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SYFY WIRE James Bond

Ana de Armas & Jeffrey Wright: The Unsung Heroes of No Time To Die

The James Bond franchise could sure use more characters like these.

By Benjamin Bullard

More than most James Bond films, Daniel Craig’s definitively final performance as Agent 007 in No Time to Die (streaming here on Peacock) asks a pretty big investment from viewers. With a runtime of nearly three hours and a sinister story that dwells farther over into the somber and serious side of the franchise’s durably endearing mix of emotional notes, it’s a heavy, main-course kind of movie rather than a lightweight dessert.

It’s also epically great, of course, replete with a freaky biological-warfare MacGuffin and some of the wildest and most inventive action set pieces in the entire James Bond movie canon. As you’d expect from a tentpole Bond flick — the 25th in the series and Craig’s swan song as its 2000s-era star — the huge A-list cast is terrific, too. But at a chunky 163 minutes, even a great James Bond movie needs more than powerhouse casting, mind-blowing stunt work, and a satisfying ending to keep its pace lilting along. No Time to Die finds the solution for early-onset marathon-movie fatigue in a couple of well-placed character diversions that, in hindsight since its 2021 release, save the film from sinking under its own heft.

For More on No Time to Die:
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The Faroe Islands is some place to die: Daniel Craig's James Bond gets his own gravestone
'No Time to Die' director on building James Bond a city – and the unnoticed Easter egg hidden within

Hello Ana de Armas! (And goodbye, Jeffrey Wright) — The revolving door of James Bond characters

Those two diversions come early in the movie, and critically, they couldn’t be more different from one another. One arrives as a fun and funny interlude between Bond and a CIA Agent named Paloma (Ana de Armas); the other as a poignant farewell between Bond and returning CIA officer Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright). Each encounter caries a tone distinctly its own, though they do share a common, ahem, thematic bond.

Perched at the bar of a snazzy Cuban nightclub, Paloma (De Armas) comes onscreen disarmingly wide-eyed and unserious (“I’ve done three weeks’ training!”) — but she proves robotically precise at her actual job when it counts. In that implausibly too-competent fashion that all the Bond movies are beloved for, de Armas kicks butt in an impeccable blue velvet dress while tag-teaming terrorists alongside 007 — all while finding time, in a split-second break from all the bullet-spraying chaos — to pour out and down a couple of nerve-steeling liquor shots.

Palmona (Ana de Armas) wears a deep neck dress in No Time to Die (2021).

It would be a shame if the franchise doesn’t find an excuse to reintroduce Paloma when Craig’s 007 successor finally does arrive in some future film, because de Armas brings a verve and humor to every moment she’s onscreen. “Next time, stay longer,” Paloma half-jokes to Bond as she makes her way-too-early exit from the movie — and if there’s any balanced justice in the larger James Bond movie-verse, we’re definitely hoping the same for her.

Felix’s role in No Time to Die is a bit more expansive than Paloma’s, but the emotional weight of Wright’s performance all comes down to a pivotal scene where it’s clear the audience is seeing him in a James Bond movie for the last time. The key moment happens right after Paloma bows out and things immediately go sideways, with Bond and Felix stranded in the bowels of a boat after being double-crossed (and Felix mortally shot) by Felix’s supposedly loyal new field-agent partner in Cuba.

James Bond (Daniel Craig) tends to a wounded Felix (Jeffrey Wright) in No Time to Die (2021).

With the boat bombed and sinking and taking on water, Felix essentially passes the torch of foiling Spectre’s evil plan to Bond to carry forward on his behalf. Even (or perhaps especially) in his final moments, it’s Felix’s way of showing that he and Bond are really special-agent birds of a feather. Though these two human bloodhounds might hail from opposite sides of the international pond, they each share the same instinct for getting the bad guy — no matter the personal cost. “It’s a good life, isn’t it?” Felix breathes as his dying words to Bond — and with full heartbreaking conviction, James responds, “The best.”

Both de Armas and Wright appear in (and then vanish from) the film in its first hour, lending No Time to Die some much needed momentum before picking up its twisting, complicated larger plot in the movie’s back half. More importantly, each makes their departure long before the audience has seen nearly enough of them, giving viewers an emotional hook to stay invested in all the insane hoops our hero will subsequently jump through just to ensure that their contributions matter in the end.

Thanks to the film’s infamously bittersweet ending (which there’s no reason to spoil here), Bond finishes his journey assured that his accomplices’ actions do matter. One might be a heart-stirring sacrifice and the other a hopeful sign of future Bond things to come — but together, de Armas and Wright remain high points in the closing chapter of Craig’s epic and remarkable movie stint in Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Stream No Time to Die on Peacock here.