DIE ANOTHER DAY
**** (out of 5)
November 22, 2002
Pierce Brosnan as JAMES BOND
Halle Berry as JINX
Toby Stevens as GUSTAV GRAVES
Rosamund Pike as MIRANDA FROST
Judi Dench as M
John Cleese as Q
Directed by: Lee Tamahori
BY KEVIN CARR
Although “Die Another Day” is the 20th Bond film and 2002 marks the 40th anniversary of the Bond films, they cannot be compared equally. Rather, they should be looked at in terms of eras – the Connery Era, the short-lived Lazenby Era, the Moore Era, the disastrous Dalton Era and the current Brosnan Era. Brosnan is now fully integrated into the role of Bond (a role that didn’t quite gel for him until his last film, “The World Is Not Enough”), and this is the best Brosnan Bond film yet. (For the sake of world peace, I won’t even begin to compare Brosnan to Connery or Moore.)
Okay, not that it’s terribly critical for a James Bond flick, but here’s the plot anyway. After a botched assassination attempt on a rogue North Korean weapons dealer, James Bond is abandoned by the British government to be tortured for more than a year. After a prisoner trade, Bond is rehabilitated and discovers that he was betrayed by someone in the western governments. Bond escapes and becomes the gentleman vigilante, tracking his North Korean nemesis from Cuba to Iceland, partly for the Queens honor but for revenge as well.
His quest leads him to eccentric billionaire Gustav Graves, a diamond dealer who is also developing a massive satellite with lasers and mirrors (which he says is to bring sunlight to the world year-round, but is really going to be used to take over the world).
This is a Bond film for Bond fans. It has everything you might expect – beautiful Bond girls, huge explosions, cool gadgets, Bond girls, a meglomaniacal villain with ever cooler gadgets, a plot to take over the world, Bond girls, diamonds, tongue-in-cheek humor… and did I mention the Bond girls?
A lot of the real fun from “Die Another Day” comes from an internal trivia contest as you can try to spot the different references to the 19 other Bond films. Some references are obvious (like the walk down Q memory lane, featuring the jet pack from the Connery Era) but others are a little more subtle (like the laser chair from “Goldfinger”).
“Die Another Day” is riddled with inside jokes and fun extras. Plus, it contains elements that Bond fans have been salivating for but have yet to see – like the battle of the supercars and what might really happen if Bond were captured by the enemy and can’t escape.
There are plenty of twists and turns in the plot – some of them being painfully obvious, and others being pleasant surprises. The directing is a bit more stylized, and small changes like an updated opening sequence show that MGM is trying to update the franchise a little bit without alienating their hard-core audience.
One of the most anticipated aspects of “Die Another Day” is the inclusion of Halle Berry as NSA operative Jinx. And let me tell you, she is worth it. Sure, she doesn’t deliver her snappy one-liners with the ease and smoothness of Brosnan, but she has a strong attitude and is pretty easy on the eyes as well.
Halle Berry is hitting a stride in her career, seemingly independent of her Oscar win earlier this year. There is even industry scuttlebutt that they might do a Jinx spin-off, which would mark the first Bond spin-off ever – possibly a new franchise to revitalize the once-giant, now fledgling MGM.
Ultimately, Halle Berry could be the next big female action hero, rivaling Linda Hamilton in the Terminator series and Sigourney Weaver in the Alien saga. And with her cross cultural appeal, she may end up doing more for race relations than Martin Luther King.
Another high point in the film is John Cleese’s inaugural performance as Q. (Although he appeared briefly in “The World Is Not Enough” alongside the original Q, the late Desmond Llewelyn, Cleese was actually named Agent R in that film.) It is clear that the chemistry between Brosnan and Cleese is as smooth and seamless as Llewelyn’s chemistry in the Connery and Moore Eras.
In earlier films, the gadgets are almost possible, and in other films they’re downright silly. This Bond film’s technology is pushing the silliness envelope with an invisible car and a virtual reality simulator in the heart of British intelligence, but these are forgivable in the whole picture. Combined with the over-the-top villain of Gustav Graves and the diamond-encrusted Korean soldier Zao (Rick Yune) – who rivals Odd Job and Jaws in the freaky henchmen department – this incarnation of Bond is just plain fun.