The following post discusses plot details of No Time To Die.
Despite offering definitive closure for Daniel Craig’s tenure as 007, No Time To Die chases its final credit roll with a card that promises, “James Bond will return”—a sly callback that should delight longtime fans of the series. Of course, if the filmmakers wanted to really bring the house down, they should’ve capped things off with: “Ana de Armas will return.”
Since Cary Joji Fukunaga’s movie—the 25th official James Bond film from Eon Productions—sees the spy at his most haunted and dour, it’s de Armas’ all-too-brief turn as green CIA operative Paloma that brings a welcome spark to the largely somber affair. In barely the time it takes to shake up a martini, Paloma trades quips with Bond, kicks some SPECTRE ass, then says her goodbyes, leaving a major impression after one rollicking action sequence. Her absence is sorely felt throughout the rest of the movie.
The scenes in question find a now-retired Bond traveling to Cuba at the request of American CIA friend Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) to infiltrate a swanky SPECTRE party in hopes of locating a missing Russian scientist with ties to biologically threatening nanobot technology. There, he has his rendezvous with Paloma and the two head inside, dressed to impress. After a round of drinks, the shit quickly hits the fan in an exhilarating sequence that includes Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) holding court via detached cybernetic eyeball, a terrifying mass face-melting via nanobot tech, a game of keep-away with the scientist when new 007 Nomi (Lashana Lynch) enters the fray, and at least two more rounds of drinks. Once out of harm’s way, Paloma basically tells Bond, “Well, looks like this is goodbye,” and it’s not until a few scenes later that you realize she actually meant it. That’s the last we see of her.
She’s on screen so briefly, it’s almost a cameo. But what a cameo! The actor plays the part with a disarming affability, balancing bright-eyed eagerness with cool nonchalance. Not unlike her breakout role as the meek caregiver Marta in Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, Paloma initially comes off as something of an ingénue, but that quality masks a fighting spirit. If there was any lingering doubt after the 2019 murder mystery that de Armas was a star, one need only watch the way she waltzes into the James Bond franchise and steals the spotlight from its hero in under 20 minutes.
When Bond first approaches Paloma, she’s sitting bar-side, sipping Coca-Cola through a straw in a stunning Michael Lo Sordo gown with a plunging neckline. In terms of “Bond Girl” glamour, she certainly fits the bill, but it’s her blithe excitement—and her admission that she’s had only three weeks of training—that undercuts the role’s presumed prestige. There’s the sense that this is a junior agent playing dress-up as the “international super-spy.” That impression is soon dispelled when we see her in action; Paloma, we’ll quickly learn, is highly skilled and knows exactly the image she’s projecting.
The character further subverts expectations of the Bond Girl trope when she pulls Bond into a secluded wine cellar and begins unbuttoning his shirt. Like clockwork, he quips about how quickly their relationship is advancing, which Paloma immediately brushes off: She’s just trying to get him dressed. She might not be entirely impervious to 007’s charms, but his appeal lies squarely in the fact that she needs him to get the job done. Paloma’s a professional, first and foremost, and de Armas demonstrates what makes her uniquely well-suited for the mission, even down to the way she handles Bond’s advances.
It’s no surprise that the pair have crackling (albeit strictly professional) chemistry, given that de Armas and Craig made such an effective sleuthing duo in Knives Out. Fukunaga was reportedly already eyeing the actress for a part in No Time To Die, so he pitched the idea to Craig, who was happy to have her on board for his fifth and final Bond. With production starting up just a few months after they wrapped on Johnson’s “whydunnit,” de Armas and Craig slipped back into their lively repartee with ease, and the result is the film’s most dynamic action set-piece with a classic 007 flair.
Craig is an ace with the winking one-liner, and there’s fun to be had across his five films as Bond. But his last feels saddled with a responsibility to end the arc of the most emotional 007 on a note of poignancy. Remember when Bond was so eager to dive into the next mission, to chase down the next lead, that M16 had trouble keeping him under its thumb? Lately it seems like he’s only “on Her Majesty’s secret service” out of weary obligation.
Thankfully, Paloma is there to give Bond, and the movie, a shot in the arm: Her arrival and the ensuing ass-kicking helps keep the otherwise weighty affair afloat, capturing that perfect blend of the grand, the gripping, and the goofy that’s made 007 a cornerstone of the box office for nearly 60 years. It’s been a thrill watching Bond evolve and meet the times in Craig’s gifted hands, but it’s de Armas’ energetic turn that points to where the franchise should go next. No longer beholden to the gritty, 15-year narrative plan kicked off in Casino Royale, the franchise would be wise to adopt Paloma’s outlook, delivering a 007 who’s looking forward instead of one constantly haunted by the past.
But what is next for James Bond? It’s worth noting that Lashana Lynch’s Nomi creates just as strong of an impression as de Armas, with much more substantial screen time. Captivating and capable, Lynch could headline a 007 movie of her own, though No Time To Die makes it clear she is definitely not “James Bond,” so one wonders what the long-term plans are for her when that end card swears “James Bond will return.” Regardless, the last few Daniel Craig films have done exceptional legwork in building out a cohesive world around Bond, investing us in his colleagues at MI6 and beyond. So whoever assumes the mantle next will have quite the support net.
Which brings us back to Paloma. We may have had to say a teary-eyed farewell to Felix Leiter, but the future James Bond has an exciting new ally in the CIA upstart, and she could easily pop in to be the best part of 007 movies for years to come. Ana de Armas plays her with just the right amount of mystery, and it’d be a blast to watch her fill in the blanks as she becomes a more confident agent, film after film. One could even argue the character deserves a spin-off movie of her own, but it’s probably best not to encourage Eon Productions to pursue the Marvel method with a whole slew of interconnected characters and films. Maybe leave the rest of Bond’s multiverse unexplored.
As for de Armas, No Time To Die pays off the promise of Knives Out: that this is a serious movie star in the making. Like many of her upcoming projects (Deep Water opposite former beau Ben Affleck, starry spy flick The Gray Man, and Andrew Dominik’s Marilyn Monroe biopic Blonde), Die hit some pandemic-related delays. But that hasn’t derailed what’s about to be a big year for the actor. Let’s just hope she leaves some room in her schedule for more James Bond. Whether Lynch reassumes the 007 title, or the series passes the buck to another fresh face, the future 007 would be lucky to have a talented scene-stealer like Ana de Armas at their side.