Why No Time to Die's biggest twist doesn't work as well as it should
Bond 25's controversial climax is daring but ends up achieving the opposite effect than was intended. **Contains spoilers**
"James Bond will return." It's rare for a work of fiction to dramatically kill off its protagonist only to shortly afterward promise their resurrection in a future outing, but that's exactly what happens at the climax of No Time to Die, the 25th Bond film and the final outing for Daniel Craig as Ian Fleming's agent 007.
Back when the rumours first began to swirl about Bond's demise in the upcoming film, I'll admit I dismissed them out of hand. As a lifelong fan of the franchise, I balked at the very notion. You can't kill James Bond. (In fact, until Craig's tenure, it was a rare occurrence for the character to so much as sustain a bullet wound.)
But it has to be said, in context, as played in the final movie, killing James Bond works and it works beautifully. It's a fitting end for Craig's interpretation of 007 – tragic yet heroic – with pitch-perfect performances from the man himself and Léa Seydoux as Bond's beloved Madeleine Swann (though it was actually the restrained reaction of Ben Whishaw's Q, taking a deep breath and fighting back tears, that actually almost broke my own resolve).
Once you've seen it, it's sort of difficult to imagine how else the Craig era could've ended – just having the tortured spy ride off into the sunset with Madeleine (again), this time with little Mathilde (Lisa-Dorah Sonnet) in tow, wouldn't have been anywhere near as satisfying. Let him go out all guns – or rather missiles – blazing.
But for all their faultless execution, these scenes don't quite pack the punch they should. Why? Those four little words: "James Bond will return."
If this were not merely Craig's final film in the franchise but the final one ever, then Bond going out in a blaze of glory, saving the world from imminent destruction, would make for a fitting end. But this isn't the end – not really. The character's durability is in this instance a weakness – yes, we might've seen the last of Craig as Bond and series producer Barbara Broccoli has promised there'll be a suitable period of mourning, but it won't be all that long before somebody else – Tom Hardy or Regé-Jean Page or in all likelihood someone brilliant most of us would never have thought of – will be strapping on that tux and swilling vodka martinis.
There's an argument to be made that killing Craig's Bond at least ups the dramatic stakes for future instalments. Previously, 007 was untouchable, indestructible – we always knew he'd save the day, get the girl and emerge more-or-less unscathed. Now, not only can James Bond bleed, he can die. They went there once, they could do it again. That possibility will always be in the back of our minds when 007 takes on his latest fiendish nemesis and aims to thwart his wicked schemes.
But if we always know that the character – in some form, wearing some face – persists, does any of that even matter? No Time to Die seems to suggest it doesn't, obliterating our hero then promising his revival mere minutes later. The franchise will reboot and he'll miraculously be restored to life. Ironically, by killing Bond, the franchise has proven his invincibility beyond question. Now, even death can't stop him.
Yes, James Bond can die. But he'll always, always return.
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No Time To Die is out now in UK cinemas – visit our Movies hub for more news and features, or find something to watch with our TV Guide.