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Credit: Nicola Dove/MGM

No Time to Die: What to know before Daniel Craig's 007 swan song hits the big screen

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Sep 24, 2021, 1:28 PM EDT

After 15 years, Daniel Craig's tenure as James Bond is sadly coming to a close. The actor will appear on the big screen as 007 one last time in No Time to Die. Directed and co-written by True Detective and Maniac veteran Cary Fukunaga, the long-delayed 25th Bond film is set to make history for the long-running franchise in several ways.

For one thing, it's the first mainstream Bond flick produced by Eon to be helmed by an American filmmaker. For another, it features the series' first Black 00-agent (played by Captain Marvel's Lashana Lynch). It may be Craig's last hurrah, but No Time to Die promises to be the start of a whole new chapter for Britain's tux and vodka-loving gentleman spy.

"A lot of people here worked on five pictures with me. I know there's a lot of things said about what I think about these films, but I've loved every single second of these movies. And especially this one, because I've got up every morning and I've had the chance to work with you guys." Craig said while addressing the crew after production had wrapped. "That has been one of the greatest honors of my life."

Now, it's time to head below, if you please. Q is eagerly waiting to provide you with a rundown of your espionage arsenal and a crash course on everything you need to know about the movie before it opens.

When is it out?

No Time to Die is a fascinating case study in the mercurial nature of tentpole release dates in the age of COVID-19.

Originally scheduled open in early April of last year, the film became the first major Hollywood project to delay its theatrical opening less than two weeks before the world went into lockdown. What seemed like a wild overreaction at the time soon became a significant precedent for all major studios, which began to postpone their hottest titles one-by-one.

Bond 25 was initially pushed to late November of 2020 in the hopes that the virus would be under control by the fall. Ha! No such luck for No Time to Die, which was then moved to early April of this year before settling on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.

"Here's the deal: this thing is just bigger than all of us and we just want people to go and see this movie in the right way and safe way," Craig said last fall when discussing all of the postponements. "Cinemas all around the world are closed at the moment and we want to release the movie at the same time, all around the world, and this isn't the right time."

British audiences will get to check out the movie a smidge earlier, starting next Thursday (Sep. 30). The world premiere is scheduled to take place at London's Royal Albert Hall two days prior on the evening of Tuesday, Sep. 28.

At one point, MGM — which reportedly lost between $30 - $50 million from all the delays — considered selling the film to a streaming service like Apple TV+, but the asking price of $600 million was just a little too steep. Besides, longtime Bond producers, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, are wholly committed to the theatrical experience. Amazon ended up purchasing MGM and all of its titles for $8+ billion back in May. While this gives the company access to the 007 franchise, it doesn't have total control over the handling of MI6's globe-hopping agent so long as Broccoli and Wilson are still involved.

Credit: Sony Pictures/Eon Productions

How you can watch

Like we mentioned above, No Time to Die will only be available to watch in theaters. As per usual, there's a ton of money riding on this one, especially after the last two installments came close to (Spectre) or surpassed (Skyfall) the $1 billion-mark at the global box office.

“It’s so hard to anticipate what I’ll be feeling,” Fukunaga told The Hollywood Reporter. “I didn’t anticipate the emotional weight of the last day of shooting and how much I was feeling the sadness of it being Daniel’s last day as Bond. I feel like when the film comes out, there’ll be a lot of feelings. There’ll be the elation of it coming out, the satisfaction of closure, and probably another latent bit of sadness that the experience is complete.”

Tickets are now on sale.

Credit: Nicola Dove/MGM/Eon Productions

What it's about/Who's in it

Set sometime after the events of Spectre, No Time to Die opens with James discovering a terrible secret about Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), the woman he drove off into the sunset with at the end of his last adventure. This mysterious betrayal prompts James to quit the death-defying spy life for a much more peaceful existence in Jamaica (a country with a boatload of Bond-related history).

Things seem pretty chill until James is approached by his old buddy from the CIA, Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), who needs 007's help in finding a kidnapped scientist (David Dencik). Bond begrudgingly agrees and is teamed up with Lashana Lynch's Nomi, a 00-agent who may or may not have taken on the 007 mantle while the martini-swigging James was away (that rumor is still unconfirmed, but it'd be pretty cool if it turns out to be true, right?).

"They come from the same program and they know what each other are capable of," Lynch said of her character on the movie's official tie-in podcast hosted by film critic James King. "But at the beginning, she's definitely [more] technologically advanced and because he's been away for a long time, she knows exactly what buttons to press. She almost has like a James Bond file on her shelf at home and has been studying it for two years, and now she has that opportunity to sit down with him, tell him exactly what she thinks. It's a real powerful moment because he's stopped in his tracks by a woman who does the same thing as him for the first time. And we've never seen that before."

The mission ultimately leads Bond to Safin (Rami Malek), a scarred and Dr. No-looking baddie weirdly obsessed with notions of genocide and immortality. Safin's got ties to Swann and Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) — the latter of whom is now locked up tight and serving as a kind of Hannibal Lecter-esque advisor to our main hero.

"Once we got into Christoph Waltz/Blofeld territory, you can’t go small again,” Fukunaga said earlier this year while teasing Malek's antagonist. “We had to think bigger. It’s tricky because you don’t want to make a cliché super villain, but you have to make someone that’s threatening not only to Bond and the people he loves, but to the world at large.”

In addition to Nomi and Felix, Bond can also rely on Paloma (another CIA field agent played by Ana de Armas). "[Paloma] is someone who’s just started working for the CIA, and so she’s supposed to have minimal training when she first meets Bond. The expectation is that she’s not going to be the most proficient agent, but let’s just say that she really packs a punch," Broccoli teased last year.

Just don't use the term "Bond Girl." Come on, it's the 21st century. "I don’t even call them 'Bond Girls,'” Craig admitted in early 2020. “I’m not going to deny it to anybody else. It’s just I can’t have a sensible conversation with somebody if we’re talking about ‘Bond Girls.'"

Other returning faces include: Ralph Fiennes (M), Naomie Harris (Eve Moneypenny), Rory Kinnear (Bill Tanner), Ben Whishaw ("Q"), and Rory Kinnear (Bill Tanner). Aladdin's Billy Magnussen is the last of the newcomers, playing a character named Logan Ash (presumably of the CIA).

Credit: Nicola Dove/MGM

Behind the camera

As we mentioned up in the introduction, Fukunaga is the first American director to make a James Bond movie. If you want to split hairs here, you could argue that the late Irvin Kershner (best known for helming Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back) was the first to do this, but while 1983's Never Say Never Again — essentially a remake of Thunderball — did feature Sean Connery back in the main role, it is not considered hard canon due to the fact that it was not approved or produced by Eon.

In addition to directing No Time to Die, Fukunaga also helped write the screenplay along with Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Fun fact: Purvis and Wade have been writing Bond projects ever since the Pierce Brosnan days (the two screen scribes boarded the series on 1999's The World is Not Enough). Once the trio had a complete draft, Fukunaga brought in Fleabag and Killing Eve creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge to help bring the female characters into sharper focus.

“I think that’s the expectation, a female writing very strong female roles, but that’s something Barbara wanted already,” the director told The Hollywood Reporter. “From my very first conversations with [Broccoli], that was a very strong drive. You can’t change Bond overnight into a different person. But you can definitely change the world around him and the way he has to function in that world. It’s a story about a white man as a spy in this world, but you have to be willing to lean in and do the work to make the female characters more than just contrivances.”

Fukunaga's core production crew includes: composer Hans Zimmer, cinematographer Linus Sandgren, production designer Mark Tidesley, costume designer Suttirat Anne Larlab, and co-editors Tom Cross and Elliot Graham. Another history-making feat achieved by this film is that it is the first 007 project in history to utilize IMAX cameras.

In accordance with longstanding tradition, the movie features a title song written and performed by a chart-topping artist. Billie Eilish and her brother, Finneas O'Connell, were tapped to write the titular track for No Time to Die (Eilish performs vocals, of course). Had the world known what we know now with regards to COVID-19, the song probably wouldn't have been released until this fall, but as the old saying goes, hindsight is...20-20. Oy! The track was initially released in February of 2020 and ended up winning a Grammy earlier this year for Best Song Written for Visual Media.

Who knows? It might even become the third Bond theme in Oscars history to win an Academy Award after "Skyfall" (performed by Adele for Skyfall) and "Writing's on the Wall" (performed by Sam Smith for Spectre).

To infinity and bey-Bond!

With Craig vacating the iconic role, the time has come to find the next Bond. Over the years, fans have lobbied for Tom Hardy and Idris Elba to get behind the wheel of the Astin Martin, but nothing is set in stone just yet. Casting director Debbie McWilliams, who has been with the franchise since the early 1980s, knows that finding the next 007 won't be an easy task.

"It's somebody who can hold their own, who is attractive, physical, capable of taking on not just the part but all the razzmatazz that goes with it," she explained to Entertainment Weekly. "It's quite a tall order and it can live on with somebody for long after they've played the part, although I think it's not so defining now as it used to be. I think some people got very much stuck with it and others have managed, particularly if they've chosen good projects other than Bond, where they're seen as just a very good actor rather than just being James Bond."

Others have floated the idea of a female Bond, especially given Nomi's debut in No Time to Die. That said, there are no plans on the part of the producers to switch the character's gender.

“He can be of any color, but he is male,” Broccoli remarked in early 2020. “I believe we should be creating new characters for women — strong female characters. I’m not particularly interested in taking a male character and having a woman play it. I think women are far more interesting than that.”

Craig echoed that sentiment during a recent conversation with The Radio Times. "There should simply be better parts for women and actors of color," he said. "Why should a woman play James Bond when there should be a part just as good as James Bond, but for a woman?”

Credit: MGM/Eon Productions