Mark Reviews Movies


2 Ĺ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Lee Tamahori

Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, Rick Yune, Judi Dench, John Cleese, Michael Madsen

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for action violence and sexuality)

Running Time: 2:12

Release Date: 11/22/02

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Review by Mark Dujsik

No matter what anyone says, Iíve liked the three previous James Bond movies with Pierce Brosnan taking on one of the most famous characters in film history. GoldenEye put a modern twist on some of Bondís hedonistic behavior and had the staples of any Bond movieógreat action, gadgets, beautiful women, double entendres left and right. Tomorrow Never Dies was better, mainly because of the presence of a great villain in Jonathan Pryceís media mogul, and had the staples of any Bond movieógreat action, gadgets, beautiful women, double entendres left and right. The World Is Not Enough was even better, mostly because of some late, unexpected character development, and had the staples of any Bond movieóyou get the idea. Die Another Die is the twentieth movie in the series, now forty years old, and while the series itself is still in pretty good shape, this entry, despite the presence of the previously listed necessities, never completely meshes. Itís still good fun, but it falls short of the previous three outings.

The movie starts, as usual, with an extravagant action sequence. In this case, Bond infiltrates a weaponsí sale in North Korea (yes, they still manage to make Communists the bad guys even after the fall of the Soviet Union) that inevitably goes wrong, leading to a hovercraft chase over a sprawling minefield. From there it gets even worse, and Bond is captured, tortured (in an awkward sequence featuring a very un-Bond-like theme song by Madonna), and held in prison for fourteen months. Heís finally released on a prisoner exchange program (swapped for a big guy named Zao (Rick Yune), with shards of diamonds in his face, courtesy of Mr. Bond) but disowned by his government and again held in captivity. 007 knows heís been sold out by someone, and after escaping captivity again, he starts out on an independent mission to discover the turncoat. It leads him to Cuba, where he meets Jinx (Halle Berry), an NSA agent with an agenda that might coincide with his, and ultimately to diamond magnate Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) and his publicist Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike).

Perhaps the best way to judge the movie is to see how well it fits and in what ways it deviates from the Bond formula. The plot is, to put it nicely, convoluted, and either I didnít pay enough attention during the opening sequence or there are plot holes big enough to drive a truck through. Thereís nothing new about that for the series, but this time around, the gaps really stick out. The villainous Graves is played charismatically by Toby Stephens, but he doesnít have a personality that makes him stand out in the crowd of Bond villains. There are two Bond girls againóone his partner, one his foe. Berryís Jinx is Bondís equal, and itís a nice change of pace, much like the Michelle Yeoh character in Tomorrow Never Dies. There are multiple references and homages to Bond films past. Berryís entrance is a replica of Ursula Andressí in Dr. No, and thereís another sequence that places her in a situation involving a laser (Goldfinger). A visit to Bondís gadget archives with R (a very funny but underused John Cleese) reveals a couple of classic Bond devices, including the jetpack from Thunderball.

The key to Bond movies are its action and stunt sequences, and Die Another Day has some really solid examples. Thereís the opening scene, of course, but the centerpiece is a cat and mouse car chase on ice and through the supervillainís ice castle hideout in Iceland (though, as I remember from grade school, despite its name Iceland is actually comparatively green as opposed to Greenland which is quite icy). The scenes are shot with a fairly modern style (i.e., lots of slow-motion and fast-forward pans) by director Lee Tamahori, which is slightly off-putting. Then there are the questionably campy parts of the action. Now, I know what youíre thinking: James Bond is campy. This time around, though, all forms of reality are thrown to the wind. Note especially a sequence in which Bond surfs a giant wave caused by a glacier collapse on a piece of metal and a parachute. Perhaps the real problem is the special effects, which are extremely poor in sections. Then again, maybe itís not just that. After all, there is the finale, which asks the question, how many deus ex machinas can a climax have before it becomes overbearing? Well, thereís the beam of light from the giant satellite, the helicopter, the knife in the book, and so on.

If anything, Die Another Day shows that Brosnan makes a good Bond. Iíve thought that since GoldenEye, and Iíd hate to see this outing be his last, if only because itís my least favorite of his stints so far. That doesnít mean the movie doesnít have its charms; the problems are just in the way of fully appreciating them.

Copyright © 2002 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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