James Bond: What Billie Eilish’s Theme Song Reveals About No Time To Die’s Story
What can be gleaned about James Bond's future from Billie Eilish's No Time To Die theme song? The long-awaited 25th Bond movie is edging closer to release, and fans are eager to discover how Daniel Craig's time as 007 will close out. Since debuting in 2006's Casino Royale, Craig's Bond has told an unusually cohesive narrative, with each of his 4 previous films tying into each other, taking Bond's career from a fledgling 00 agent to a retired fossil. Directed by Cary Fukunaga, No Time To Die's theme song was recently confirmed to be performed by "Bad Guy" singer/songwriter, Billie Eilish.
The role of a Bond theme song has seemingly transcended that of any other franchise's accompanying music. A mix of cinematic tradition and a back catalog of classic tunes has cemented Bond themes as an integral and highly-publicized part of any 007 movie release, attracting almost as much attention as the film itself. Fans have been treated to some classics too, such as "Goldfinger," "Live & Let Die" and "Diamonds Are Forever." There's also been some stinkers, unfortunately, with Madonna's "Die Another Day" and Sam Smith's "Writing's On The Wall" failing to impress.
In a positive sign, Eilish's "No Time To Die" has garnered an enthusiastic outpouring of adulation so far, with even those who doubted the choice of artist changing their mind after hearing the actual track. A great song it may be, but Bond themes always reveal at least a little about the accompanying movie. What's Eilish trying to say about No Time To Die?
The bulk of "No Time To Die" seems to deal with a plot point that also formed the basis of the movie's trailer, released at the end of 2019 - the betrayal of Madeleine Swann. Certainly, the footage makes it plain that Bond believes Swann had betrayed him (an accusation she strenuously denies), and the trailer later alludes to Madeleine harboring a deadly secret from the past that Bond hadn't yet got around to uncovering. They were clearly too busy uncovering each other. Eilish's "No Time To Die" is essentially sung from 007's own point of view, lamenting the fact he trusted and loved Madeleine, only to be let down.
While the trailer cast doubt over whether Madeleine really did betray Bond, or whether the aging spy was simply paranoid from years of looking over his shoulder, the song seems to confirm the former. There'd be little point in Billie singing about lies and naively falling in love if Bond's suspicions were just a misunderstanding and Madeleine was completely guilt-free. The lyrics reference Bond "leaving alone" and portray him as damage goods, incapable of ever truly finding happiness and love. The line "was it obvious to everybody else?" is also curious, and could be a nod towards Bond being forced out of retirement. Did MI6 always know he wouldn't be able to settle down for a quiet life and banked on their most valuable asset coming back into the fold?
The most straightforward interpretation of "No Time To Die" is that the song details Bond's thoughts on Madeleine, but there's an argument that the lyrics might, at least partially, be about Vesper Lynd. Played by Eva Green, Lynd was Bond's primary love interest in Casino Royale, but tragically died in a dramatic and watery third act, scarring Daniel Craig's Bond permanently. Bond's feelings towards Vesper were always tainted by his discovery that she was actually working for Quantum and left 007 high and dry for his poker winnings, but he never quite got over her death, and constantly sought to vindicate Vesper, even after meeting Madelein Swann.
As Eilish sings "fool me once, fool me twice" and "another lesson yet to learn," it's hard not to think of Lynd and Swann, both of whom Bond tried to make a life with, and both times he was betrayed. Meanwhile, "tried to help you" could reference Bond's frantic efforts to save Vesper's life and his subsequent ongoing mission to clear her name. James might simply be ruing his crippling weakness for a femme fatale, but the "No Time To Die" track as a whole could apply to Vesper as much as it does Madeleine Swann. This is evidenced by several lines more fitting for a dead character than an alive one, such as "now you'll never see me cry" and "let it burn," which could either hark back to Vesper or foreshadow Swann's own demise. In a far crazier theory, this song would work fantastically well if the two women are somehow revealed to be the same person...
In a big tease, "No Time To Die" contains the lyric "faces from my past return." Fans of James Bond already know that the usual MI6 gang are coming back for Daniel Craig's final film, as are Jeffrey Wright's CIA Agent, Felix Leiter, and Madeleine Swann. None of these are particularly surprising reprisals, but the line is most likely referring to the appearance of Christoph Waltz as Blofeld, as revealed in No Time To Die's trailer. Blofeld appears to be playing the role of an adviser, aiding MI6 in combating Rami Malek's new villain, Safin, and he evidently knows the nature of Madeleine Swann's mysterious secret, which would explain his inclusion in the song. Blofeld might even be the reason Bond and Swann can't be together, so it's only natural that 007 would curse him via the medium of song.
But could there be a spicier meaning behind the "faces from my past" line? A popular fan theory posits that Safin will actually prove to be a modern riff on Dr. No, the main villain from the very first James Bond movie. Although Craig's 007 probably wouldn't have any knowledge of Dr. No, the audience certainly would, and his revival would cast Eilish's lyric in an entirely new light, with "my past" coming to mean the past of James Bond as a character, rather than the fictional history of the current incarnation. A shot of Safin without Dr. No's famous metal hands has already been revealed, but this doesn't entirely debunk the theory - the scene could be a flashback, or Safin's hands could be replaced midway through the story.
Another (admittedly more remote) possibility is that the "faces" Eilish says return include Vesper Lynd, who has somehow cheated death and will reappear in No Time To Die to bring Bond's story full circle and resolve the emotions Craig's character has carried throughout his run.
One of the major questions surrounding No Time To Die is the possibility that James Bond might, for the first time, actually die before another actor takes on the role. Due to the aforementioned cohesiveness running through Daniel Craig's Bond films, as well as his apparent struggles in understanding the concept of retirement, a magnificent and meaningful death seems like the only logical route for Bond to take in No Time To Die, and Billie Eilish's theme song reinforces that argument.
"The blood you bleed is just the blood you owe" is masked as a line about Madeleine; Lea Seydoux's character has a dark past, and now it's catching up with her. But it's a bit of a grim, sinister figure of speech to use about Bond's lover, even if 007 is feeling like a jilted, bitter ex. As such, the line could actually be referring to Bond himself. In the modern era, there's more emphasis on Bond's emotions, and the toll each difficult job takes on him. There's more blood on Bond's hands than pumping through them as Daniel Craig's fifth film approaches, and this lyric hints that some form of karmic retribution may be on the horizon.
Another key line propping up the "Bond dies" mob is "are you death or paradise?" The intrigue here comes from the No Time To Die trailer, which includes plenty of travel brochure shots showing Bond in peaceful retirement at the start of the movie. Looking out upon a lush, tranquil lake, romancing Madeleine in the streets of an idyllic, sun-baked village... Bond is, at the beginning of the film, in paradise. Obviously, there'd be no movie if Bond remained there, and if the choice is between death and paradise as Eilish claims, there could be no other destination for 007 after his breakup with Madeleine than certain doom.