over the 007 number. But the need for Bond to return to duty is yet another thread throughout Craig’s films, in that the character must once again prove he’s relevant in the modern world. This is also a meta-commentary on the franchise itself, one that his consistently been tasked with evolving over the decades and has, more than a few times, come in behind the espionage pics of the new school, like the Mission: Impossible, Bourne, John Wick and Fast and Furious franchises. Add Black Widow to the mix, which just saw its first trailer released Tuesday, and it’s easy to see why Bond outings have to distinguish themselves among their counterparts. Bond movies frequently crib a bit from the current popular media, be it Star Wars (1977) in Moonraker (1979); The Bourne Identity (2002) in Casino Royale; or The Dark Knight (2008) in Skyfall, but they always do so with a bit of classicism that still feels unique and unexpected among competing franchises.
Among those unexpected aspects is the return of Blofield. It was unclear how substantial the role would be, and he wasn’t featured on the character posters released earlier this week. But it seems that Waltz’s turn as Bond’s most recognizable, and frequently appearing, adversary will be crucial and set Bond’s final mission in motion. Blofield’s master plan may not be over yet, or it may just be part of a larger conspiracy, one that sees Rami Malek’s masked villain Safin take the stage. The Phantom of the Opera get-up, masking a scarred visage, gives Safin the appearance of a supervillain and could be the pic’s conscious effort to play with some of the cinematic language of the superhero films that have dominated the box office. Swann also seems to have ties to the character and a mask of her own. It’s worth remembering that she is the daughter of the now-deceased Bond villain Mr. White (Jesper Christensen). While these connected story threads, which benefit from audiences rewatching the previous four entries, may have been what saddled Spectre, the trailer suggests that they will be bolstered by more propulsive action sequences, and the suspense of this being a final outing.
Safin notes that Bond could be his own reflection. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Craig’s Bond faced with a dark mirror image of himself. Vesper, Silva and Blofield have all been utilized as the darker sides of Bond. Vesper is Bond lacking loyalty. Silva is Bond lacking country. And Blofield is Bond lacking family. Each reveal essential elements about Bond’s character that his rough exterior hides. So what will Safin reveal? What is he lacking that Bond has? Or perhaps, more interestingly, what does he have that Bond lacks? The dialogue between Bond and Safin in the trailer suggest that it may be immortality, yet another avenue for meta-commentary on the legacy of James Bond. What better sense of closure for Craig’s tenure than for his Bond to confront a manifestation of death head-on? Regardless of whether James Bond lives or dies, the 25th film looks to prove in April, with some sense of finality, that nobody does it better.
by Patrick Shanley
by Aaron Couch, Alex Ritman