It has been a difficult week. In order to talk about it fully (but not too fully), understand up front that I am going to have to spoil No Time to Die for you. Then again, if you are a regular reader of The Legionnaire, you are probably used to this happening. My grandmother passed away recently, and I traveled for one of those bitter events called a funeral. It was good to see family I had not seen in far too long, but, of course, you have those feelings of regret, voices in the back of your mind (or spoken aloud) that tell you that you should be connecting more often than at these kinds of moments. When a loved one dies, particularly a close family member, you lose more than just that person. You lose a piece of yourself, a part of your identity intrinsically tied to your growth and development. I am Lucille Vogt’s grandson. She will live on in my memory, and the same can be said for my dad, aunts, sister, and all my cousins. It is also a motivation to continue practicing my Faith assiduously because I am sure my grandma is on her way to Heaven. Until that day we meet again, the reminisces will have to suffice. The same can be said, apparently, for James Bond (Daniel Craig).
No Time to Die does not begin with our favorite British secret agent, but rather a flashback to the childhood of his love, Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux). Her mother is killed in front of her by the latest Bond villain, Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek). When she tries to escape, she falls into a frozen lake but is rescued by Safin. Roll the stock Bond opening credits. Now in modern times, we see an uneasily retired Bond enjoying an Italian vacation with Madeleine. They also happen to be near the gravesite of his romantic interest from Casino Royale (2006), Vesper Lynd (Eva Green). Bond and Madeleine each have parts of their past that they are keeping from each other. Bond takes the first step, visiting Vesper’s grave and making amends with his feelings of responsibility for her death. Unfortunately, he also finds there a calling card from a shadowy criminal organization known as Spectre, followed closely by an explosion. Bond survives and fights his way back to Madeleine, believing that she had betrayed their location to Spectre, for whom she previously worked. They go their separate ways. Five years later, and a new mysterious group kidnaps a scientist named Valdo Obruchev (David Dencik) from a British bio-weapons facility. Obruchev is one of the main researchers on a secret plan known as Project Heracles, which uses nanobots keyed to a person’s specific DNA in order to infect them with a disease and kill them instantly. The British secret service, commonly known as MI6, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), want to get to Obruchev before anything happens. MI6 puts 007 on the job. This is not, however, James Bond. The 007 designation has been given to Nomi (Lashana Lynch), the new British secret agent. It is the CIA that turns to Bond, through his old CIA friend Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) and new intelligence operative Logan Ash (Billy Mangussen). They get him to agree to travel to Santiago, Cuba, where they have located a secret meeting of Spectre. Once in Santiago, Bond meets another fresh CIA face, Paloma (Ana de Armas), and together they infiltrate the Spectre meeting. Also (literally) crashing the party is Nomi. For the moment, they are competitors in trying to retrieve Obruchev, though Bond triumphs in the end. He then part ways with Paloma and rendezvous with Felix and Logan on a fishing trawler in the middle of the sea. Logan, though, betrays them, absconds with Obruchev, and kills Felix in the process. Left adrift, Bond is soon rescued by a passing freighter and makes his way to London. For the moment, he believes Spectre to still be behind everything. After some arm twisting, he is able to be reinstated to his former position with MI6 and goes to interrogate the former head of Spectre, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), currently being detained in a British maximum-security prison. It is also at this time that Safin reemerges, along with Madeleine. Madeleine had gone to London to begin working as a therapist, and it is there that Safin finds her. He pressures her into going to meet Blofeld, as she is one of two people approved to visit the Spectre chief, in order to deliver some of Project Heracles nanobots to him and kill him. She arrives at the prison at the same time as Bond. The nanobots transfer from person-to-person through the lightest touch, and when he grabs her arm they are transferred to him. She leaves, but Bond goes through with the interrogation and unknowingly kills what they thought was their one lead in Blofeld. Bond catches up with Madeleine at her childhood home, and finds her there with a little girl named Mathilde (Lisa-Dorah Sonnet), who he suspects is his daughter despite Madeleine’s protestations to the contrary. Unfortunately, Safin comes for her, too, and is able to take Madeleine and Mathilde as Bond took care of his cronies. They are able to track Safin to his island fortress in contested waters between Japan and Russia. With Nomi’s help, they are able to get into the base, destroy Project Heracles before it could be unleashed on the world, and rescue Madeleine and Mathilde. The destruction of the base, though, comes at a price. In hand-to-hand fighting with Safin, he injects Bond with nanobots keyed to Madeleine and Mathilde’s DNA, meaning that if he touches them they will die. The brief scuffle also seemingly used up the available time he had to escape the missile strike he ordered to destroy the base. Thus, our hero stands atop a concrete structure as the projectiles fall around him, having had a tearful goodbye with Madeleine. Still, he dies having made the world safer for his family and friends.
It is nice to be able to say goodbye, and this is a theme of No Time to Die in general. Had I not gone through the previous week plus that I had, I wonder if this ending would have had the same emotional impact. I am glad that one of my best friends encouraged me to go see my grandma before she passed, even if this last meeting was more of a one-way affair. There is an interesting quote from Jack London said by Gareth “M” Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) before the end credits, when the MI6 staff is mourning Bond’s passing. It goes, “The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” These words, obviously, are meant to sum up what they all felt about Bond, and what we, the audience, are supposed to feel. Slick wordplay, if somewhat fortune cookie-ish, but an incomplete sentiment. To this Catholic reviewer, Bond essentially committed suicide. Now, I know there is some business subtext to this plot twist. Daniel Craig had actually been done with the character after Spectre (2015), but they managed to convince him (with enough money) to don the suave persona one last time for No Time to Die. I cannot emphasize enough “one last time.” The film also hammered home the point that these nanobots were, for lack of a better word, incurable. Yet, come on. Would the temptation to get Craig to do another of these films have been truly so great that they needed to make it so abundantly clear that, even if he somehow managed to survive, he could never be happy? They could have done anything. It is their movie, after all. At the same time, life should be lived, but not to the point where you are doing things that could purposely cut it short, no matter the perceived emotional consequences. God gives us all we need to keep going, and He wants us to live as long and full a life as possible. There is a reason why the Church seeks to protect all life from conception to natural death. Life is worth it, no matter what. As such, the film does make for a fitting send-off for an iconic character, but an unnecessary one.
There has been a lot of flak for Daniel Craig’s Bond, though I have not looked much into how No Time to Die has been received. I do not recall enjoying Spectre, and hence recall very little of it. I did like No Time to Die a little more, even if I did not care for the ending. Like my grandma, James Bond had a good run, overall. The difference between the two is that, as sad as it is to say, it was her time. God calls us all to him in due course. You could say, well, see here Mr. Bigshot Catholic, how do you know that Bond’s time had not come? To which I would reply, thank you for pointing that out, Mr. Smartypants, but these are all made-up stories anyway. I sensed a path to survival for the character and I like happy endings. Finally, the film is a little more subdued than most other iterations in the series. Bond is, or was, a family man. That appeals to the traditionalist in me, though makes the ending even harder. Outside of this, it is a solid Bond movie.