This is not an Ana de Armas stan account, but the Cuban-born actress supplies the latest James Bond adventure with its most electrifying ten minutes, so let’s open the discussion of No Time to Die (★★★☆☆) with her. She plays Paloma, Bond’s contact for a top-secret mission in Havana to extract an important asset. Paloma demurely claims this is her first turn in the field, after three whole weeks of agent training — then proceeds to kick ass and blast henchmen fearlessly while looking absolutely fabulous in a floor-length designer gown.
Soon to be seen in Blonde, a fictionalized film chronicle of Marilyn Monroe, de Armas appears to have brought a bit of Marilyn at her most poised and playful to the part. Daniel Craig, in his heralded last go-round as the secret agent, lights up opposite his Knives Out co-star, and the movie misses her once Paloma flies off-screen. Seriously, as the globe-trotting tale alights from Cuba to London to Norway and beyond, it’s hard not to wonder, when is Paloma coming back? Is Paloma coming back?
Alas, that scintillating sequence is all the time we spend with her. Rather than diving into exciting new relationships, No Time to Die, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, aims to reckon with Bond’s tortured past. The action is lean, the soul-searching persistent, and the atmosphere elegiac, offering Craig a heartfelt send-off as James Bond tries to account for the devastating losses he has both experienced and caused as a licensed-to-kill, double-0 agent. Bond starts by saying one last goodbye to the late Vesper Lind, portrayed as the great love of his life across the now-five films of Craig’s tenure, starting with 2006 blockbuster Casino Royale.
Now retired from Her Majesty’s Service, Bond has a new love in his life, Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), the psychiatrist he romanced in the previous installment, Spectre. That film, directed by Sam Mendes, also introduced Christoph Waltz as classic Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld, and, aptly reflecting moviemaking in the age of the MCU, grafted a connected universe mythology onto Craig’s Bond adventures. Blofeld proclaimed he had been the puppet-master pulling the strings all along. No Time to Die works overtime to tie up any loose ends Spectre might have left hanging, and close the connected circle.
Accordingly, Blofeld makes a repeat appearance, although this time, he might only be a pawn in another villain’s scheme. But mask-wearing sociopath Lyutsifer Safin, played by Rami Malek, is nowhere near as impishly entertaining as Waltz’s Blofeld. In that sense, the character and Malek’s rather grave performance fit the film, the plot of which hinges on loss, betrayal, revenge, and wresting control of a deadly bio-chemical agent.
The stakes are compelling, and the drama well-acted, especially by Craig and Seydoux — but heart-to-heart talks preside too heavily, and at great length, over the kinetic thrills of spy games. Rather than the classic Bond-style sprawling, intricately choreographed action that propelled Spectre and Skyfall to engaging heights, the chase and fight sequences here rely on brute force and brisk, tightly staged clashes.
Meanwhile, Ben Whishaw’s quietly queer Q continues to provide keen gadgets and light comic relief, while Ralph Fiennes and Naomie Harris return to offer solid support as MI6 boss M and secretary Miss Moneypenny. And, as the newest double-0 agent, Nomi, Lashana Lynch shows she has the cool, charisma, and physical presence to embody the future of the franchise. Yet, her role in the story suggests the custodians of Ian Fleming’s characters don’t really intend to go there.
No Time to Die is decidedly not about establishing who’s next, but about appreciating the star who’s held it down for the last 15 years (and raked in a few billion box-office dollars) as the world’s most famous secret agent. Indeed, Craig and his assets are lovingly photographed, in and out of a tuxedo, while the story allows the actor a dynamic emotional range, as Bond wrestles with walking away from his past — or, rather, speeding off into the sunset in his souped-up Aston-Martin. However Bond makes his exit, and inevitable return, Craig definitely leaves 007 looking better than when he arrived.
No Time to Die opens in theaters everywhere Friday, Oct. 8. Visit www.fandango.com.
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!