Taking Spectre’s lead, the new James Bond film No Time To Die is loaded with references to the previous Daniel Craig outings, but it also recalls various old-testament Bond films.
Some of the references are fairly easy to pick up, (like the gadget-laden Aston Martin DB5 that’s deployed and blown up one last time) but there are others we’ve noticed upon revisiting the film for a second or third viewing.
Aside from wrapping up the Craig era, there are a lot of callbacks and references to the previous 20 Bond films too, with one standout in particular. Now that we’ve all had time to see No Time To Die, let’s take a look at some of the bigger moments.
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This feature contains major spoilers for No Time To Die, and several earlier James Bond films.
Oh, SPECTRE – how we’ve missed your elaborate yet escapable death traps. In the pre-title sequence, Bond goes looking for closure at Vesper Lynd’s tomb in Matera, only to find an octopus-engraved card at the grave and almost get blown up for his troubles.
The callbacks to Casino Royale are to be expected by now, but curiously, Craig’s fifth film also mirrors Roger Moore’s fifth outing For Your Eyes Only, which starts with a deliberately vague callback to Blofeld and SPECTRE as Bond visits his late wife Tracy’s grave.
In 1981, the rights to those characters were up in the air, and then so was the unnamed bald villain with a cat, as he’s unceremoniously dropped into a smokestack from a helicopter.
Pre-release, a lot of Bond fans speculated that Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek) would turn out to be a villain from movies past. Specifically, the very first Bond villain – Dr Julius No.
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After more than 16 months of delays, you can see how they’d jump to that conclusion – Spectre disguised Blofeld as “Franz Oberhauser” and the trailers didn’t reveal much about Safin other than the Japanese Noh mask he wears in the opening sequence and the island base where the finale takes place.
It’s not just seeing a pattern where there isn’t one, especially when that pattern is Maurice Binder’s animated dots, which main titles designer Daniel Kleinman homages at the start of the film.
While Bond’s sabbatical in Jamaica also recalls the island setting of the original Bond mission, we’re marking this particular theory down as a “no No”.
The Timothy Dalton movies
In the years since their release, many have reappraised Timothy Dalton’s tenure as the precursor to Craig’s Fleming-flavoured portrayal of Bond. Accordingly, there are other moments reminiscent of the Dalton era in his other films, but Craig’s swansong picks up a couple of major threads.
Read more: Looking back at Spectre
Firstly, there’s the Aston Martin V8 Vantage Volante that Bond takes out of storage upon his return to London. It’s the same colour and even the same licence plate as the model Dalton’s Bond drives (and blows up) in The Living Daylights, though as far as we can see, it doesn’t have the same laser and rocket-launcher mod-cons.
There’s also a sub-plot in which Bond seeks revenge for his “brother from Langley”, Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), who meets his end when he’s betrayed by CIA turncoat Logan Ash (Billy Magnusson), just as DEA agent Killifer sells out Felix in Licence To Kill.
Aside from avenging a violent attack on Leiter, Bond also encounters Paloma, (the brilliant Ana de Armas) whose ties to Felix, kick-ass competence, and handy thigh-holster reminds us of Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell) from Dalton’s second outing.
However, when Bond catches up with Ash, it’s For Your Eyes Only which springs to mind again. Moore famously rankled at a scene where Bond finishes off an adversary by callously kicking a precariously balanced vehicle, but it sits well with Craig when he drops Ash’s Range Rover on him.
Ralph Fiennes’ Mallory has a stressful time of it in this one. He’s developed a drinking habit and a bit of a paunch since we last saw him, mostly because he’s upset that Heracles, the top-secret designer virus he approved, has been stolen by the baddies.
During one moment of contemplation, Fiennes’ M sits under the gaze of his predecessors’ portraits, most prominently that of Judi Dench, (whose character also made a posthumous appearance in Spectre) but also Bernard Lee and Robert Brown, who held the job through the Connery, Moore, and Dalton eras.
— Desmond Mac Mahon (@DPMacMahon) October 4, 2021
Lee’s portrait also appeared in The World Is Not Enough, at an MI6 retreat in Scotland, but this is the first we’ve seen of Dench and Brown in the gallery of M’s. Whatever the next incarnation of Bond looks like, it will be interesting to see if Fiennes will reprise his role or similarly be commemorated, given how very, very sacked he should be after the events of this story…
All the time in the world
Of course, the major influence in this particular story is 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, another recently reappraised outing. George Lazenby’s sole outing as Bond is remixed extensively throughout No Time To Die, starting with references to its score and theme song and ending with a reversal of its tragic finale.
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There’s also a thread of bio-warfare to the villain’s scheme in OHMSS, which has Blofeld plotting to distribute bacteria via sleeper agents. In No Time To Die, Heracles takes out the extra step with its contagion – as Bond observes, infecting enough people turn the world’s population into a weapon.
Naturally, it’s the callback to “We have all the time in the world”, both as a line of dialogue and in the choice of Louis Armstrong’s original recording over the end credits, that stands out. The early references seem to foreshadow Madeleine (Léa Seydoux) going the same way as Tracy, but they’re actually teeing up Bond’s demise.
The fate of Daniel Craig’s Bond under a sky fall of Royal Navy missiles is totally clear-cut, but the future of 007 on screen is left open by the final callback, which features at the end of all 25 films to date – “James Bond Will Return”…
No Time To Die is in cinemas now.
Watch the producers of No Time To Die explain how they chose the film's title.