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Was Daniel Craig's final James Bond film 'No Time To Die' worth the wait?

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

James Bond is back finally after six years and three pandemic-related delays. "No Time To Die" is the 25th official 007 film. It's the fifth and last to star Daniel Craig. So is it worth the wait? We asked critic Bob Mondello.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: If you've seen the trailers, you've seen some pretty spectacular stunts - Daniel Craig's Bond hurling himself up a narrow stone bridge, riding a motorcycle off a clifflike staircase to soar over a wall...

(SOUNDBITE OF MOTORCYCLE ENGINE GROWLING)

MONDELLO: ...Spinning his silver gray Aston Martin in an Italian piazza while spraying machine gun fire from its headlights - all of which he does before the opening credits because - well, because he's...

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

DANIEL CRAIG: (As James Bond) Bond - James Bond.

MONDELLO: A sadder but wiser Bond who has legacy issues to deal with in "No Time To Die" - not just a new story to tell but a five-film story arc to complete, an arc that's represented in the title treatment for reasons that later become clear by arching strands of DNA splintering as Billie Eilish sings.

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

BILLIE EILISH: (Singing) Now you'll never see me cry. There's just no time to die.

MONDELLO: We met Daniel Craig's Bond, remember, as he was just earning his license to kill, quite as if the 20 previous 007 films hadn't existed. And his next three adventures took him all the way to retirement, which is where this one picks up after the opening credits, appropriately enough in Jamaica, where Ian Fleming wrote the Bond novels. Bond is approached by an old CIA buddy who wants help with a case and by a gorgeous glamazon (ph) who offers him a ride home when his car won't start then heads straight for his bedroom and removes her hair.

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

CRAIG: (As James Bond) Well, that's not the first thing I thought you'd take off. But...

LASHANA LYNCH: (As character) Here. You seem like a man who's gagging for selection, Mr. Bond.

MONDELLO: No time to flirt? What's going on?

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

LYNCH: (As Nomi) I'm here as a professional courtesy.

CRAIG: (As James Bond) Well, you're not very courteous, are you, Double-0?

LYNCH: (As Nomi) Two years.

CRAIG: (As James Bond) You're young.

LYNCH: (As Nomi) High achiever.

CRAIG: (As James Bond) Oh, Jesus Christ.

LYNCH: (As Nomi) The world's moved on since you retired, Commander Bond. Perhaps you didn't notice.

CRAIG: (As James Bond) No, can't say that I had. In my humble opinion, the world doesn't change very much.

LYNCH: (As Nomi) You would say that.

MONDELLO: Actually, the Bond world has changed quite a bit on Craig's watch. It's less gadget-dependent, more diverse, enormously more emotional. And though Bond is still prone to making quips about what used to be called the Bond girls...

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

CRAIG: (As James Bond) I met your new double-0. She's a disarming young woman.

MONDELLO: They're no longer just damsels in distress.

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

LYNCH: (As Nomi) I get why you shot him.

NAOMIE HARRIS: (As Eve Moneypenny) Yeah, well, everyone tries at least once.

MONDELLO: A script polished by "Fleabag's" Phoebe Waller-Bridge may be responsible for evening the gender scales a bit, as is a love interest, Lea Seydoux's Madeleine, who in a first for the series has been held over from the last movie...

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

LEA SEYDOUX: (As Madeleine) James.

MONDELLO: ...Complicatedly.

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

SEYDOUX: (As Madeleine) You don't know what this is.

MONDELLO: In other respects, though, Bond is right. The more things change, the more Director Cary Joji Fukunaga makes them spark and fizz like the glory days of "Goldfinger" and "Dr. No." He's given Rami Malek's supervillain a massive island lair outfitted with a very Zen-looking poison garden to relax in while taunting Bond.

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

RAMI MALEK: (As Lyutsifer Safin) We both eradicate people to make the world a better place. I just want it to be a little tidier.

MONDELLO: He's preparing to unleash what amounts to a genetically targetable virus - talk about being of the moment. But while the film dutifully flouts its M's...

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

RALPH FIENNES: (As M) Come on, Bond. Where the hell are you?

MONDELLO: ...And crosses its Q's...

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

BEN WHISHAW: (As Q) Can I just have one nice evening, please, before the world explodes?

MONDELLO: ...What's remarkable is the degree to which it concentrates Craig's action-crammed, close-to-three-hour farewell on something it's hard to imagine any of the previous Bonds even acknowledging - the terrible price he's had to pay for feeling - because Daniel Craig's Bond let himself feel. And toward the end of "No Time To Die," the lump forming in your throat will be all about the bond that's let you have with Bond. I'm Bob Mondello.

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

EILISH: (Singing) Another lesson yet to learn that I'd fallen for a lie. You were never on my side. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.