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No Time to Die’ explained: All your James Bond plot questions answered

How does the bionic eyeball work? And was that really Wallace and Gromit?

Written by
Mark Salisbury

No Time to Die is finally out – in most countries, at any rate – and going gangbusters at the cinema. Daniel Craig’s send-off is shaping up to be a biggie, and after 15 years, five movies and a tonne of bumps and bruises, it’s the very least he deserves as he hangs up his license to kill for good.

But if you’ve seen it, you’ll know there’s a lot to unpack in this epic final outing. Some questions, like the whereabouts of those ‘fast boats’ at the end and Paloma’s exact CIA backstory, will remain mysterious for time eternal. But with access to top-secret Bond dossiers and some time spent on set in Pinewood and Italy, writer of No Time To Die: The Making of the Film Mark Salisbury is able to throw some light on the big questions to emerge from Bond 25.

Warning: contains No Time to Die spoilers throughout.

Why is Vesper Lynd buried in Italy?
Given Daniel Craig’s Bond had already visited Venice, Siena and Rome, director Cary Fukunaga was looking for somewhere mysterious and unique for Vesper’s tomb. He picked the ancient hilltop city of Matera in southern Italy, said to be the third oldest continually habited settlement in the world, for its ‘haunted quality’. Both the tomb and cemetery were fake, however, built by the production on the hillside across from the city. And the bridge Bond leaps off is actually in nearby Gravina, but, via the magic of movies, was ‘relocated’ to Matera.

No Time to Die
Photograph: ShutterstockThe hotel room balcony in Matera

Can you stay in Bond and Madeleine’s hotel room?
Alas, no. The interior was a set built at Pinewood Studios, while the exterior balcony was constructed in Matera to take in the stunning views of the city at night.

What about Bond’s Jamaican retreat?
Again, that was created from scratch on a private beach near Port Antonio, not far from Fleming’s former home, GoldenEye, which is now a luxury resort where you can stay.

Why is M’s scheme called Project Heracles?
In Greek mythology, Nessus was a centaur killed by Heracles, using an arrow dipped in the venom of the Lernaean Hydra. But not before he tricked Heracles’ wife Deianira into giving her hubbie a shirt stained with the poison, which subsequently killed Heracles. The whole two-edged-sword-thing is apt, considering the weapon’s fate.

Any other Bond callbacks we might have missed?
Besides the gadget-laden Aston Martin DB5 (see Goldfinger, GoldenEye, Casino Royale, Skyfall and Spectre) and the Aston Martin V8 Vantage that Timothy Dalton drove in The Living Daylights, and which was Craig’s pick for his final outing, you can see Jack the bulldog that M bequeathed him at the end of Skyfall in a box in his lock-up and Mr White’s Spectre ring in his Norwegian safe room. The film also pays homage to famed Bond production designer Ken Adams, whose sets for Bond’s 1967 Japan-set adventure You Only Live Twice – in particular Blofeld’s volcano lair – influenced the look of Safin’s Poison Island.

Why does Safin wear a Noh mask?
Safin’s mask was initially intended to be much more elaborate and overtly scary, but then costume designer Suttirat Larlarb remembered seeing a Japanese Noh mask in a museum. She showed it to Fukunaga (whose heritage is Japanese) and bingo, they opted for something more neutral. 

Photograph: Courtesy Universal Pictures HK

Why was that missile base filled with acid?
The neon-lit space in Safin’s base is called the ‘bacteria farm’. Judging by the very ouchy end met by the henchman who falls in, it’s filled with some form of highly toxic liquid – possibly acid. Why? There’s no obvious reason given in the plot, only that it has something to do with the villain’s foul plan. But it definitely spices things up, and the pink-suited workers look pretty cool.

How does the bionic eyeball work, and how did Blofeld get it?
Primo’s eyeball operates like one of those fancy doorbells you can answer on your phone. But if Blofeld is only allowed one visitor – Léa Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann – and kept under 24-hour watch by Her Majesty’s Government, one can only assume it was a dodgy prison guard who smuggled the necessary tech into Belmarsh for him to communicate with Primo and his Spectre goons.

What does that Q gadget actually do?
The brilliantly named Q-dar’ maps spaces to produce 3D outlines of an area. In this case, it helps Q direct Bond and Nomi through Safin’s base and survey possible threats. It is not useful for dating. 

Are those Judi Dench and Bernard Lee cameos?
They are. In fact, all previous three cinematic Qs – Bernard Lee, Robert Brown and Judi Dench – can be seen in the portraits lining the walls of M16. Sally Dray painted Brown’s, Dench’s was painted by Desmond Mac Mahon and Lee’s was from the Bond archives. 

Is that really a Wallace and Gromit cameo?
Oh yes. In the pre-credit sequence in Norway, young Madeleine (Coline Defaud) has Nick Park’s Oscar-winning The Wrong Trousers on TV. The 1993 animated short sees Feathers McGraw use Wallace’s ‘techno trousers’ to break into a museum to steal a diamond. And guess what? The same thing happens in No Time To Die. Bionic-eyed Primo (Dali Benssalah) and his henchmen walk down the outside of a London skyscraper, before laser-cutting the glass to gain entry to a secret lab to kidnap treacherous scientist Valdo (David Dencik) and his nanobot bioweapon, Heracles. Crackers, eh, Gromit?

Does the film’s working title – ‘Shatterhand’ – have any relevance to the story?
Nope. While Shatterhand was rumoured to be the working title – named after Blofeld’s alias in Ian Fleming’s 1964 novel You Only Live TwiceNo Time To Die was always referred to as ‘B25’ on clapperboards and signage, even after the title was revealed.

Is Mathilde really Bond’s kid?
Yes indeed. Despite Madeleine initially telling Bond that Mathilde (Lisa-Dorah Sonnet) wasn’t his, Safin wasn’t lying when he told him that she was. Plus, those eyes.

Does Q out himself in the film?
It seems so, if only obliquely. When Bond and Moneypenny turn up unannounced at Q’s home, a lovely two up-two down near Waterloo – another Pinewood set – Ben Whishaw’s tech boffin is preparing what appears to be a romantic meal for two and casually mentions that ‘he’ will be here soon. Although we never see who he is.

What breed are Q’s cats?
Hairless Egyptian Sphynx.

Did Phoebe Waller-Bridge come up with the 'Mad as a bag of bees' line?
Possibly. The Fleabag scribe was roped in to sprinkle her magic throughout the script at the behest of Daniel Craig – not just beefing up the female parts, as has been suggested.

Photograph: Nicola DoveBond and Ana de Armas’s CIA spook in Cuba

How much training has Paloma really had?
Three weeks according to the chirpy Cuban spy, but actress Ana de Armas spent a fortnight with stunt coordinator Olivier Schneider and his team, learning to fire a gun as well as hand-to-hand combat, perfecting Paloma’s moves which she needed to do in high heels and haute couture.

Is Bond really dead?
Yes. He sacrificed himself for Queen and country when those Royal Navy missiles obliterated Safin’s poison factory. 

So why does it say ‘James Bond will return’ at the end of the credits?
Because this enormously bankable franchise rolls on. Opinion differs whether Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan and Craig play the same character or not – remember Lazenby’s throwaway ‘This never happened to the other fellow’ line in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service? But how will he return? From the grave? As a ghost? A zombie? In a series of prequels? We will have to wait and see. Bond is dead. Long live James Bond.

Where does No Time to Die stand in the 007 canon? All 25 official Bond movies ranked.

Five ways that ‘No Time to Die’ will change Bond for ever.

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