“No Time to Die” was first released in late September of this year, and has since surpassed $600,000,000 in box office sales worldwide. It is the 25th installment of the James Bond film series, which began in 1962 with the release of Dr. No, starring Sean Connery as the first Bond. “No Time to Die” is also the last Bond film to cast Daniel Craig in the role, a position he has held since “Casino Royale” in 2006. Craig has spoken extensively about his feelings towards the role of Bond, and recently expressed his feelings that a female actor should not be cast in the role in future films because “there should be a part just as good as James Bond, but for a woman.” The franchise’s producer, Barbara Broccoli, has echoed a similar sentiment, stating she would rather write new, better characters for women rather than simply change Bond’s gender.
Despite these statements, there is evidence that the franchise is changing. “No Time To Die” differs significantly from earlier films in both style and taste. Notably, the latest installment introduces Nomi (played by Lashana Lynch), a Black woman and M16 agent who takes over the 007 mantle while Bond is in retirement. Aside from being the first Black woman cast in a leading role in the franchise’s history, Nomi is also one of the first women in the franchise whose sexuality is not utilized as a weapon. She proves herself just as deadly as Bond in actual combat, often fighting alongside him and holding her own without ever using her femininity to disarm or interrogate anyone (except, to a degree, Bond in the beginning, though it is worth noting that she does not actually sleep with him. Rather, she convinces him to head back alone to his house, where she promptly ambushes him and demands to know why he is assisting the CIA instead of MI6).
Although the film does portray some of the epic action scenes and witty one-liners the franchise is famous for, it also touches on more serious, somber themes. Rather than callously sleeping his way through a whole line of women, the Bond of this film is monogamous and romantic, expressing more than simply sexual desire towards Madeleine Swann (played by Léa Seydoux) and expressing true heartbreak when she appears to betray him. Without giving too much away, the film’s heartbreaking ending reinforces the idea of a softer, more reflective Bond — one who did his job to save those he loved, not to fulfill any sense of loyalty to his country.
Madeline Swann also embodies the new Bond era as one of the first truly dynamic love interests in the franchise. She’s more than simply a throwaway character for Bond to sleep with; her childhood plays a significant role in the development of the plot. Her development isn’t limited to Bond’s presence, however. After Bond accuses her of an attempt on his life and breaks off their relationship, she pursues a career in criminal psychiatry and single-handedly raises her daughter, Mathilde.
The portrayal of villain Lyutsifer Safin by Rami Malek further signals a departure from the franchise’s earlier standards. Unlike previous, more ridiculous baddies (like Hugo Drax in “Moonraker,” who attempted to build a utopian society in space, or Ernst Blofeld’s plot to create an orbiting super laser out of diamonds in “Diamonds Are Forever”), Safin is serious and slightly terrifying. He is cold, cunning and matches Bond wit for wit. Malek’s insistence that the Middle Eastern character not be a religious extremist brings increased depth to the villain and a breath of fresh air to a genre that has long used Islamic extremists as a catch-all for the motivations of villainous Muslims.
Of course, these are the most obvious signs of change. There are subtler ones: the confirmation of the new Q (played by Ben Whishaw) as queer and the continued casting of Naomie Harris as a Black Moneypenny, just to name a couple. Though the Daniel Craig era has come to an end, “No Time To Die” has created a template for new James Bond films that will likely appeal to new and younger fans. As the franchise continues in the coming years — with a new Bond at the helm — it will be interesting to see the increasing evolution of such an iconic character.