Credit: The Times

No Time to Die: Craig’s curtain call

By Gabriel Wheway

Gabriel notes Daniel Craig, in No Time To Die, confronts the character of James Bond’s typical emotional neglect through this movie’s more poignant arc, in which he is more often seen cuddling rather than tackling Kalashnikovs on a Kawasaki.

CW: Spoilers

Daniel Craig’s service as a double 0 has come to a histrionic yet measured close. Where the film, No Time to Die, lays in the grand rankings of James Bond epics from over the years is up to the die-hard fans to establish. Yet, the film world has come forward and determined that Craig’s swansong will be forever remembered as something strikingly unique and perhaps even marks an asterisk on the franchise. Colouring outside the lines, in a manner Bond films are yet to experience, implores the question, is this really James Bond? 

Bond’s farewell is a truly distinctive one. He is blasted to smithereens by friendly missiles on Lyutsifer Safin’s desolate private island and faces his final, total annihilation in the midst of pensive sadness, but as always maintains a proper stiff upper lip. This farewell is three-fold: a goodbye to his one true love and daughter, his obligations to Great Britain and a final bid to his millions of watchers worldwide. 

“Bond’s farewell is a truly distinctive one.”

While this poignant image is undeniably moving, it brings into question the very essence of Bond. The once indestructible and bitterly eloquent agent appears in submission to true feeling, both paternal and romantic, at the close. The God-like figure we have known to love through his perfect dedication to sartorial formalities and eloquent quips in the midst of a fist-fight has fundamentally altered the DNA of Bond. And most importantly, Daniel Craig’s Bond. While this may sound stale, Bond, as a character, maintains the persistent need to escape from MI6 responsibility, still doting on previous love affairs and the life he once lived. The manner of Craig’s Bond centres around escapism, yet somehow No Time to Die, while largely revolving around an escape mission, seems to employ a far too real outward appearance. The realist aspect of the film is far from Bond-esque. Let Bond, be Bond. 

Away from the camera’s gushing adoration for Craig, Rami Malek’s cruel villain Lyutsifer Safin is arguably the most absurd character witnessed in any Bond film. While his master plan revolves around wiping out whole populations of the planet, for some unknown reason, the character lacks greatly. The film primarily revolves around Daniel Craig’s exit, yet Fukunaga neglecting the villain’s backstory and failing to contextualise his nefarious disposition does not sit right. Malek only featured in four scenes and Christoph Waltz’s impeccable presentation of Ernst Stavro Blofeld deserved far more screen time. 

“[F]or some unknown reason, the character lacks greatly.”

Now, Bond as a father is a misdemeanour that needs addressing. As to what sort of father Bond is, it’s hard to establish. The gentle sight of him tucking his daughter, Mathilde’s, toy into his braces is likely to be one of the most tender moments in 007 history. Yet, in true Bond fashion, his dying sentiment is one of egotism; he notes with unwavering pride that she looks like him. Disregarding Bond’s brief paternal responsibility, there is no doubt that Madeleine Swann lacks some important parental skills. The film’s closing scene pans across the rolling hills of Southern France as Madeleine begins to tell the story of James Bond. Strangely she does it in English, even though Mathilde has only ever spoken in French. What’s worse than telling the grand tale about a licentious drunk killer to a five-year-old? Perhaps doing it in a language she simply does not understand. 

As far as farewells go, the two hour and forty-five-minute wait is arguably worth it. While there are constant and sometimes inexplicable surprises throughout the film, the most meaningful surprise involves Bond himself. As the story progresses, the protagonist slowly becomes worthy of being known simply as “James”, not Mr. Bond, or even 007. Madeleine reminds him, he is not made for trusting people; if anything, years of loss, betrayal and emotional negligence have only hardened his stubborn psychic exterior. What’s remarkable for Daniel Craig is the evolution of the hero’s instincts over the course of this chapter-closing instalment. The saga ultimately culminates in an act of not just trust, but something far more profound. While No Time to Die is suggestive of a ticking clock and much like many Bond films, the title is a central plot point. Yet, there’s another metronomic, a slightly accelerated beat we can just hear at the end of a 15-year story cycle, and that is the sound of James Bond’s heart. An impressive farewell from Daniel Craig, finally enriching Bond’s historic stoicism with some true vulnerability.  


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