No Time To Die: The Evil Plot Of Rami Malek's Safin Explained

Rami Malek looks coolly towards the screen in No Time To Die.
(Image credit: Danjaq, LLC and MGM)

Warning: massive SPOILERS for No Time To Die are about to be dropped. If you haven’t seen the epic conclusion to the Daniel Craig era of James Bond, this is your warning to turn back and avoid the gritty details. 

In comparing himself to a reflection of James Bond (Daniel Craig,) No Time To Die villain Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek) couldn’t be more correct. Orphaned by Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), in love with Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) and possessing an overdeveloped trigger finger of his own, this adversary of SPECTRE will do whatever it takes to best his enemies. And in his fight against all who oppose him, Safin has a weapon of great destruction in his arsenal: Project Heracles.

The only thing scarier than what Project Heracles can do is its origins. And in order to dissect No Time To Die’s central Macguffin, we’ll have to trace a decade’s worth of history to the bitter truth. Consider this your last warning for spoilers, as Safin’s evil plot is about to be explained, right down to the last detail. If you’re comfortable moving forward, let’s begin by breaking down just what Rami Malek’s chilling baddie set out to do in the 25th James Bond movie.

Rami Malek in No Time to Die

(Image credit: Danjaq LLC and MGM)

Lyutsifer Safin’s Evil Plot, Explained

No Time To Die wastes no time getting the wheels in motion for Lyutsifer Safin’s master plan. Working with MI6 scientist/defector Valdo Obruchev (David Dencik), the first step in the game was to let the enemy make the first move. In this case, the enemy is SPECTRE, and that opening gambit is to steal Project Heracles from an MI6 black site, along with Obruchev himself. Though SPECTRE and Safin have very different uses for this weapon.

It all comes to a head in Cuba, as James Bond and CIA agent Paloma (Ana de Armas) infiltrate a secret birthday party for Ernst Stavro Blofeld. With SPECTRE in possession of Project Heracles, Blofeld intends on killing James Bond with this mysterious DNA-targeting weapon. But as planned by Safin, Valdo Obruchev double crosses SPECTRE and kills almost their entire organization on his behalf.

The last loose end in Safin’s revenge plot, spurred by the fact that Blofeld sent Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) to kill his family, is the man himself. No Time To Die soon sees that tied up, thanks to the cold blooded killer recruiting the young woman he spared decades prior, Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux.) Once Blofeld is out of the picture, all that remains is for Safin to kidnap Dr. Swann and ship out a new version of Project Heracles that will make the world a little tidier. Of course, by "tider," what Safin really means is he intends to wipe out his enemies, their bloodlines and a whole bunch of other people on a worldwide scale. 

Ralph Fiennes looking angry in his office in No Time To Die.

(Image credit: Danjaq, LLC and MGM)

The Origins Of Project Heracles

How did such a weapon of mass genocide come to be? As in quite a few cases in world history, No Time To Die’s secret weapon was developed by the people we’re supposed to trust with our lives. Under the watchful eye of current “M” Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), Project Heracles was developed over the last decade. Its existence was kept “off the books” in order to make sure it didn’t get into the wrong hands. The intent, as M himself put it, was to provide “a clean accurate shot, every time.” 

Through the use of cutting edge technology, Project Heracles was supposed to be an efficient killer. Its development thrived thanks to the assistance from Valdo Obruchev after his defection. But somewhere along the line, James Bond thought the project was shut down, or at least he felt that it should have been. Five years after the events of Spectre, and Commander Bond’s retirement from active service, Project Heracles was stolen. What’s worse is that thanks to the disgruntled Obruchev’s work, the destructive capability of this clandestine project was scaled to a much higher yield.

Daniel Craig targeted on a digital display in No Time To Die.

(Image credit: Danjaq, LLC and MGM)

How Project Heracles Was Intended To Work

In its original design, No Time To Die’s Project Heracles is a deadly simple weapon. Using a DNA sample from the target intended, Heracles uses a swarm of microscopic nanobots to take out only the person that sample is sequenced to. Project Heracles harmless to whomever isn’t identified by the DNA profile used when sequencing the weapon, which was what Blofeld intended when trying to kill James Bond at his surprise birthday party. However, once Valdo Obruchev switched the target sample with everyone on SPECTRE's roster, the results were less than ideal for the imprisoned maniac. 

The downsides to this tech are even greater, as Q (Ben Whishaw) himself proclaimed with the rather funny quip of, “Nanobots aren’t just for Christmas.” Project Heracles is permanently a part of any exposed subject’s bloodstream. One touch will transfer those replicating nanobots to another person until they hit their intended target. We saw this in action with the death of Blofeld, as Madeleine’s bespoke fragrance of death in No Time To Die went from her to Bond, and from Bond to Blofeld upon our hero trying to choke out his adopted brother. It’s a personal form of revenge in its original conception, but thanks to the combined imagination of Lyutsifer Safin and Valdo Obruchev, it becomes the largest threat in the Daniel Craig era of James Bond.

No Time To Die Daniel Craig looks concerned while standing in a lab

(Image credit: DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM)

Safin’s Variant Of Project Heracles

What happens when you team a racist, disgruntled scientist with a megalomaniac who's a dark version of James Bond? You get a terror plot that sounds a little bit like the classic ploy Blofeld tried to carry out in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Only instead of a handful of “angels of death,” Safin plans to use a modified version of Project Heracles to tidy up the world. This variant of Project Heracles can wipe out entire family lines, ethnic groups and any genetic traits the person wielding it wants to target. We see this through the deaths of a family that were related to a fallen SPECTRE lieutenan after the events of the Cuban showdown in No Time To Die

But also, Valdo Obruchev himself threatens Nomi (Lashana Lynch) with his ability to now target very specific ethnicities. What was once a genetic sniper rifle has now become a potential weapon of mass destruction for any crackpot with a grudge; which is why James Bond ordered the destruction of Safin’s poison garden. Sadly, it’s also what forced him to sacrifice himself, thanks to his infection with a final, twisted Heracles variant that would have killed Madeleine and Mathilde upon contact.

Daniel Craig gets injected with smart blood while sitting in Spectre.

(Image credit: Danjaq, LLC and MGM)

How Project Heracles May Have Shown Up In James Bond's Past

Crazily enough, a running thread through Daniel Craig’s run as James Bond may have provided a piece of foreshadowing that signaled this very threat. Whether it’s coincidental or by design, the usage of tracking devices on Bond has been a recurring device throughout most of the films. Ever since Casino Royale injected a smart tracker into James Bond, keeping tabs on his whereabouts through better chemistry has been trotted out time and again.

However, the greatest usage of such a technology, and the prospect that MI6 has been working with genetic toys for some time now, has to be Q’s “smart blood,” which was introduced in Spectre. Described as ”cutting edge nanotechnology” that could track Bond and monitor his vitals, as well as his location, this smart blood feels like a cousin to, if not a direct result of Project Heracles.; right down to M's orders to use it on 007 after his explosive trip to Mexico

This tracks with the timing of Heracles development, as according to No Time To Die, this project has been in development for a decade. So presumably at some point between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall, Valdo Obruchev defected to MI6 and Project Heracles was born. Sadly, since Q was left out of the loop, Safin and Obruchev were able to create a menace not even his know how could neutralize.

Project Heracles went from a secret only few knew about in the halls of MI6 into the largest threat that 007 himself would ever face down. It would be the weapon that Lyutsifer Safin almost decimated the world with, if it wasn’t for the fact that James Bond stopped him in the nick of time. While there’s certainly a degree of intimidation when it comes to whomever takes up the mantles of either James Bond or his next adversary, the next evil plot to be foiled by 007 is a subject of just as much scrutiny.

No Time To Die is in theaters now, or heading there shortly, depending on where you are in the world. So if you happen to have read this rundown without seeing the film, you can check your local listings and be ready to experience Daniel Craig’s final mission for yourself. And if you're all James Bond'ed out, head over to the 2021 release schedule and find yourself a nice movie to retire to.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.