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 James Bond film No Time to Die, Daniel Craig's final film as the titular character. He was also briefly mentioned 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 after quitting SPECTRE and that Blofeld was arrested afterwards, 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 just as despicable as Blofeld; even Bond himself points out that Safin's backstory doesn't justify his plot in taking over the world by killing millions of innocents through the nanobots.
Despite his ruthless nature, Safin is not without a few redeemable qualities. Despite having murdered Swann's mother, Safin spared Swann in the moment by rescuing her from drowning in a frozen lake. While holding Bond and Swann's daughter Mathilde hostage, Safin gets bitten in the hand by Mathilde, but he willingly lets her go free rather than trying to hurt or kill her. However, this is somewhat undermined as he inputted both Swann and Mathilde's genetic codes in several nanobots that could kill them both if James ever made physical contact with them, rendering his care for them somewhat hollow. Despite that, it could be also said that he at least has qualms against hurting or killing children directly because of deciding to not kill Mathilde and rescuing a young Madeleine from drowning, especially since he would have hurt both James and Madeleine even more by doing so. Additionally, even though it doesn't excuse his actions, Safin genuinely cared about his late family, as part of his motivation was to avenge them. However, his desire for vengeance and hunger for power proved to be so great that his care for them no longer became a factor for his motivation and only wanted to remake the world in his image as a god. Also, it should be noted that his plan will not only kill those related to SPECTRE, but many families, including children who had nothing to do with his tragedy, thus making his standards somewhat moot in the process.
Safin is also shown to be resourceful as he uses his own intelligence and skills to outsmart others (especially the clever Bond and and the intelligent 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 managed to infect Bond with the nanobots to permanently deny him any chances for a peaceful life with Swann and Mathilde, forcing a depressed 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. As part of the plan, Mr. White murdered Safin's family by arranging a dioxin attack during a banquet in their supposed honor. Though Safin was spared, 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. To protect herself, 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. This event is what drove a furious Swann to cut all ties with Mr. White, blaming him for what happened back then.
Eventually, Safin learned that Mr. White has committed suicide in 2015 out of complete remorse after quitting 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, knowing fully well that SPECTRE will still remain active in spite of Blofeld's arrest. As such, Safin 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 (receiving a warning call from Safin) 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 to discuss plans for the nanobots, 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 remaining 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 (including Dr. Vogel, Moreau, Abrika, Valerian and Marshall), something which no one (not even Blofeld himself) had expected. Even worse, Primo and Ash are revealed to be in league with Safin as Primo purposely allowed Obruchev to reprogram the nanobots to murder all the SPECTRE members while Ash murders Leiter before escaping with Obruchev.
When Bond goes in to interrogate Blofeld about the events, Safin personally confronts and blackmails Swann into getting herself infected with nanobots as part of his next move to murder Blofeld, since Swann is 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 in revenge for his arrest. 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.
Despite having succeeded in murdering Blofeld and dismantling SPECTRE as promised, Safin continues on his rampage as he sends Ash and several of their men in black SUVs and motorcycles in an attempt 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 via helicopter. Giving an escort to a place called the Poison 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 next plot: Safin 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 toxic acid 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 codes of Swann and Mathilde, implying that he only kidnapped them to obtain their genetic codes as a final resort against Bond. As both lay heavily injured inside the Poison Garden, Safin spitefully 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. An unperturbed Bond picks up a pistol and kills Safin by shooting him in the face three times, right before proceeding to re-open the silo doors.
Despite Safin's death, Bond is completely distraught of the fact 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, which will cause him more pain than the previous tragedies that he endured all of his life. Deciding that Swann and Mathilde's lives are too valuable than his own, Bond climbs up into a roof for one last look on the horizon, confessing 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 all 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. Nevertheless, Bond's memory is honored by M, Nomi, and Q back in MI6 for his heroic sacrifice and legacy, while Madeleine takes Mathilde to Matera where she tells her about her father's legacy.
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. And now, we are both poisoned with heartbreak. Two heroes in a tragedy of our own making. Everyone we touch, we are their curse. A stroke to their cheek... a kiss... would kill them instantly. Yes... Madeleine. Yes... Mathilde. You made me do this, you see. This was your choice.Safin's final words before being killed by Bond after infecting the latter with nanobots that would instantly kill Swann and Mathilde.
- 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 which resulted the film being delayed multiple times.
- 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 big bad 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 destroying his childhood home, 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, whom Safin also killed as well) have failed to do.
- Lyutsifer Safin serves as a foil to James Bond; both lost their parents in a very short age (In James’ case, his parents died tragically in a climbing accident while Safin’s family died murdered by Mr. White by a dioxin attack, via Blofeld’s orders, which also scarred him in the process.), both have a personal vendetta against Ernst Stavro Blofeld and they are both professional killers. However, unlike James, (who used the loss of his loved ones to prevent further pain and suffering of innocents in the hands of SPECTRE.) Safin blamed his tragedy not only on SPECTRE, but to society as a whole finding the very concept of innocence to be redundant and came to the conclusion that he should remake the world by murdering millions of innocents through the nanobots. Ultimately, Safin serves as a darker example if James Bond never lets go of his tragic past, which it will control him instead of the other way around.
- Safin's plot has been compared to the "World of Tomorrow" mission of HITMAN (2016), where Italian scientists Silvio Caruso and Francesca De Santis are assassinated while creating a DNA-specific virus similar to Heracles. IO Interactive, the studio behind the Hitman franchise, secured rights for a James Bond video game, Project 007.