Why Safin Doesn’t Kill Madeleine Swann | Screen Rant

Warning : Contains spoilers for No Time To Die

Daniel Craig’s James Bond receives an admirably emotional send-off in No Time To Die, but the film fails to explain why Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek) doesn't kill Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux). The film is considered a significant improvement over the divisive Spectre, updating 007 for modern audiences in a way the series has ignored since Craig’s first outing, Casino Royale. However, the film isn't without flaws, and the biggest is its underwhelming villain.

No Time To Die sees James Bond pulled out of retirement to neutralize a biological weapon threat orchestrated by Safin. However, the villain appears far more interested in Bond's ex-girlfriend, Madeleine. The film opens with a flashback to Madeleine's childhood as she witnesses Safin murder her mother, with Safin seeking revenge for the slaughter of his family by her father, Mr. White (Jesper Christensen).

Related: Mr White Is The Most Important Villain Of The Daniel Craig James Bond Era

This prologue establishes Safin's vendetta against Spectre and its leader, Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), as well as his underdeveloped fascination with Madeleine. She shoots him before running from her childhood home and falling through the ice of a frozen lake. Instead of killing her or simply allowing her to drown, Safin decides to save her life. No Time To Die doesn't clarify his reasoning, with him later providing a weak excuse about having ownership of her life. His decision to spare her is more likely due to the beginnings of his obvious god complex, but there's also the possibility he isn't as evil as depicted, feeling a connection with her over their joint tragedy.

Although Safin rescues her, the immediate aftermath is never shown, with No Time To Die cutting to the present day with an adult Madeleine. She is haunted by this act of supposed compassion but chooses to keep it a secret. Somehow, she initially fails to recognize the disfigured villain Safin when they are reunited. He informs her that she is forever indebted to him, which is why he forces her to poison Blofeld in prison. This attempt to explain their past is half-hearted, delivered as if he is avoiding the truth. He becomes possessive of her, kidnapping Madeleine and her daughter and taking them to his island fortress, but it's unclear why he waited so many years to contact her. If he really felt ownership over sparing Madeleine, surely he would have a larger presence in her life. Their reunion is somewhat forced, but not killing Madeleine likely provides an effective origin for his god complex.

As he stares down at the child, trapped beneath the ice, there's a moment of indecisiveness before he swiftly retrieves her from the lake that is the most interesting Rami Malek's Safin ever becomes. This prologue makes his godlike desire to control the fates of others believable, ironically offering better insight than any of his third-act dialogue. Knowing he caused Madeleine's suffering but can also be her salvation would likely appeal to Safin, giving him a sense of power that sparks his later interest in poisons and project Heracles. However, his ego alone doesn't fully explain why he doesn't kill her in this scene, or at any other opportunity in No Time To Die. The moment on the lake might have appealed to what little empathy Safin is capable of mustering. They share the tragedy of seeing their loved ones murdered, and he probably admires her resilience. He might even perceive her shooting him as penance for his sins.

Unfortunately, none of this is adequately explored, leaving Safin without clear motivation. Any desire to strengthen his bond with Léa Seydoux's Madeleine is jettisoned to instead draw unnecessary parallels between Safin and Bond. If No Time To Die had emphasized his tragic past, his connection to Madeleine could have transformed him into one of the most sympathetic Bond villains, injecting passion into Malek’s overly detached performance.

Next: Why Safin Doesn’t Age In No Time To Die

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