When we heard that the last James Bond film with Daniel Craig in the titular role would be showing at our local cinema, I reluctantly agreed to a movie marathon. “Just the Daniel Craig movies!” I insisted. Life’s too short to re-watch the entire franchise, especially some of those older, campy installments.
And so, for 5 nights over two weekends we watched 007 grow from naïve recruit in Casino Royale to embittered revenge-seeker in Quantum of Solace to disillusioned company-man in Skyfall and unsanctioned rogue hunter in Spectre, culminating in his final appearance in the latest movie, No Time to Die.
When you follow a character’s life story in such a short timeframe, you inevitably become quite attached to them, even if you’re not really that big a fan of the genre. What I enjoyed about these Bond movies is that they have an overarching storyline, and we see Bond mature from a rash and brash killer into someone who suffers both physically and emotionally because of the life he’s chosen to lead. Aside from all the explosions, million-dollar car crashes and high body count, these films are really just about a guy looking for love and life handing him lemons instead.
SPOILERS FOR NO TIME TO DIE BELOW – READ AT YOUR OWN PERIL!
No Time to Die will not disappoint Bond fans. It checks all the expected boxes and doesn’t disappoint if you’re looking for excitement and thrills. The locations are gorgeous, and the story is intriguing and, as a final installment, it provides closure to a main character who has grown and suffered much during five movies.
However, I left the cinema feeling disappointed.
After a heartbreaking and nearly lethal breakup, Bond goes dark and loses his 00-status to a new agent. Nomi, the new 007, is sassy, arrogant, and can kick a whiny scientist off a platform like a pro. And yet, she doesn’t even come close to filling Bond’s shoes. I feel like they did her character a disservice. She’s always one step behind Bond and, at the end, is sent off in the lifeboat with the women and children, instead of staying to help save the day. She would have been so much more effective as Bond’s replacement if they’d given her more agency and let her help him more, perhaps even changing the outcome of his last fight. Whether they plan on keeping Nomi as the new 007 in future reboots, I don’t know, but at this point she seems less capable than the cute Cuban agent who’d had three weeks’ training. As it stands, it seems like she was never meant to live up to the alpha male she’s supposed to replace – which is fair enough for Bond, but doesn’t leave us with a lot of hope for MI6’s future.
As the mother of a 5-year-old, I watched the latter half of the movie in a state of constant dread. I kept fearing something awful was going to happen to that little girl, but thank goodness, they never went there. It was bad enough that we had to see how a young Madeleine had to deal with her mother’s murderer.
One of the movie’s themes is how the death of a parent affects children. Bond lost both his parents when he was young; Madeleine lost her mother as a child, Blofeld murdered his own father at a young age, and Lyutsifer (the principal antagonist of this film) lost his entire family as a child. None of them handled it very well: Blofeld became the megalomaniac head of a worldwide terror syndicate, Lyutsifer attempted to exterminate large swathes of the human population while creeping the hell out of little girls, and Bond left a trail of bodies and seduced women in his wake. Madeleine is the only exception, and there is hope that her little girl will have a more stable childhood, despite the death of her father.
And lastly, let’s talk about the thing that upset me the most in this film…
I often get emotional when movies have sad endings, but it’s not every day that I walk out of a cinema bawling. Why couldn’t they just have given this character his happily ever after?
There is a trend in storytelling that a bad guy who redeems himself must die in the attempt – think Kylo Ren or, more recently, Xu Wenwu (Shang-Chi’s father in Chang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings). And I get it. I mean, they’ve committed so many atrocities, there’s no way they can live a normal happy and guilt-free life after they’ve finally seen the light. It’s better for them to die and leave the audience morally satisfied, even if a little sad at what could have been.
Bond, although a heroic character, is a killer, no doubt about that. He even calls himself that when asked what his occupation is. So how does someone like him suddenly settle down with a wife and child into a happy a suburban life? Can Bond even exist like that? Does he deserve that?
I think he does. And I think after all he’s been through, it would have been a fitting reward for a man who had given his all for queen and country. If the excuse is that his family would never have been safe with him around – I call bullshit. The only one who ever went after him personally was his adopted brother, Blofeld – and he’s dead, along with everyone else who ever worked for him. If Bond were to retire, I think the world’s collective bad guys would leave him be and go after the new 007 instead.
In the second-last scene, M talks about a life lived well – and again I call bullshit. Bond was never more than briefly happy. In his action-packed life, he watched everyone he cared for die violently. He had some short-lived contentment with Madeleine, until they became estranged because of their mutual trust issues, and apparently no one can listen to someone else explain anything either. It saddens me so much to think that so many years were wasted, for nothing, and that when Bond finally has a chance at happiness, at a life worth living well, it gets taken away from him for the sake of a spectacular ending.
He didn’t need redemption. He needed restitution.
And I think James Bond deserved better.
What are your thoughts? Did you enjoy this movie? Is there something you would have changed too?