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'No Time to Die,' Daniel Craig's last Bond film, is in U.S. theaters Friday

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

A MARTINEZ, BYLINE: It's Daniel Craig's epic conclusion as James Bond. Now, for the past 15 years, he's been the face of 007, and his Bond films have grossed some $3 billion worldwide. Now, tomorrow, Craig completes his mission one last time in "No Time To Die."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NO TIME TO DIE")

DANIEL CRAIG: (As James Bond) If we don't do this...

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CRAIG: (As James Bond) ...There will be nothing left to save.

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CRAIG: (As James Bond) I have to finish this.

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MARTINEZ: We're joined now by Glen Weldon, host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, and Jourdain Searles, writer, comedian and co-host of the "Bad Romance Podcast." All right, Jourdain, let's start with you. And I think we need to start off by telling people how big of a fan of James Bond you are because if there was a Ph.D. in Bond, you would have it.

JOURDAIN SEARLES: I don't know about that. But, yes, I am a very big fan of Bond. I've written essays on it. I've written a treatment for a script on it (laughter). I guess, yeah, I'm really into it.

MARTINEZ: So what did you think of "No Time To Die"?

SEARLES: What we get in terms of this big, dramatic finale, I think it delivers in that way. You can feel that it's the end. In, really, every scene, whenever he speaks to someone, you feel like this is the end. No other Bond has gotten this, and so that is significant. It's just overall, I find it to be a very weird movie (laughter).

MARTINEZ: Weird movie in what way?

SEARLES: Because I just feel like it turns Bond into a romantic hero, and it just feels like it's from a different universe at some points. So...

MARTINEZ: Wow. Glen, so, I mean, Jourdain's answer threw me a little bit. What did you think of "No Time To Die"? And do you think this was a worthy send-off for Daniel Craig?

GLEN WELDON, BYLINE: It is a worthy send-off, but she's absolutely right. It's weird.

MARTINEZ: (Laughter).

WELDON: Daniel Craig's Bond has always been unique in that over the course of his five Bond films, the filmmakers have told a more serialized story than they used to, and having access to that kind of a narrative arc can't help but deepen the character. I mean, Bond has been many things over the course of his life in the films, but layered ain't one of them. But Craig has always played Bond as someone who is haunted by the job that he's forced to do. That builds nicely to this climax.

There is kind of a hollow center here 'cause Rami Malek's villain isn't the climactic Bond villain you need it to be. He's given a creepy mask and scars and a whispery affect. And all of that is done to set up a scene where he says to Bond, you know, we're not so different, you and I, Mr. Bond. And it's like, OK.

SEARLES: (Laughter).

MARTINEZ: The villain and the hero are never too different in movies. They're two sides of the same coin.

WELDON: Exactly, exactly.

MARTINEZ: So let's get into Rami Malek a bit. He plays the character of Safin. Jourdain, how did he do?

SEARLES: He - it's not even - OK, what he's doing is exactly what you expect him to do. There's nothing really, like, exciting about what he's doing. And also, it just doesn't really feel like he believes what he's saying in certain scenes. Like, it seems like he knows what a Bond villain is supposed to look like and supposed to sound like, but he doesn't add anything else. You know, we remember Blofeld. You know, we remember...

MARTINEZ: Goldfinger (laughter).

SEARLES: Yes, we remember Goldfinger. But it's just like...

MARTINEZ: Yeah.

SEARLES: ...This guy - I couldn't even remember his name most of the movie.

MARTINEZ: "No Time To Die" was marketed as a slightly more refined Bond film where the secret agent is more emotional, maybe less of a male chauvinist. Jourdain, did that work?

SEARLES: It's true to the marketing, but I'm not sure how well it works from scene to scene.

WELDON: Yeah, I mean, taking out the womanizing, abusive, alcoholic part of his personality, which does come straight from the books - I mean, it's a choice, right? Some people will miss that part of him. But those books were written in the '50s and '60s. And so in this film, once he retires, a new 007 is chosen, and the film does so much work to set her up. And then when we could really use her, it sidelines her. So there's a lot of setting up, but they just don't seem to have the courage of their convictions to follow through with it.

MARTINEZ: All right. Now, it is Daniel Craig's last one, as we mentioned. Who should be the next James Bond?

SEARLES: Well, I've said this online, and I'll say it again - Dev Patel.

WELDON: Yeah, yeah. Good one.

MARTINEZ: Really? Wow.

WELDON: Good one. Good one. I like that. I've been saying this for years - Paul Giamatti. It just makes...

(LAUGHTER)

WELDON: It just writes itself. Just writes itself, those movies.

SEARLES: I would love that.

WELDON: I would watch that.

SEARLES: (Laughter).

MARTINEZ: All right, Jourdain Searles is a writer, comedian and co-host of the "Bad Romance Podcast," and Glen Weldon hosts NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour. Thanks to you both.

WELDON: Thank you.

SEARLES: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.