|Die Another Day
2002 - PG-13 - 136 Mins.
|Director: Lee Tamahori
|Producer: Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson
|Written By: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
|Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Judi Dench, Samantha Bond, John Cleese
|Review by: John Ulmer
Since his first screen appearance in 1962, James Bond seems to have morphed into a type of Barbie doll. In his 21st adventure, "Die Another Day," we see Bond surf on some giant waves off North Korea, man a hovercraft, receive an invisible Aston Martin Vanquish, ride a melting iceberg on a sheet of metal and a parachute, and, don't forget, he also pilots a helicopter before it has an untimely doom.
But you can't blame the series for exaggerating the action scenes lately. Since Sean Connery's reign as Bond, special effects have been moved up a notch, and Bond has only to compete with summer blockbusters such as "xXx" and so on and so forth. Bond used to be stylish, slightly unrealistic, and classy. Bond is now a full-out action hero, still stylish, but not quite as classy in terms of execution. I miss Bond walking around in a tuxedo, doing covert operations, out-smarting the baddies with brains instead of brawn. Of course, in the end, it always came down to brawn, such as in "Goldfinger" with Bond's fight with Oddjob, but through most of the film, Bond didn't pick up machine guns, punch guys in the face, pilot a helicopter, surf tsunamis, et cetera. But to be quite honest, though Bond has lost some of his classiness, the films are still fun to watch.
In this newest instalment in the ever-continuing series, the film opens up in North Korea, where Bond (undercover) is making a deal with a Korean, in exchange for something called "conflict diamonds." I wasn't really listening to everything, mainly because the plots aren't given much thought these days. You have to be quick to catch everything, because the filmmakers just don't have time to fit a plot inside the action film! Bond's mission is compromised; his cover blown. He tries to escape in a hovercraft, but only ends up being thrown in a torture camp for 14 months. Yes, you heard right, Bond is caught in this film. For 14 months. Talk about breaking tradition. Anyway, after 14 months, MI6 becomes worried that Bond is talking, so they make an exchange - they give Zao (a guy who looks like he was running downhill on a diamond mine and fell face-down) to the Koreans, the Koreans give them Bond. But now Bond has a personal vendetta to figure out who blew his cover back 14 months ago, so he traces down Zao at a gene-switching facility; Zao escapes, things go boom. But Bond also finds diamonds with the name Gustav Graves written on them, and traces down Graves--a multi-millionaire--to some exotic location, who knows where, I honestly don't remember. Skip forward on your DVD a few chapters, and you see things start to unfold a bit more. Lotsa things unfold. ;) And if you look at the characters' names, you can pretty much guess who they are. Hint: Graves' last name is "Graves"--what could that possibly mean? One of the two Bond girls is named Frost--what could that possibly mean?
The other Bond girl in this film is female NSA agent Jinx (Halle Berry), who was born on--guess when--Friday the 13th. She teams up with Bond to hunt down Zao, and turns the film into more of a buddy-buddy picture, rather than a Bond picture. Strong fans might be upset by this, and my personal beefs with Halle Berry aside, I can say that the Bond series needs some new air if it wants to compete with action films; so the whole buddy thing works in this film. As long as they don't overdue it. I don't want Bond teaming up with some loose-cannon agent next time, in tradition of "Red Heat," "The Hard Way" and all those other funny films that wouldn't fit Bond.
A few times I missed the idea of Bond strategizing by himself, the quiet man who is cool under pressure. Jinx is a loud-mouth, and there's rarely a moment of silence in this film, whether it be big explosions, big fights, or big mouths. The last truly entertaining Bond film I have seen was 1995's "Goldeneye," Pierce Brosnan's first--and finest--outing as the secret agent. I like "Goldeneye" because it seemed buried in Bond's roots--a tribute to all that was good, especially "Goldfinger." The locations were exotic, but slightly more realistic than those in the recent films. I liked how Brosnan had the characteristics of Connery's Bond. In all respect, I think Pierce Brosnan is the most worthy successor to Sean Connery, but the main flaw is that the films so often slip into the summer blockbuster slot (i.e. "Tomorrow Never Dies" and "The World is Not Enough"), that it's hard to enjoy Pierce's performances as Bond.
"Die Another Day" entertained me, thrilled me, and wowed me, but I can't really say it did anything great for me. It's the second-best Pierce Brosnan Bond film, and in terms of action it is unbeat by any other Bond film, but I just hope that next time they try something a bit more classy. All in all a film worth seeing, but when compared to "Goldfinger," it is its own seperate series.