007: Die Another Day
Starring:
Pierce Brosnan, Halle Barry, John Cleese
Directed By :
Lee Tamahori
Grade
B+

Die Another Day is the 20th film (officially, anyway) in the Bond franchise, and while it doesn't quite live up to the best films in the series, it is certainly better than the last two (The World Is Not Enough, Tomorrow Never Dies). Not everything about the film is good however, there are a few parts that make you cringe and some poorly done special effects, but neither drag the film down as a whole.

Right off the bat though, director Lee Tamahori (Mulholland Falls, Along Came A Spider) alters a series staple: as Bond walks across the screen and turns to shoot it, a CG bullet whizzes towards the screen. This is completely unnecessary, we all know he shoots the camera, we don't need a CG bullet to tell us that. Fortunately, he doesn't try and change the action packed opening we've all grown accustomed to. Bond is in Korea with some diamonds, posing as their seller to gain access to a secret cache of military weapons and vehicles. Things quickly go south, however, as he is identified as Agent 007 and must flee. We are treated to a very cool hovercraft chase, but Bond doesn't escape; he is captured by the Korean government and held prisoner.

The title song sequence is a letdown, making you wonder what hell the filmmakers were thinking. Letting Madonna write and perform the theme song was possibly the worst decision they could have made. Not only is this the worst Bond theme song in series history, it's one of the worst songs ever written. After sitting through the song, the movie mercifully gets back to the story. It's now 14 months later, and James Bond is a long-haired, thick-bearded prisoner, having been tortured over the past year to gain information on western spies. He is soon set free in a prisoner exchange (for one of the films villains), and sets out to get revenge on the mole that blew his cover and got him captured. The film then sets up Bond in all sorts of great locations. From Korea to Hong Kong to Cuba to Iceland, Bond chases the villain, who is attempting to use a space-based satellite to cut a path through a military minefield, allowing Korean troops to move through and occupy enemy territory.

Bond movies haven't been noted for their stories though, it's all about the action, and Die Another Day has more action than most Bond films. Bond gets to sword fight, surf, drive on ice, battle in a plane that is falling apart, sneak through secure buildings, and it all seems plausible, save for one sequence. Bond has the usual assortment of secret agent gadgets, but the most interesting is his new car. Going back to the series roots, he drives an Aston Martin, but with a new twist, it can use active camouflage and become invisible, which is put to use in interesting ways in the film. Where the action gets silly is in one of the later sequences; while evading the giant space laser, Bond uses the roof and parachute of an ice speeder to para-surf away from a falling glacier. I don't have a problem with this; Bond movies have always had reality-defying stunts. The problem is that the sequence is so obviously computer generated it looks laughable. It's almost like the producers ran out of money by the time this stunt rolled around, and made it with as little effort as possible.

Despite the flaws though, this is still an entertaining film, and the best of Brosnan's films since Goldeneye. Pierce Brosnan continues to shine as the best Bond since Sean Connery, and Halle Berry doesn't drag the film down like I expected her to. John Cleese makes a fine debut as Q, and has arguably the best scenes in the film. The music, aside from the horrid Madonna theme, fits the action perfectly, and there are plenty of winks and nods at previous Bond flicks that long-time fans will notice.

- - Darken Rahl

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