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(Credit: James Bond)

Film

Why Rami Malek’s Safin is one of the worst James Bond villains of all time

@Russellisation

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s still tricky to gauge the reaction to Daniel Craig’s final James Bond mission in No Time to Die, with his reign as the character going out with an apathetic clunk, rather than an explosive bang. Laboured with a needlessly complicated plot and motivations that made you scratch your head, Bond’s most romantic outing yet, featuring a lead character vulnerable to pain due to his intimate relationship with Madeleine (Léa Seydoux), proved to be one of his most uninspiring. 

Beginning with a retired Bond living out his foreign fantasies in Italy with partner Madeleine, his past soon catches up with him as Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek), a botanist with a passion for mass murder, plans to assert his control on the world. It’s a classic Bond affair, carried out with a tired execution with the familiar help of M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw) as well as newcomer Nomi (Lashana Lynch) who, as the brand new 007, arguably makes a better Bond than the evocative character himself. 

Whilst the majority of the film’s key parts work to create a reasonably sound whole, they are undoubtedly let down by the antagonist, Lyutsifer Safin, a character who appears to be unconventional in personality, only to draw from the cliches of James Bond’s bygone past. 

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Donning Bond-standard facial scarring, Safin is a confused villain who seems to stand for very little at all, despite much of the film focusing on his journey from troubled soul to a mass murderer. Poorly constructed from the ground up by a conglomerate of screenwriters that suggest too many cooks can also spoil the Bond, far too little time is given to exploring the true origins of Safin. Audiences, instead, are given a fast-track version that omits several key pieces of information. 

This, as a result, builds a villain devoid of personality and motivation for his abhorrent schemes, with a baffling amount of pitfalls and question marks over his life and personality. Eager for revenge due to the murder of his family as a child, Safin sets out to murder what seems to be the majority of the world with his biological nanobots, yet also intends to do business with interested entrepreneurs, all at the same time yearning for the love of Bond’s partner Madeleine. 

Safin is quite simply a villain made up of far too many parts, with each motivation being as underdeveloped and uninteresting as the last due to the sheer amount that the screenwriters are trying to focus on. In crafting such a confused villain, No Time to Die also engineered one of the most boring of the entire franchise, toeing the line of every antagonist who came before him, whilst offering very little in terms of originality.

“I want the world to evolve, yet you want it to stay the same,” he utters to Bond, a quip that purports ingenious meaning, yet means nothing at all when you drill down into its material. Along with his stereotypical look, it’s lines like these that make it so blindingly obvious that Safin was drawn from the first page of the Bond villain playbook, with the final result being a transparent and lazy effort that demonstrates just how little thought is given to the modern franchise.

Given little to play with, there’s nothing that actor Rami Malek can do but puppeteer this pathetic character throughout the runtime of No Time to Die, croaking out his lines in an attempt to give the empty vessel some character, only to result in him appearing stiff and disassociated. 

In a film that was supposed to be Daniel Craig’s final swansong, Safin dampened the proceedings as the ghost of the feast, dragging the finale down as a futile ‘evil’ cliche.