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By now we know what's coming in the minutes before the end credits of a Bond film hit the screen. The leftover smoke from an explosion drifting through the breeze, Daniel Craig's 007 half-limping into the dying sun while departing a devilish line about enjoying his retirement, the woman of the hour either six feet under or propping him up. We know how this ends, except when we don't.
At this point, if you're in the mysterious category of person who finds themselves reading an article discussing the ending of a film while not wanting to know about the ending of said film, we suggest you get out of here, quickly.
The conclusion of No Time To Die is a classic 007 race against the clock to save the world. We think Bond has successfully pulled the lever which leaves Safin's bioweapon farm exposed to the airstrikes that will destroy them, but as he's speeding away towards Dr Madeleine Swann, and his newly discovered daughter, he watches the roof over the weapon close once again and turns to see Safin.
In their brawling Safin infects him with a vial which has been programmed to Madeleine and Mathilde's DNA, meaning that even if he were to somehow make it off the island in the less than 9 minutes before the nuclear hit, the nanobots that would kill them both are now permanently inside of him. After dispatching the villain, Bond makes his way to the roof of Safin's lair and faces down inevitable (surely inevitable?) death while Madeleine and Mathilde watch from afar. No Time To Die ends not with Bond cruising through the hills in a fast car but with Madeleine behind the wheel, telling his daughter stories about her dead father's heroics.
Before we get into analysing that decision, there are a few motifs you might of missed as the film kicked up a notch in its explosive ending, with multiple references to the 1969 film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. In No Time to Die Bond says the words which George Lazenby's Bond also uttered – "we have all the time in the world" – but changes them slightly, saying to Madeleine instead, "you have all the time in the world". Unlike in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, in which the words are said to Diana Rigg’s Tracy Bond as she lies dying in his lap, here the moment is inverted so that it is Bond that dies instead of his lover. There's also hints of the Louis Armstrong song "All the Time in the World", which was part of the 1969 film's soundtrack, and now makes its way into Hans Zimmer's score in No Time To Die.
So is Bond actually dead, or will the next film focus on how he made it out the rubble and found an antidote to those pesky nanobots? We didn't actually see him die after all, and Bond always finds a way to make it out alive, right? Sadly, for the fans who were hoping for a post-title credits plot twist, it seems wholly unlikely that we'll get a different side of this particular story. Instead the 007 producers and director Cary Fukunaga have clearly opted for drawing a definitive line under Craig's tenure so that there's a true fresh start.
Some might feel that killing off a decades-enduring figure who served as an eternal, escapist superhero to his fans is a step too far, but really it's hard to see another way to breathe new life into Bond while Craig's version of him is still breathing, the image of him mooching around Matera with his nuclear family still lingering in the back of our minds.
Perhaps it was inevitable that Bond wasn't going to make it out alive this time – one Esquire writer actually called it back in 2019 – with the nuclear option the only truly satisfying way to close this chapter and start a new one afresh. The sense of an era ending with No Time To Die has dogged the film since Craig confirmed it would be his last time as Bond (no, really this time) and has only increased as the film was repeatedly delayed and the film industry started to slowly catch up with diversity and representation in the meantime.
The antidote to decades of Bond's misogyny? Showing us a 007 who would rather die than live without the woman he loves and the daughter they share. It is a brave conclusion to a film which mostly keeps itself preoccupied with Bond's past instead of facing his future, and one which leaves what comes next hanging in the air. Will the next 007 be Nomi, or does she get her own spin-off while a new James Bond comes in with a different cast of colleagues?
How the franchise comes back to life remains to be seen – and Barbara Broccoli has said she will not discuss casting the next 007 until 2022 – but Daniel Craig's reign as Bond ends with an explosion that blows the franchise wide open. Bond might be dead, but instead of limping off into the sunset now the character can really be born again.
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