Very spoilery. Yes I cried. Scroll down for the ending, the meaning of Heracles, and a plot recap. (My 4.5/5 review is here.)
Well it turned out he did have time to die, albeit after nearly three hours.
M has ordered a Royal Navy vessel to launch a missile attack on”Poison Garden Island”, arch-villain Lyutsifer Safin’s lair. Madeleine, Nomi and Madeleine’s daughter Mathilde have escaped to another island.
Bond has stayed behind to open the blast doors, essential for the incoming missiles to destroy everything there.
In a final showdown Bond fights Safin, but then discovers Safin has infected him with nanobots designed to target Madeleine and anyone who shares her DNA. He shoots Safin dead.
He also has to reopen the blast doors, which have closed again (presumably Safin did this, or maybe it was just the rusty old WW2 technology). He manages to reopen them, but realises even if he does escape, his infection means he can never touch Madeleine or Mathilde or they will die.
Bond speaks to Madeleine on the phone. He explains to her what has happened and she admits Mathilde is his daughter.
The missiles approach, some of them hitting right where he’s standing.
But fear not! If you wait til the very, very end, James Bond Will Be Back appears on the screen.
This is in my review but if you haven’t read that, here’s a recap: Heracles is the codename for the bio-weapon that charges nanobots with the DNA of the target, meaning only the target is killed (until rogue scientist Valdo Obruchev tweaks it so they attack anyone who shares DNA). Even if someone else is infected the nanobots don’t affect them, though they can never get rid of them and they can pass them on.
As for Heracles, he was a god and a hero who had a twin brother with a different father. Known for his bravery, strength, wits and sexual skill, Heracles once shot poisoned arrows at a centaur trying to carry his wife away. The dying centaur gave Heracles’s wife his bloodied clothes, and years later she gave them to Heracles as a charm when she suspected he had fallen in love with someone else. Heracles was himself poisoned by the remnants left on them. So I think Heracles represents Bond and the future after he’s gone.
The film starts with a young Madeleine Swann living in an isolated Norwegian house with her mother, who drinks all day. She tells Madeleine that her dad (Mr White), who Madeleine thought was a doctor, is actually a killer. Then a white-masked man appears at the window and breaks in, shooting dead her mother and telling Madeleine her dad murdered his whole family, leaving only him. Madeleine hides under the bed then shoots him, but after dragging his supposedly lifeless body out of the house she discovers he’s not dead at all. She runs away onto the ice and falls through; her sees her pleading underneath the ice sheet and shoots it open before pulling her out, saving her.
Fast forward a couple of decades and Madeleine and Bond are together after the events of Spectre. They holiday in Italy and he goes to visit Vesper Lynd’s tomb. Madeleine tries to explain to him beforehand that they must come to terms with Vesper so he can move on. At the graveyard, he finds flowers and a card with the Spectre symbol on it in front of her tomb, which then explodes. He survives and is pursued through the town. Eventually one of the henchman tells him Madeleine has betrayed him: she is “a daughter of Spectre”. He returns to the hotel to collect her, and they get in the car. She tries to tell him something, presumably that she is pregnant. He doesn’t believe her protestations of innocence, especially after he hears a phone call to her, saying her sacrifice will be her glory. After they have outwitted various pursuers he puts her on the train and tells her she will never see him again.
Five years later he is living alone in Jamaica, retired but still hot. I mean fit. CIA man Felix Leiter and an eager-beaver new boy called Logan Ash visit him, trying to get him to go to Cuba to track down Obruchev, who had been working on top secret technology (Heracles) and has disappeared from a blown-up British lab.
Bond refuses, then finds his jeep has broken down. A young woman gives him a lift on her scooter. Back at his house she reveals herself to be Nomi, the new 007, and warns him off Cuba. He decides to help Leiter after all, and arrives on the island at the same time as Nomi. He meets up with CIA operative Paloma, who claims to be new to all this, but acquits herself extremely well when the shooting starts. They are looking for Obruchev at Blofeld’s birthday party, arranged by him using a bionic eye even though he’s imprisoned in Belmarsh in the UK. Paloma spots Obruchev, who is carrying the case containing the equipment for weaponising a target’s DNA. Blofeld has meant for the Heracles weapon to be used to kill Bond at the party, but Obruchev has altered it so instead the nanobots target Spectre members (and their families). Bond finds himself targeted, standing in a beam of light as the nanobots rain down. The guests are told it won’t affect them, only Bond, but suddenly everyone there from Spectre collapses dead, their eyes pouring blood. Bond is unhurt.
Bond and Paloma chase after Obruchev, but the rogue scientist is captured by Nomi, who appears from a glass skylight above. Outside Paloma manages to recapture Obruchev, delivers him to Bond then leaves, her work done. Bond flies off with Obruchev, landing on a boat at sea, where Leiter and Ash are waiting. It turns out Ash is working for Safin. He shoots Leiter and mortally wounds him, fixes explosives to the side of the boat and flies off with the scientist. Bond tries to save Leiter as the boat sinks, but Leiter knows it is pointless. He dies and drifts downwards, and Bond escapes the boat, finding the inflatable life-raft. He’s later picked up by a tanker, and then returns to London.
He meets with M, though it’s a fractious reunion. Moneypenny takes him to Q’s house. Q is not pleased as he has a date, but decodes the files on the hard drive that Bond has. It’s DNA databases of thousands of people’s names. Moneypenny informs them there have been numerous breaches from DNA databases around the world recently.
The next day Bond meets M outside. M explains about the Heracles weapon and how it was meant to kill only the intended target. They have now discovered that family members who touched the bodies of Spectre members killed at the Cuba party have since died, as the weapon now also targets people with the same DNA as the intended target. Obruchev has created a weapon that M had designed to deliberately limit its casualties into one of mass destruction.
Bond wants to meet Blofeld in Belmarsh prison. The only person allowed to see him with any regularity over the past five years has been… psychologist Dr Madeleine Swann.
Madeleine goes to her London office, to see a new patient. It’s Safin, and he’s brought a memory box containing the damaged mask he wore the day he killed her mother and saved her. There is now a connection between them, he thinks. He tells her she has to do something for him, wear something that is harmless to her when she visits Blofeld.
In the loos at the prison she squirts the nanobots on to her wrists. Bond is also at the prison and they have an awkward reunion. Waiting for Blofeld, she gets upset and demands to be let out, but she and Bond have touched and he now has the Blofeld nanobots on him. Blofeld appears in a cage, and taunts Bond, informing him that Madeline never betrayed him. Bond is enraged and starts to strangle him. Though he stops in time, the nanobots from Madeleine, now on Bond, infect Blofeld and kill him.
Madeleine has disappeared, so Bond travels to her family house in Norway, and discovers her with her young daughter (she insists the girl, called Mathilde, is not Bond’s child though she admits later that she is). Bond asks Q for a plane, then realises the three of them are in danger as Nomi, who is following Logan Ash, pops up on the tracker as being in Norway — which means Ash is too. He, Madeleine and Mathilde set off by car aiming for a US air base where Q can pick them up, but they are chased by gunmen into a misty forest. Mathilde and Madeleine hide in a tumbledown cottage and she kills any approaching attackers, while Bond takes down the ones he finds in the forest, including Logan Ash. When he gets back to the cottage he discovers Safin has taken Madeleine and Mathilde. (The damp, dark forest chase contrasts with the dusty chase in Italy near the start of the film, which in a way also featured the three of them, as Madeleine would have been pregnant at the time with Mathilde.)
Safin has taken them to his island, known as The Poison Garden. It was once a secret WW2 base and sits in disputed waters between Russia and Japan. In the old bunkers, Safin has teams of scientist creating his nanobot weapons, now adapted to kill not just individuals but families and even ethnicities.
Safin tells Madeleine that he has her DNA turned into a nanobot weapon as insurance. (This is the vial that, in his final showdown with Bond, he breaks on him, so Bond can never again go near Madeleine or Mathilde.)
Nomi picks up Bond and they travel to meet Q’s plane. The tasks now are find Heracles, kill Safin, and find Madeleine and Mathilde. (At Nomi’s request Bond is now 007 again.) They fly to the island and get into the complex.
Nomi finds Obruchev, but as they walk along a high walkway over the chemical ponds she tells him it’s time to die and pushes him off. He dies of nanobot/chemical burns in the water.
Madeleine escapes her guard. Bond makes it to Safin, who has Mathilde. After apologising to Safin (they have one of those interminable conversations where villains explain their rather weak justification for world domination) he manages to kill the guards, but Safin escapes with Mathilde. She has dropped her cuddly toy though, and in the end he just lets her go and she wanders off. Bond and Madeleine reunite and then find Mathilde hiding under a table.
Nomi, Madeleine and Mathilde leave the island in a boat, but Bond refuses to go with them.
With Poison Garden Island situated in disputed waters, and housing a world-beating weapon, other countries, including hostile nations, are starting to sniff around what’s going on. M, trying to avoid not just a diplomatic incident but war, gets permission to fire the missiles to destroy the complex on the island — but for the strike to be effective Bond has to open the blast doors. He manages this, then discovers they’ve closed again.
Safin finds him and they fight. Safin then infects him with the Madeleine Swann nanobots, before Bond shoots him dead. He rushes back to reopen the blast doors, but knows he can’t leave. Even if he could get off the island in time, he is infected and can never touch Madeleine and Mathilde again. He speaks to Madeleine by phone. She is on a nearby island, and sees the missiles go overhead. She tells him Mathilde is his, but he already knew. They say goodbye – he tells her she has all the time in the world — and he is blown up by the landing missiles.
(This sacrifice doesn’t make sense to me. They do have all the time in the world, well several years at least to find an antidote, then he could finally hug his family again. Let’s face it, Q can make anything given 10 minutes and some sticky-backed plastic, he’s like a high-tech Blue Peter presenter.)
Back in London, Moneypenny, Tanner, Nomi, Q and M toast Bond, leaving a drink for him.
Madeleine and Mathilde are driving and she says to her daughter she is going to tell her a story about a man, Bond, James Bond.
So is he dead? Well I suppose he can escape from anything. Maybe he was actually a hologram from after the Vesper Lynd exploding tomb incident. He barely gets injured again, after all. Maybe future Bond films will be set earlier, or there will be a reset post-Craig and none of this will be deemed to have happened at all.