Die Another Day
|Distributor:||MGM (Video & DVD)|
The 20th James Bond adventure, Die Another Day succeeds on three important fronts: it avoids comparison to Austin Powers by keeping its cheesy humor in check, allows Halle Berry to be sexy and worthy of a spinoff franchise, and keeps pace with the technical wizardry that modern action films demand. Pierce Brosnan’s got style and staying power as James Bond, now bearing little resemblance to Ian Fleming’s original British super-spy, but able to hold his own at the box office. He’s paired with American agent Jinx (Berry) in chasing a…
The 20th James Bond adventure, Die Another Day succeeds on three important fronts: it avoids comparison to Austin Powers by keeping its cheesy humor in check, allows Halle Berry to be sexy and worthy of a spinoff franchise, and keeps pace with the technical wizardry that modern action films demand. Pierce Brosnan’s got style and staying power as James Bond, now bearing little resemblance to Ian Fleming’s original British super-spy, but able to hold his own at the box office. He’s paired with American agent Jinx (Berry) in chasing a genetically altered North Korean villain (Rick Yune) armed with a satellite capable of destroying just about anything. John Cleese and Judi Dench reprise their recurring roles (as “Q” and “M,” respectively); they’re accompanied by weapons-laden sports cars, a hokey cameo by Madonna (who sings the techno-pulsed theme song), and enough double-entendres to keep Bond-philes adequately shaken and stirred. With clever nods to 007’s cinematic legacy, Die Another Day makes you welcome the familiar end-credits promise: James Bond will return. —Jeff Shannon
The 20th “official” 007 outing released in the 40th anniversary year of the series, Die Another Day is big, loud, spectacular, slick, predictable and as partially satisfying as most Bond movies have been for the last 30 years. Pierce Brosnan gives his best Bond performance to date, forced to suffer torture by scorpion venom administered by a North Korean dominatrix during the Madonna-warbled credits song. He traipses from Cuba to London to Iceland while feuding with a smug insomniac millionaire (Toby Stephens), who admits that he’s an evil parody of Bond’s own personality. There are many nods to the past: Halle Berry recreates Ursula Andress’s entrance from Dr No, the gadget-packed car (which can become invisible) is a Goldfinger-style Aston Martin (albeit a brand-new model), the baddie’s line in smuggled “conflict gems” and super-weapons derives from Diamonds Are Forever and the jet-pack from Thunderball can be seen in Q’s lab.
It’s the longest of the franchise to date (two-and-a-quarter hours) and the first to augment stunts and physical effects with major CGI, though the best fight is traditional: a polite club fencing match between Brosnan and Stephens that gets out of hand and turns into a destructive hack-and-slash fest with multiple edged weapons. Berry may be the first Bond girl with an Oscar on her shelf, but she’s still stuck with a bad hairdo as well as having to endure 007’s worst chat-up lines. Amazingly, most of the old things here do still work, though it’s a shame that director Lee Tamahori (Once Were Warriors) wasn’t given a better script to play with. —Kim Newman
Barnes and Noble
The James Bond franchise got a much-needed shot in the arm with this superlative series entry, the best 007 adventure in years. Pierce Brosnan’s fourth outing as Ian Fleming’s unflappable secret agent is initially darker than the others: Early on, Bond is captured by North Korean terrorists, tortured, and imprisoned for well over a year. Upon being released, he’s discredited and stripped of his license to kill. And that’s when the plot really kicks into gear. While trying to clear his name, Bond discovers a connection between some nasty North Koreans and millionaire thrill seeker Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens), whose financial empire is backed by stolen South African diamonds. The Neal Purvis script hits all the beats expected by Bond fans, and director Lee Tamahori (The Edge) gets some extra oomph out of his action sequences by combining impressive stunt work with digitally enhanced special effects. Pierce Brosnan, now 50 years old, has grown into the role nicely, and his flippant one-liners don’t seem as forced or juvenile as those in earlier films. Day’s real innovation, however, is the pairing of Brosnan with glamorous Halle Berry, whose sly, sexy Jinx Jordan is the feistiest “Bond girl” ever. Jinx isn’t just a foil for 007 (although, like all the others, she winds up in his bed), she’s a whip-smart character with an ambitious agenda and the skills necessary to pull it off. Cool, blonde Rosamund Pike is perfectly cast as a British agent working undercover with Graves, Madonna has a nifty cameo as a fencing instructor, and Judi Dench shares her screen time with Brosnan in several testy, well-written exchanges. The Bond films couldn’t just keep getting bigger; they had to evolve in other ways and move in different directions. Die Another Day does this—in spades—and as a result makes better entertainment than the previous three entries put together. Ed Hulse