Over Christmas break, I finally had the (admittedly belated) chance to watch No Time to Die, the final installation in Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond. In the leadup to the film’s release, many commentators suggested, and often hoped, that, in No Time to Die, Bond’s character would be irrevocably “wokeified”. Many believe Ian Fleming’s original James Bond character is simply incompatible with twenty-first-century culture. The depiction of women and gender dynamics in the books and early Bond films, particularly those starring Sean Connery, have come under fire. In the past, James Bond was “basically a rapist,” claimed Cary Fukunaga, the director of No Time to Die. Others have taken umbrage with the fact that James Bond is and has historically been depicted as a white Englishman rather than a woman or person of color. I was pleasantly surprised by No Time to Die. Despite an occasionally nonsensical plot, the film was a satisfying conclusion to the development of Daniel Craig’s James Bond.
Despite an occasionally nonsensical plot, the film was a satisfying conclusion to the development of Daniel Craig’s James Bond.
There was very little overt “wokeness” in the film. James Bond’s MI6 designation, 007, was given to a new agent – a black female played by Lashana Lynch. Before the film’s release, this decision was often overhyped as the character James Bond “being played by a woman,” but that was not at all the case. Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro criticized the casting as possibly “completely shifting the character,” but he was incorrect. James Bond remained James Bond. The dapper, suave, masculine character Bond fans had come to expect remained largely unchanged. There is nothing inherently problematic about Bond’s numerical designation, rather than the character himself, being passed on to a capable female agent after Bond’s retirement from active service.
Over the course of his five films, Daniel Craig presented a more human and vulnerable James Bond than some of his predecessors, such as Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan. In No Time to Die, we see the culmination of Bond’s character development. Instead of solely fighting for King and Country, Bond has a chance at a normal life with his wife Madeleine, played by Léa Seydoux, and their daughter. It is apparent from the outset of the film that Bond’s character can only be completed by either settling down with his family, or being killed off. After being coaxed out of retirement to assist the CIA by agent Felix Leiter, who reprised his role from two earlier films, Bond embarks on a mission to hunt down villain Lyutsifer Safin before he can unleash a genetically engineered virus upon the world. After reuniting with Madeleine following five years apart, and meeting his daughter for the first time, Bond travels to Safin’s secret island to finish his mission. In the process, he is forced to remain on the island alone to ensure that a British missile strike goes ahead as planned.
There is nothing inherently problematic about Bond’s numerical designation, rather than the character himself, being passed on to a capable female agent after Bond’s retirement from active service.
While Bond’s final mission and demise were well done, there were some inconsistencies over the course of the film’s nearly three hours. Safin, whose family was killed by the evil organization Spectre, killed Madeleine’s mother when she was a little girl. He also saved Madeleine’s life. Years later, he re-enters Madeleine’s life and attempts to keep her hostage on his island. Why was Safin so obsessed with Madeleine in the first place? He also has no clear motive or goal for wanting to unleash a deadly virus on the world. The mechanics of the virus’s transmission were also questionable. When Safin kidnaps Bond’s daughter and attempts to use her as leverage, he then almost immediately proceeds to let the child go free after she bites him. Daniel Craig’s final iteration of Bond deserved a more tightly plotted, higher-caliber villain. It is also odd that MI6 holds Madeleine particularly high esteem by MI6, even though she is the daughter of a member of Spectre. MI6 trusts Madeleine so implicitly that, for the five years she was estranged from Bond, she was permitted to serve as the sole psychiatrist the imprisoned leader of Spectre spoke to. Yet after the couple’s reunification, MI6 did not initially see fit to share that information with Bond?
Overall, No Time to Die was a worthy addition to Daniel Craig’s legacy as James Bond. It perhaps did not live up to the heights of Casino Royale (2006) or Skyfall (2012), but it was nonetheless a fitting way to complete Bond’s character. Despite the loose plotting, the action scenes were as impressive as any in the series, the stakes were very high, and concerns of excessive wokeness were thankfully ill-founded.