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TSM Movie Review: Die Another Day

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Starring Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, and Toby Stephens

Produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.

Directed by Lee Tamahori

Rated PG-13; 123 minutes


Die Another Day continues to be James Bond for the ADD Generation: fast cars, fast women, and copious explosions. It also has a lot more going for it than the last few weak efforts in the series, includes some clever nods to past Bond films, and may be the shot in the arm that helps revive the franchise.


When the film opens, Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is in North Korea, impersonating an arms dealer trading diamonds for hovercrafts. He is betrayed and his cover is blown, and while he foils the arms trade, Bond is captured and held prisoner for fourteen months. Eventually, he is freed as part of a prisoner exchange with South Korea. He is coldly received by M (Dame Judi Dench), and goes renegade to gather some more information on the folks he encountered in Korea. (This is an effective nod to the awful License To Kill.)


While in Cuba investigating the Korean connection, Bond encounters Jinx (Halle Berry, who makes her first appearance by doing Ursula Andress’ Dr. No bikini a lot of justice), introduced – as is the norm in Hollywood – as the Bad Girl Who Just Might Be Good. He beds her down, of course, meaning Bond has finally stopped slumming after some of his recent “conquests.” The Korean villain gets away after a shootout in a gene therapy clinic, one of two head-scratching elements in the movie’s sometimes labyrinth plot.


Eventually, Bond is accepted back into MI-6 and pursues someone who is trading in a lot of diamonds: Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens, in a role that would have been perfect for Guy Pearce). Graves also has plans for a satellite called Icarus that can project the sun’s light onto dark areas of the world (this is the other head-scratching element of the film, and is a nod to both Moonraker and Goldeneye). Graves’ connection to the Koreans becomes obvious soon enough (though I think everyone in the theatre figured it out before Bond did), and he decides to use the obvious power of Icarus as a weapon. Toss in a geodesic dome made of ice, the expected car chase, and some action sequences on an airplane, and you have the rest of the film.


I liked the vibe the movie had with Bond as a renegade, until the shaky sci-fi elements of gene therapy and sun-reflecting satellites came into play. While both ended up important in the film, it would have been entirely possible to leave them out. International villains can be devious and cunning, and want to take over the world, without resorting to building the futuristic mousetrap to show off their memberships in the Evil Genius Club.


This was the most self-referential of the Bond films, and that was probably designed to lure back long-suffering fans who had to endure the last few entries in the series. The best of the nods to previous films comes while Bond is receiving his mission gadgets from Q (John Cleese, certainly a highlight of the film whenever he was in it): Q gives him a watch and informs him it’s the 20th watch he’s received, and perhaps Bond could break with tradition and actually return this one.


Berry as the latest Bond Girl was a mixed bag. She’s always easy to look at on the screen, but her tendency to act down to her environment is again on display. Witness her excellent turn in Monster’s Ball, compared to her dreadful work in X-Men. She’s leaning toward the latter here. If they’re considering making a spin-off franchise featuring Jinx, perhaps the Bond braintrust should have spent more time developing her character and making the role something the actress could get behind. Bond, of course, is still a chauvinistic relic of the Cold War, which further undermines the character of Jinx. It’s probably to her credit in the Bond universe that Our Hero only needs to save her on two occasions. For the record, I don’t mind those attributes of Bond that have made him objectionable to some in the politically correct age (they’re part of his character and smug charm), but they don’t help in developing the female lead for her own movie.


All told, Die Another Day lacks the creative bankruptcy that has marred the last few Bond movies (and continues to plague Hollywood in general). Finally, Pierce Brosnan gets a decent movie to show why he’s the best Bond since Connery. If this is indeed his last film, he went out on a reasonably satisfying note. Die Another Day has a lot on its plate, but its occasional pacing issues and questionable plot elements ensure that it’s always spread a little too thin. 6/10


Dr. Tom

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