Why the Ending of 'No Time to Die' Is a Relief
Bring back fun Bond.
This post contains MAJOR spoilers for No Time to Die.
James Bond is dead. Long live James Bond. A royal aphorism is a fitting way to memorialize Daniel Craig's version of Ian Fleming's character. After all, Bond himself is basically part of the monarchy. (Remember when he parachuted into the London Olympics with Her Majesty the Queen?)
In No Time to Die, the latest outing of 007 directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, Craig's Bond gets a heroic, noble ending. James Bond will eventually return, but this James Bond will not—Craig, along with producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, have made sure of that. He sacrifices himself for the (second) love of his life and the surprise child their romance produced. Craig, an excellent actor who has long seemed to be itching to be more than just the iconic spy, sells it, but that can't stop the moment from feeling like unearned melodrama. The Craig era of Bond was filled with highs like Casino Royale and Skyfall, but it had started to feel a little self-serious, so concluding with his unquestionable demise comes as something of a relief. Maybe now Bond can have some fun again.
The Craig run as Bond, especially in the final three films, was marked by an attempt to bring the character into the 21st century. The strategy was twofold. First, there would be world-building cribbed from the Marvel Cinematic Universe that tied everything together and gave Bond an unnecessary backstory. Then, there would be an attempt to elevate the women. Instead of sex objects, they would become Bond's Great Loves, starting with Eva Green's double crosser Vesper Lynd, who Bond is still mourning at the beginning of No Time to Die while he's on vacation with Lea Seydoux's Madeleine Swann, another woman with conflicting allegiances with whom Bond has fallen hopelessly in love.
Swann was introduced in Spectre as the daughter of a SPECTRE agent, who ends up aiding Bond in his fight against Blofeld (Christoph Waltz). At the start of No Time to Die, they are having a wonderful, sexy time during a Greek vacation until Bond goes to visit Vesper's grave and, boom, it blows up. Bond suspects Madeleine was involved and ditches her, feeling betrayed once again.
When Bond and Madeleine reunite five years later, they are both are under threat from scarred villain Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek), who wants to wield viral nanobots to commit worldwide genocide and also has a beef with Madeleine, given that her father murdered his whole family. Madeleine confesses her relationship to Safin to Bond, Bond forgives her, and then meets her child, a blue-eyed moppet she initially swears is not his, but is definitely his.
In the final showdown with Safin, the villain infects Bond with the genetic warfare, which means, if he gets near Madeleine and anyone who shares her genetic material, he will instantly kill them. Realizing there's no way for him to live a happy life, he doesn't even try to escape Safin's lair as British missiles head towards it. Craig's bright eyes gleam with tears as he sacrifices himself for the one he loves. This is the end of the road not just for Craig, but for Bond himself. Whenever Bond returns on screen, he will be reborn entirely.
It's a serious demise for a very serious Bond. Craig was as suave and charismatic as Bond should be, but he was also constantly battling ghosts. He was good at his job all the while hating it. Often, the emotional weight Craig totes in the role butts up against the silliness of the plots that are de rigueur from the franchise. Not that Knives Out star Craig can't go toe-to-toe with the likes of Chrisophe Waltz or Rami Malek when it comes to an over-the-top performance. He just chooses not to do so as Bond.
If the ending doesn't hit as hard as it should, it's not for lack of trying on Craig's part. It's just that it's hard to get invested in Bond and Madeleine's relationship, which we are told, and not shown, is Very Important. (It also requires remembering what happened in Spectre.) Craig and Seydoux are individually hot people without much chemistry, and the introduction of a child at the last minute is a pretty cheap way to add stakes. Still, Craig is such a good actor that it's hard not to feel a twinge of sadness when he is consumed in the fiery explosion. And even if the moment is forced in the context of this particular movie, his body of work in the role merits your sorrow.
Barbara Broccoli announced that the producers will begin their search for Craig's replacement in earnest next year, and No Time to Die offers them a completely clean slate. Now that Craig plumbed Bond's turmoil resulting in martyrdom, perhaps it's time to let the super-spy have a little fun again. Bring back Ana de Armas, who injected life into No Time to Die in her all-too-brief performance as a bubbly agent in Cuba. What if the new Bond kicked back a few shaken, not stirred, martinis and had a completely consensual one night stand? Since Serious Bond is dead, it's time to lighten up a bit.