James Bond has always felt sort of invincible. In the 57 years since the film franchise launched, moments in which the character has taken a serious physical or emotional hit have been few and far between.
He’s only caught a bullet a handful of times across 24 movies, always a glancing blow, and though 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service ended with George Lazenby’s Bond grieving the loss of his new bride, the team behind the series felt they’d made a serious misstep, ignoring these events and playing up the broad humour for the next entry in the series, 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever.
But Daniel Craig’s take is arguably the most vulnerable and ‘human’ Bond ever portrayed on-screen. The next movie is widely expected to be his last – Craig’s said he wants to “go out on a high note” – and this, coupled with a report from The Sun that Danny Boyle (who was originally slated to direct Bond 25) wanted to kill Bond off in a “spectacular finale” has the rumour mill in high gear that a terrible fate could befall this 007.
It’s speculation that’s only been fuelled by the reveal of the film’s title, No Time to Die – on the surface, it might seem like a generic enough Bond title, but is there a greater meaning to it?
One working title reportedly in consideration for Bond 25 was “A Day to Die” – and it appears this may well have been under consideration at one point, with the press release announcing the final title accidentally referring to the movie as “A Day to Die” at one point in the copy.
That moniker would certainly chime with this being Bond’s last mission, as does No Time to Die depending on the context: if it’s a desperate plea of “This is no time to die, James!”, rather than a macho, Predator-inspired declaration of “I got no time to die!”.
There’s also another rumour doing the rounds (via Mail Online) that Captain Marvel actress Lashana Lynch’s character in the film, Nomi, will inherit the 007 mantle from a retired Bond, which does certainly fit with the official synopsis which details how Bond “has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica”.
With his successor already in place, could this be another clue that Bond won’t make it out of this next movie alive?
Possibly. But before you start yelling “Oh God, James Bond’s going to die! He’s going to die!” Alan Partridge-style, there’s a few other things to bear in mind. First, the Bond franchise is still a massive money-spinner – 2012’s Skyfall was the highest-grossing film in the series to date, making over a billion dollars at the box office, with Spectre ($880.7 million worldwide) the second-highest. So it’s doubtful that there are any plans to wrap up the series – and it’d play mighty strange if Daniel Craig’s 007 went out in a blaze of glory only for Richard Madden or James Norton or whoever to pick up the mantle a few years later as though nothing had happened.
Not only that, but Danny Boyle’s alleged desire to kill off Bond – the reporting of which sparked all of this speculation in the first place – was reportedly the point of contention that eventually saw him depart the film. So again, it’d be very odd indeed if Cary Fukunaga’s vision for the movie also ends with Bond slipping off this mortal coil.
Will James Bond retire (again) in No Time to Die?
Alternatively, given that all the signs are pointing to No Time to Die opening with James Bond in retirement, it’s entirely feasible that he might just shuffle off back to a quiet life once this latest threat to human civilisation has been dealt with.
Again, his replacement in the 00-section is already in place and there’d be a certain poetry to having Bond, like the actor who plays him, coming back for ‘one last job’.
Will Madeleine Swann die in No Time to Die?
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Another possibility for how the film might play out involves Dr. Madeleine Swann, with Léa Seydoux reprising her role from Spectre.
That film ended up with Bond effectively riding off into the sunset with his beloved Madeleine, so whatever happens next, their life of domestic bliss is going to be rudely interrupted. Could Madeline’s murder be what brings Bond out of retirement?
It’s a distasteful trope, killing off a female character for the sole purpose of motivating your male lead, but it does fit with what we’ll call “the Shatterhand theory”.
‘Shatterhand’ was another rumoured working title for Bond 25 and though we now know it’s not the final title, that doesn’t mean it was never in consideration. If it was once on the cards, that could have significant implications for the movie’s storyline.
The name comes from Ian Fleming’s 1964 novel You Only Live Twice, which is very different from the film of the same name – no hollowed-out volcanoes here. Instead, the book sees Blofeld hiding out under the alias of Dr. Guntram Shatterhand, with Bond on a mission of revenge in Japan following his wife’s murder in the previous novel.
Is No Time to Die going to draw on the elements of the book that the film of You Only Live Twice left unused? Could Madeleine substitute for the books’ Tracy Bond, with her death spurring Bond to come out of retirement?
(Another question is, if Christoph Waltz is returning in Bond 25 as Blofeld, as has been heavily rumoured, then how does Rami Malek’s new villain fit into all this?)
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Will Felix Leiter die in No Time to Die?
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One last option is that it might be Bond’s CIA ally Felix Leiter who is killed, or at least seriously injured, prompting our hero to return to active duty.
The official plot synopsis for No Time To Die mentions that Bond’s peaceful retirement is interrupted “when his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA turns up asking for help”, with Jeffrey Wright becoming the first actor to play Leiter on-screen three times after previous appearances in 2006’s Casino Royale and 2008’s Quantum of Solace.
The story continues as Bond and Leiter’s mission “to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.”
More treacherous than expected… could something bad happen to Leiter, with Bond taking up his fallen friend’s cause? This too has its roots in Fleming’s novels, with Leiter being fed to a shark by the villain of Live and Let Die. He survives, though loses an arm and a leg. This incident was omitted from the 1973 film version of Live and Let Die, but was eventually adapted for 1989’s Licence to Kill.
Could we see another version of the attack on Leiter in No Time to Die? Might the film even go through with what was Fleming’s original plan, to kill Leiter off? It’s certainly a strong possibility.