A secret agent without a secret identity, he was our first grown-up icon of male fantasy. Since then, comic-book superheroes have conquered Hollywood, but Bond, classic and straight-up, remains cinema’s most durable action hero, sex symbol and brand. What’s more significant about No Time to Die than all its firsts is that Craig’s fifth Bond movie will be his last. He’s the third-longest-serving 007 after Roger Moore and Connery, who both made seven films. And he has done more than anyone to transform the franchise, while refusing to get swallowed up by it. Connery fell into the role with an aplomb that made him an instant star, and then never escaped it. But he set the template for all his successors. Moore refashioned the character as a suave lounge act that devolved into camp and farce. Pierce Brosnan soldiered through his tour of duty, enduring the most pedestrian phase of the franchise. It was like watching a competent cover band do Bond. But Craig attacked the property like a punk on a mission, as if torn between redeeming and incinerating his mandate. Aside from the visceral force that he brought to the character, he applied a laser intelligence to the franchise both on camera and behind it, raising its pedigree with serious talents like Sam Mendes .
Over by the window was an incongruous-looking throne-like chair in carved oak with a red velvet seat, a low table on which stood an empty water carafe and two glasses, and a light arm-chair with a round cane seat and no cushion. There was no table in the centre under the alabasterine ceiling light, only a small square of stained carpet with a futurist design in contrasting browns. It was a large bare room, sparsely furnished in cheap French art nouveau style. Le Chiffre opened the door with a key and disappeared inside. Vesper, looking incredibly indecent in the early light of day, was pushed in after him with a torrent of lewd French from the man whom Bond knew to himself as ‘the Corsican’. Bond followed without giving the thin man a chance to urge him. As he was urged out of the car with a sharp crack in the ribs from the thin man’s elbow, he knew that Le Chiffre could have them both to himself, undisturbed, for several hours. Again he reflected on the efficiency of these people and the ingenuity of the equipment they used. He stifled a desire to place the blame on London. It was he who should have known; he who should have been warned by small signs and taken infinitely more precautions. He squirmed as he thought of himself washing down champagne in the Roi Galant while the enemy was busy preparing his counter-stroke. He cursed himself and cursed the hubriswhich had made him so sure the battle was won and the enemy in flight.
Stupefied, but unharmed, he allowed Mathis to lead him off towards the Splendide from which guests and servants were pouring in chattering fright. As the distant clang of bells heralded the arrival of ambulances and fire-engines, they managed to push through the throng and up the short stairs and along the corridor to Bond’s room. It was Mathis who got to him first, and by that time Bond was standing with his arm round the tree which had saved his life. By the time Bond had taken in these details, he had come to within fifty yards of the two men. He was reflecting on the ranges of various types of weapon and the possibilities of cover when an extraordinary and terrible scene was enacted. The day was still beautiful, but by now the sun was very hot and the plane-trees, spaced about twenty feet apart on the grass verge between the pavement and the broad tarmac, gave a cool shade. The girl’s eyes followed him out on to the boulevard. While he and Mathis talked, he turned from time to time towards her, politely including her in the conversation, but adding up the impressions recorded by each glance.
Le Chiffre nodded to the thin man who quietly left the room and closed the door. He settled himself comfortably on the throne-like chair and poured some of the coffee into one of the glasses. With one foot he hooked forward the small arm-chair, whose seat was now an empty circular frame of wood, until it was directly opposite him. He also placed beside it on the table two other homely objects, a three-foot-long carpet-beater in twisted cane and a carving knife. The thin man’s first action was a curious one. He opened the clasp-knife he had used on the hood of Bond’s car, took the small arm-chair and with a swift motion he cut out its cane seat.
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Le Chiffre had moved a few feet out into the passage. Ten minutes later the Citroën lurched to the left, ran on a hundred yards up a small side-road partly overgrown with grass and then between a pair of dilapidated stucco pillars into an unkempt forecourt surrounded by a high wall. They drew up in front of a peeling white door. Above a rusty bell-push in the door-frame, small zinc letters on a wooden base spelled out ‘Les Noctambules’ and, underneath, ‘Sonnez SVP’. Directly the boot was shut, the third man, whom Bond at once recognized, climbed in beside him and Le Chiffre reversed furiously back on to the main road. Then he banged the gear lever through the gate and was soon doing seventy on down the coast. He felt thoroughly dispirited and weak in resolve as well as in his body. He had had to take too much in the past twenty-four hours and now this last stroke by the enemy seemed almost too final. No one knew where he was and no one would miss him until well on into the morning. The wreck of his car would be found before very long, but it would take hours to trace the ownership to him. It was the sharp bite of the wire flex into his wrists that brought Bond to himself.
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Bond hurled himself out of bed and through the bathroom, but the communicating door was locked. He dashed back and through his room and down the corridor past a shrinking, terrified maid. For two hours they made slow, sweet love in a mood of happy passion which the day before Bond would never have thought they could regain. The barriers of self-consciousness and mistrust seemed to have vanished and the words they spoke to each other were innocent and true again and there was no shadow between them. Both her doors were locked and when he made her let him in, he saw that she had been sitting in the shadows by the window, watching, he presumed. Vesper had shrugged her shoulders at the information. This time when the man appeared she left her lunch in the middle and went straight up to her room. A few minutes later the man asked for the bill, paid it and left. Bond heard the Peugeot start up and soon the noise of its exhaust had disappeared in the direction of the road to Royale. When the man had turned his face towards them, Bond noticed that he had a black patch over one eye.
This man on the Gleaner, whose name was Fawcett, had been book-keeper for one of the leading turtle-fisheries on the Cayman Islands. One of the men from the Caymans who had volunteered on the outbreak of war, he had ended up as a Paymaster’s clerk in a small Naval Intelligence organization in Malta. At the end of the war, when, with a heavy heart, he was due to return to the Caymans, he was spotted by the section of the Secret Service concerned with the Caribbean. He was strenuously trained in photography and in some other arts and, with the quiet connivance of an influential man in Jamaica, found his way to the picture desk of the Gleaner. This meant that ten million francs was on the way to him. It was the reply to a request Bond had sent that afternoon through Paris to his headquarters in London asking for more funds.