The thing that no one wants to admit is that most people want things to happen to them. We tell each other lies about the fight for free will and independence, but we don't really want that. We want to be told how to live and then die when we are not looking. People want oblivion and a few of us are born to build it for them. So here I am, their Invisible God, sneaking under their skin.Lyutsifer Safin to Bond about his motives.
Dr. Lyutsifer Safin (Russian: Люцифер Сафин) is the main antagonist of the 2021 film No Time to Die, the fifth installment of the rebooted James Bond series as well as Daniel Craig's final outing as the titular character. He was also mentioned briefly in the previous installment Spectre.
He is a sinister and elusive bioterrorist motivated to take down SPECTRE for the deaths of his family at the orders of Ernst Stavro Blofeld. He acquires Project Heracles, a programmable bioweapon made by MI6 which Safin reverse-engineers and mass produces into a virus that toxifies the DNA with nanobots, which he intends to globally release and kill millions with to start a new world order.
Being a man of pure mystery and a powerful terrorist mastermind, Safin is the most dangerous enemy that Bond ever faced, even much more cunning, intelligent and dangerous than Bond's archenemy Blofeld. He is shown to be extremely delusional, as he believes that his actions make him worthy to become a god creating chaos for the sake of shaping the world in his own image. He also sees himself as a ruthless and nasty reflection to Bond, cruelly mocking the latter saying that his own skills would live on after death whereas Bond's skills would die along with him.
Due to his reputation as a powerful key figure in the world of terrorism and anarchism, Safin is also known to be a nearly supervillain-esque individual, using his skills and his gifted talents and intelligence to outsmart others into driving away from core beliefs that they used to work or follow after.
Safin's most defining trait is his desire for revenge against SPECTRE, mostly against Blofeld for ordering Mr. White to murder Safin's family. However, despite Safin's sympathetic backstory, it becomes less of a factor in his motivation. It's this trait that differentiates him from Bond completely: whereas Bond used the loss of his loved ones to prevent further pain and suffering of innocents in the hands of SPECTRE, Safin blamed his loss not just on SPECTRE, but society as a whole, finding the very concept of innocence to be redundant.
This was even apparent in the past when he murdered Mr. White's wife for the sole crime of having been married once to his family's killer, even though she had nothing to do with Mr. White's crimes. Even when after learning that Mr. White committed suicide out of remorse before Blofeld was arrested, Safin refuses to give up his desire for revenge as he managed to have Blofeld and all the SPECTRE members murdered with the usage of the nanobots. By the time SPECTRE is completely wiped out, Safin's tragedy no longer holds up and is solely interested in fashioning himself as a deity determined to take over and rule the world for himself, making him no better than Blofeld.
Despite his ruthless nature, Safin is not without a few redeemable qualities. Despite having murdered Swann's mother, Safin rescued Swann from being drowned in a frozen lake in spite of his feud against her father Mr. White. While holding Bond and Swann's daughter Mathilde hostage, Safin gets bitten in the hand by Mathilde, but he lets her go free rather than trying to hurt or kill her. However, this is all considered pragmatic in general as he only needed both Swann and Mathilde's genetic codes on several nanobots that would kill them both.
Safin is also shown to be resourceful as he uses his own intelligence and skills to outsmart others (especially Bond and Blofeld). He is also very diabolical in nature as he intends to unleash the nanobots to kill millions of people and establish a new world order under his fists. Even before being defeated and shot to death by Bond, Safin retaliated by infecting Bond with the nanobots to permanently deny him any chances for a peaceful life with Swann and Mathilde, forcing Bond to sacrifice himself in order to put an end to Safin's plot for good.
Safin is a handsome, tall, slim and young looking man with fair skin and thick chocolate brown hair with matching eyes. His face is notably covered with chemical burns from Mr. White's dioxin attack on his family. In his youth, he hid this with a white Noh mask depicting a blank facial expression.
He appears to have a rather expensive and elegant fashion sense as well with his most advertised outfit being his navy blue long kimono with a charcoal tunic and trousers underneath it.
Safin started out as the child of a chemist family living in an island base located between Japan and Russia. Safin's parents were also known as toxicologists working for Mr. White of SPECTRE. However, tragedy struck when Ernst Stavro Blofeld (the founder/leader of SPECTRE and Mr. White's boss) ordered Mr. White to murder Safin's family. When Mr. White murdered Safin's family by arranging a dioxin attack, Safin was spared, but he is left facially disfigured due to the attack and was filled with a thirst for revenge against SPECTRE for killing his family.
Determined to ensure that the all members of SPECTRE (especially Blofeld and White) must suffer and that their entire organization must be destroyed, Safin grew up to become a wanted terrorist. In 1998, he located Mr. White's house in Norway and arrived with the intent to kill him, but instead he found Mr. White's wife and murders her, much to the horror of her young daughter Madeleine Swann. Swann grabbed a gun and shot Safin multiple times, cracking his mask, although his bulletproof vest saved him from death. Safin awoke and chased Swann as she was attempting to dispose of his body. Swann fled and ended up falling into a frozen lake. However, rather than killing Swann, Safin instead saves her and spares her before escaping away.
Eventually, Safin learned that Mr. White has committed suicide in 2015 out of complete remorse after his fallout with SPECTRE and that former MI6 agent James Bond (with the help from a grown-up Swann) has Blofeld arrested for his crimes against humanity. Despite this act of justice, Safin refused to give up his goal for revenge, so he studied Bond's history and intends to use it against him.
Five years following a fallout between Bond and Swann due to a botched assassination attempt by several SPECTRE agents led by Primo, Safin formulated a plot for revenge and power. He allies himself with a treacherous MI6 scientist named Valdo Obruchev, who has created a nanobots program called Project Heracles, in which the nanobots will spread like a virus upon touch, and are coded to specific DNA strands such that they are lethal if programmed to the specific individual's genetic code. As part of Safin's plan, Obruchev arranges for himself to be kidnapped by Primo and several SPECTRE agents as they intend to use Project Heracles to free Blofeld from custody, kill Bond, bring SPECTRE back to power and take over the world.
Upon hearing about Obruchev's kidnapping and that he will be force to attend a SPECTRE meeting in Cuba, Bond, along with CIA agents Felix Leiter, Logan Ash and Paloma infiltrate into the meeting to rescue Obruchev, only to end up being trapped by the SPECTRE members. Blofeld, who is leading the meeting through a bionic eye to see and communicate while still in MI6 custody, orders for Bond to be killed with the nanobots, but instead, Obruchev reprograms the nanobots (per Safin's orders) to kill all of the SPECTRE members, something which no one (not even Blofeld himself) had expected. Even worse, Ash is revealed to be in league with Safin as he murders Leiter while escaping with Obruchev. Even Primo too himself was in league with Safin the entire time as he purposely allowed Obruchev to reprogram the nanobots to kill all the SPECTRE members.
When Bond goes in to interrogate Blofeld about the events, Safin confronts and blackmails Swann into getting herself infected with nanobots as part of his next move to murder Blofeld, since Swann was the only person in contact with Blofeld ever since his imprisonment. Upon meeting Swann, Bond touches her and unknowingly infects himself before Swann leaves in a huff. When Bond interrogates Blofeld, the latter reveals that he staged the assassination attempt and made it look like Swann had betrayed him, all just to cause more pain to Bond by straining his relationship with Swann. Enraged by this revelation, Bond attacks Blofeld, which allows the nanobots to infect and murder Blofeld just as Safin planned, something which a horrified Bond didn't expect. Upon learning that he was infected with the nanobots that murdered Blofeld, Bond confronts Swann, who informs him about Safin's past and actions, and that she has a five-year-old daughter named Mathilde, who also happens to be Bond's daughter.
Final Fight and Death
Despite having succeeded in murdering Blofeld and his forces and dismantling SPECTRE as promised, Safin continues on his rampage as he sends Ash and several of their men try to kidnap Bond, Swann and Mathilde. Though Bond was able to kill Ash and several of Safin's men, Safin succeeded in kidnapping Swann and Mathilde, taking them to his island base. Giving an escort to a place called the Posion Garden where his parents created their poisons before they died, Safin takes Mathilde prisoner while having Primo to hold Swann in a different cell. Upon heading over to the base with MI6 agent Nomi, Bond soon learns of Safin's true plot: he has converted the base into a nanobot factory and has Obruchev create millions of nanobots, and that Safin intends to unleash them as a biological weapon to kill millions of people so that he can take over the world for himself.
Refusing to let Safin succeed, Bond and Nomi take down many of Safin's men while Swann frees herself from custody after attacking Primo. However, Safin lets Mathilde go free and awaits for Bond's next move. After Bond and Swann rescue Mathilde while Nomi kills Obruchev by kicking him in a nanobot pool, Bond has Nomi, Swann and Mathilde escape on a boat while he stays behind to open the island's missile silos so that the British Navy can launch a missile strike to destroy the base with the nanobots inside. Bond manages to kill Primo and the rest of Safin's men before heading to the control console to open the silos. However, before Bond could escape, Safin closes the silos, prompting Bond to return back to the control console to re-open them. An unperturbed Safin ambushes Bond by shooting him while he is en route at the Poison Garden.
The two engage in a brawl, where Safin resorts to infecting Bond with several nanobots again, this time equipped with the genetic code of Swann and Mathilde. As both lay heavily injured inside the Poison Garden, Safin taunts Bond that even if he would kill Safin and escape, Swann and Mathilde will both suffer the same fate as Blofeld and the SPECTRE members if Bond were ever to touch them again. Unperturbed by this, Bond kills Safin by shooting him three times and re-opens the silos despite his injuries.
Despite Safin's death, Bond is completely distraught that he is permanently denied of any chances of living a peaceful life without risking his loved ones' safety, knowing now that the nanobots in his body will be spread out to those that he gets into contact and intensify any chance that both Swann and Mathilde will die. Climbing up into a roof for one last look on the horizon, Bond confesses to Swann through a radio about the situation and that he loves her, encouraging her to move on without him and live a peaceful life with Mathilde. Bond then accepts his fate perishing to his death in the missile explosion that destroys the entire base with all the nanobots inside, thus foiling Safin's plot for good and bringing full closure for the pain and suffering that Bond endured throughout all his life.
As such, even in death and with his plot foiled, Safin has succeeded in the one thing that no one - not even the deceased Blofeld himself - could ever accomplish: killing James Bond.
Welcome. James Bond...history of violence, licence to kill, vendetta with Ernst Blofeld, in love with Madeleine Swann. I could be speaking to my own reflection. [James Bond: We've made different choices.] No. We have visionary plans for the same goal, only your skills die with your body. Mine will survive long after I'm gone...and life is all about leaving something behind, isn't it?Safin meeting Bond in person while holding Mathilde hostage.
Look at all the mess you've done, like an animal! Yet, now we've sealed our fate at one another. Anything you touch... like a kiss or a hug, dies with her. Yes, Madeleine. Yes, Mathilde. You made me do this, you see. This was your choice.Safin's final words before being killed by Bond.
- Producer Barbara Broccoli described the character as "the one that really gets under Bond's skin. He's a nasty piece of work.", while Malek described the character as someone who considers "himself as a hero almost in the same way that Bond is a hero". Fukunaga described Safin as "more dangerous than anyone Bond has ever encountered" and a "hyper-intelligent and worthy adversary".
- Safin is fascinated with plants and botany, as he runs a Poison Garden with various plants that have varying capabilities.
- Prior to the film's release some theorized that Safin could be the rebooted series' adaptation of Dr. Julius No due to the film's title. Although many of those who suggested this were merely joking, others genuinely believed this to be the case and that the film's title was supposed to be interpreted as a threat from Bond himself. Additionally, the two characters share similarities:
- Both have a secretive island lair.
- Both have extreme god complexes that are challenged by Bond.
- Both villains are involved in biochemical warfare.
- Both have injuries/scarring relating to a biohazardous accident.
- Both villains wear clothing with a Japanese aesthetic; Safin wears a kimono, vaguely resembling Dr. No's nehru jacket. Additionally, Safin's mask is inspired by the Noh and Kabuki-style Japanese masks.
- Additionally, in No Time to Die, Safin is referred to as "Doctor" by several of his subordinates, despite there being little evidence to suggest he is one. A popular theory was that Safin was Dr. No in an earlier draft of the film, although this was written out during reshoots that occurred in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A limited number of Safin's mask replicas are available for sale on the official 007 store for £295.
- Safin's first name is pronounced as Lucifer, better known as Satan, the ruler of Hell.
- Safin is the second main villain in the rebooted James Bond series to physically fight Bond aside from Dominic Greene. This is due to the following:
- Le Chiffre was not a fighter in any sense, and the only physical altercation he has with Bond was when he tortured him, during which he managed to get himself killed by Mr. White for betraying Quantum's trust.
- Silva, although being chased by Bond a few times and having his childhood home destroyed by him, technically never fought Bond since beyond trying to distract him with hazards and sending his goons after him, his interest lied with M, which would ultimately be his undoing as Bond stabbed him in the back to death without much of a fight upon Silva being unable to bring himself to kill her.
- Similarly to Le Chiffre, Blofeld was not a fighter and relied on his goons to do his dirty work for him while overseeing the battles from afar. In the end, his plans were more complex and relied more on the mental torture of Bond, and come the climax, he simply had his helicopter shot down before being arrested (although he was later attacked and accidentally killed by Bond without much of a fight later in No Time To Die as this article details).
- As of currently, Safin is the only villain in the entire 007 franchise to successfully kill James Bond (albeit indirectly), something that the other villains in the past (including Blofeld) have failed to do.