007 is traditionally a womanizing British spy who’s considered the “quintessential man”. The Bond films were mostly seeded with sexism and toxic masculinity. Many of the stories were interesting and definitely full of action. However, the women and Black people were dispensable tools for the man’s use and not active characters in the narrative. No Time to Die changes this.
Immunity to the Womanizing Charms
Although we do not meet her at the beginning of the film, Lashana Lynch’s 007, whose name is Nomi, proves to be a breath of fresh air in the canon.
She arrives on the scene in a manner that completely catches Daniel Craig’s James Bond off guard, forcing him to step up his standards. He must give a show of his best moves, skills, in order to prove that he wasn’t “put out to pasture”. I guess leaving on his own is a better narrative for Bond’s ego to live with.
Lynch’s 007 throws shade at the man while furrowing her brow at the old spy’s womanizing tricks. For once, with Nomi and Moneypenny (Naomi Harris) are we get women in the film who don’t care about Bond’s charm. They see it coming from a mile away and are ready each time he tries something. You can’t fool Black Girl Magic. Bond learns this lesson the hard way. In that subtle change and a little diversity, we get a fresh take on the stale franchise.
But, Who is the Bond Girl in No Time to Die?
Light SPOILERS appear from here through the rest of the article.
It has become a tradition to have a “Bond Girl” or a gorgeous woman who stays pretty while fighting at the spy’s side. In No Time to Die, the woman who would be the obvious choice for his Bond Girl, Madeleine (Lèa Sydoux) is ruled out in the pre-credit scenes. There, we see her girlhood where Madeleine loses her mother and is connected to the “villain” of this story, Lyutsifer Safin, played by an overacting Rami Malek.
Madeleine has other secrets that she is ready to spill to Bond, but she misses her moment, and the spy finds out everything for himself. Getting the wrong idea, bond casts her aside within the first act of the film. In doing so, he leaves the Bond Girl position unfilled.
Then there’s the new 007, Nomi, but she ain’t the one either. She is not auditioning for the job of Bond Girl because she already IS 007. In fact, Nomi treats Bond-like her Bond Boy in every way but sex, which is amusing to watch. Bond’s last candidate, his Cuban date Paloma (Ana de Armas), but she also makes it clear that Bond Girl initiation is not in cards for them. Paloma makes it known early on that she is just trying to do her job. Don’t let the dress fool you, James.
Thus, No Time to Die technically has no Bond Girl. And, the whole movie survives the change. In fact, the absence of this relic role from the early 007 days, works to free up the narrative and the characters for more development. Lynch and Craig’s interactions are so much more action-filled as they compete for the 007 title and never once slide between the sheets. That’s just one result of that freedom. Bond is actually so much more intriguing when he is not trying to be a heaux.
So, Who’s The Villain?
The villain role is complex in this film but still survives the Bond Girl. Rami Malek plays the man who ultimately is presented as the villain.
However, this is after a complex bit about Spectre, Bond’s traditional enemy and the villain in many of his stories. The organization is always trying to do so much, but in this film, they may have met their match in newcomer Safin.
While Bond and Paloma’s Cuban adventure turns into a party for the spy and Spectre. Safin is out to get everyone and anyone who has wronged his Madeleine and harmed his family. That includes the man she now loves. By the time the audience puts all of the pieces together, there is another fresh Bond twist to encounter, another girl who may be more Bond’s girl than any other in the history of the franchise.
So Safin fills the villain role, despite some overacting on Malek’s part. It actually fits the sometimes campy nature of traditional Bond villains. He fills the bill for the series with the chases, secret plans, convoluted backstory, and a final fight that forces Bond to sacrifice someone he holds dear in order to save the world. This time, that person is himself.
A Few Hitches, But Overall Fun
The story does go weird when we get to M’s involvement and how MI-6 is compromised. I had trouble even keeping up with how the spy agencies interacted and wondered if I needed a dive in the canon to catch up.
(The answer is, yes. I got a Bond fan to clarify what I felt were holes in the story.)
No Time to Die becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy but for me and all about watching Lynch shine as 007 while Craig tangled with several deadly acts until one actually does the job. It is self-care to watch her put the most egotistical and manliest man in pop culture in his place over and over again. I cheered her for all the shade and side-eye. The stunts and fights were so much sweeter with what felt like one of us in the midst. I know Hallie Berry did a similar job back when she was Jinx in Die Another Day. However, she was not pitting the man himself against himself in an inadvertent competition to remain relevant. I cannot wait to see Lynch continue the legacy. I can only ask that Harris, de Armas, and Sydoux join her for the ride.
Rating 3.5 of 5
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