Warning: major spoilers ahead for No time to die
Several key elements of Safin’s plan in No time to die it just doesn’t make sense without the presence of former Bond main villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Although Blofeld figures prominently in the narrative, it is clear that he is playing the second violin of Rami Malek’s Lyutsifer Safin. However, as a result of this reduced role, the film as a whole suffers and ultimately raises serious questions about the efficacy of Safin’s supposed master plan.
After taking center stage in 2015 Spectrum, No time to die sees Blofeld far behind the scenes in a British prison. Although he is still running operations in the criminal organization, courtesy of a computerized eye worn by his colleagues, his power and influence have been reduced as a result of his incarceration. This becomes clear when an attempt to use stolen nanobots to kill James Bond at a Specter party inadvertently results in the death of the entire Specter leadership. It later becomes clear that Safin is behind the confusion as part of his plan to get revenge on Specter for the death of his family. Eventually, Safin manages to successfully assassinate Blofeld via James Bond, after Madeleine Swann infects him with nanobots programmed to match Blofeld’s DNA.
After executing his complicated plan to kill Blofeld, Safin focuses on finding a buyer for his stolen nanobot technology. This leads him into a larger conflict with Bond, who acknowledges the potentially devastating impact of the so-called Heracles project. However, while programmable nanobots with the potential to kill anyone they come in contact with in seconds are undoubtedly scary, upon closer inspection, the justification for Safin’s supposed master plan does not hold up. Not only is it unclear why he hopes to eradicate so many people, but also what motivates him once he successfully kills the Specter boss. Here’s why, ultimately, Safin’s plan in No time to die He needed Blofeld to stand up to scrutiny.
Initially, Safin’s plan to kill Specter as an act of revenge makes some narrative sense. After all, avenging the death of your family is a perfectly compelling reason to seek technology that can end the world. However, not only does pursuing your plan make little emotional sense after you’ve succeeded in your previous goal, but the coherence of the entire project quickly falls apart after a minimal amount of scrutiny.
For example, it seems highly unlikely that an individual like Safin, regardless of his resources or level of influence, could match the tools of a global criminal enterprise like Specter. After all, throughout the opening narrative arc of the Craig era, Specter was responsible for pulling the strings behind everyone from Le Chiffre to Raoul Silva, highlighting the extent of his power. The idea that a hitherto unknown villain with a mysterious backstory could single-handedly defeat the entire organization by persuading a single scientist to switch sides therefore seems extremely unlikely.
What’s even more unusual is that Blofeld and Specter, despite the clear and present danger he poses to them, seem largely unaware of Safin’s true motivations. Despite working for Specter as an assassin, Safin’s plan for revenge seems to take everyone by surprise. The idea that such an individual could operate in the criminal underworld, amassing the resources to build his own poison base, without Specter discovering his real plan and the potential threat he poses to the entire operation seems to push credulity to the limit.
Given the fact that Safin is a new character to the franchise and apparently lacks strong motivation once his revenge mission is complete, it appears that he may have worked more effectively as a supporting henchman, rather than a villain. central. For example, the idea of Specter’s lead poisoner on the trail of James Bond at the behest of an incarcerated Blofeld may have helped audiences overlook the obvious problems with incentives that crop up during the film’s second and third act. This would have placed Safin alongside characters like Jaws, Oddjob, and Red Grant as iconic Specter associates, rather than burdening him with the undue burden of carrying the entire movie.
As it stands, the film arguably begins to fail once the shadow of Specter, which had previously defined much of the Daniel Craig Bond era, completely disappears from the scene. Although Safin’s desire for revenge offers an interesting nuance to his character, his initial success actually undermines the foundations laid for organization by previous films. As a result, turning Safin into a henchman would have been an effective way to No time to die to underscore the danger Specter poses, rather than reducing them to a sideshow easily eliminated by a single defecting scientist.
In contrast, an alternate plot in which Blofeld was the true mastermind behind the nanobot plot would not only have served the character of Safin better, but would have been a much more compelling way to close out the entire story arc of the game. it was Craig. Given the conflict between the two characters in previous films, No time to die it could have provided more scope to explore this compelling relationship. It’s easy to imagine, for example, an alternate story arc in which Blofeld, with the help of Safin, attempts to exact revenge on James Bond from prison, perhaps with equally tragic results. This would have been based on the existing emotional tensions from the rest of the saga, rather than branding a new villain and starting over from scratch.
Placing Safin as a supporting villain would also have allowed the film to continue a trend that has defined Daniel Craig’s Bond films, namely defying convention and pushing boundaries. Throughout the Bond era, henchmen have typically been two-dimensional cartoons that, despite iconic features, have lacked proper development. Placing an actor like Malek in this role would have allowed the film to do something genuinely radical with its supporting character, giving him its own compelling motivations. Placing him at the heart of the action without a genuinely compelling story behind his actions ultimately satisfies no one and represents a serious mistake for No time to die.
One way the movie could have incorporated both Safin and Blofeld would have been to alter Safin’s loyalties. It is not inconceivable, for example, that in a world where Blofeld is behind bars, a power struggle could break out at the top of the organization. In an attempt to maintain control of the group, Blofeld may have recruited Safin to assassinate his rivals on his behalf.
Ironically, this approach may also be related to Safin’s plan for revenge. Given Blofeld’s age, it is highly unlikely that he would have been in charge of Specter when Safin’s family was killed at the group’s request. However, it is possible that other senior officials within the organization had something to do with the killings, giving Safin a compelling reason to join Blofeld. In this world, Safin, as the freed expert poisoner, could have operated abroad with Blofeld still holding the reins of power in jail. This would have helped alleviate one of the core problems with No time to die by providing two villains with competing and equally compelling motifs, while also giving a villain as iconic as Blofeld his due.
There is no doubt that some aspects of the film provide a swan song appropriate to Daniel Craig’s time as James Bond. Yet despite all the exciting on-screen action, including Bond’s final heartbreaking sacrifice, it is undeniable that Bond’s adversaries often fail to keep up with the rest of the film. With a few tweaks to the story, it’s easy to see how this problem could have been avoided. How are the things going, No time to die represents a missed opportunity, both for Rami Malek’s Safin and the reimagined Ernst Stavro Blofeld.