Die Another Day
By Matt Singer
Everything old is new again in Die Another Day, the twentieth (official) James Bond movie in forty years. Quite a healthy output, and this latest offering suggests that 007 shouldnít fear retirement anytime soon. Loud, aggressive, and highly entertaining, it provides plenty of exciting set pieces, a juicy plot (especially for Bond) and the lovely look Halle Berry as a Bond girl-turned-sidekick, the feisty American agent Jinx. Whatís not to love?
Before the Madonna title song, Bond tries to sabotage a diamond exchange in North Korea. He meets some mean Koreans, including the brutal Zao (Rick Yuen). With muted colors and mud everywhere, one might think this film is too gloomy to be a Bond. But director Lee Tamahori is just keeping you on your toes by throwing a few twists into the old formula. Bond wins but, gasp!, gets captured and stuck a North Korean prison. Then we hit the titles and for a change they actually help further the story, as weird fire and ice creatures play around images of an increasingly haggard Brosnan, heís menaced by scorpions and stern Asian women.
This is just a little too kinky for Bond, so he eventually is returned to the West, and the chase for Zao is on. We follow Bond to Cuba and warmer climes (and a score that transposes the classic theme onto some Latin rhythms) where he meets Jinx. The other major players include Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens), a shady industrialist who is a cat choice away from megalomania, and Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike) his aptly-named P.R. manager. All these people get thrown into a plot agitator, and we watch as they fight and trade quips and sleep with each other.
It might sound a tad lame, but Tamahoriís direction of this very willing cast is so energetic that he manages to smooth out the bumpy spots and pump up the fun in the scriptís (written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade) numerous action sequences. Since Bond is typically a stagnant character, itís nice to see the plot push him in unusual ways, and showing us why heís still the best secret agent in the world (For one, it appears that nothing on earth can make him talk, except a really hot babe, of course). The story has plenty of surprises without ever becoming convoluted, and it even offers enough to clues to allow the audience to feel really smart when they figure out the puzzle just before Bond does.
Iíve read that the film cost about $120 million dollars to make; if so, it was largely well-spent. The climax features Bond and Zao in a sly souped-up car chase, a classic case of grown-up boys and their absurdly expensive toys, playing a highly explosive version of ďAnything You Can Do I Can Do Better.Ē As if the chase, set on a giant sheet of ice wasnít enough, the two eventually wind their way into a melting palace of ice. Absurd and excessive, but also fun.
The film does go on a bit too long, and the formula for Bond women is not spiced up as much as the hype would lead us to believe. Jinx does kick ass, sure, and itís nice to see, but just like most of the last decadeís Bond movies Bond bags two chicks, one who looks good and turns out to be bad and vice versa. Granted weíre not talking about a Sherlock Holmes mystery here, but these storiesí tricks are getting a bit too easy to spot.
Still, thereís no denying Brosnan owns the role now. Looking a very spry almost-50, he leaps, flies, drives, surfs, drinks, and puns his way through the film always looking in control and frequently looking likeís having a jolly old time. And why not? Heís certainly the most accepted Bond since Sean Connery originated the role, and his Bond flicks, if sometimes underwhelming, have made plenty of cash for parent company MGM. Die Another Day is easily his best effort yet, and heís still got at least one more film to make before he hands off the tux and martini to another suave gentleman. Because, letís face it, it would take an act of God himself to stop this series. Hopefully most of them will be as well-made as this one. As "M" might say, good work 007.