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Movie Review: Die Another Day
By Mark Greenberg


What can I say about Die Another Day that I haven't said about the last 3 Pierce Brosnan Bonds? It's loud, the double entendres are enough to make Austin Powers blush, lots of buildings and machines blow up, and Brosnan is still merely a mannequin on which Bond's tuxedo is nostalgically displayed. Yet, Brosnan's 4th outing as 007 is arguably his best.

This time out, Agent 007 is captured and tortured by the Koreans (nice touch, cleverly interwoven over the main titles), and upon his return to MI6, stripped of his double-O status. Bent on revenge for the operative who betrayed him, Bond meets swashbuckling billionaire (and insomniac) Gustav Graves, played with relish by Toby Stephens, and his PR specialist, an undercover MI6 agent aptly named Miranda Frost (Roseamund Pike). Travelling to Graves' Ice Palace in Iceland, 007 teams up with beautiful American agent Jinx  (played by Halle Berry in one of the most original portrayals of a Bond woman in years) to stop the seemingly philanthropical, but truly diabolical, Graves from taking over the world with a laser death ray in space.  Preposterous - just the way it should be!

Aside from Berry's energetic performance, the best thing in Die Another Day is Bond's new set of wheels, the Aston Martin Vanquish. This car has all the gadgets you'd expect, including the coolest of them all: invisibility - loved it! There are some clever touches from writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, including Graves' diamond-studded henchman, Zao, scenes with new Q, John Cleese, and a truly wonderful swordfight which is destined to become a Bond classic. Director Lee Tamahori keeps things moving but, although there have been 4 different directors for each of the last Bonds, you can't tell the difference.

James Bond movies are not made anymore, they're manufactured. There's been much written about how heirs Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have taken over the family business. In reality, they've proved for the 4th time that they lack that sixth sense that served original producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman so well. James Bond used to lead the pack; now, he follows it. In Die Another Day there are not only the much publicized references to earlier Bond films, but to other current action films, such as The Matrix and XXX.

Perhaps the main reason the latest film fails to bring anything new to the table is the casting of 007 himself. Pierce Brosnan, at best, is a capable stand-in Bond. He's tall and handsome, with blue eyes. But exciting he's not. Recent articles and reviews have called him the "second-best Bond." (Somehow, I doubt that's what Roger, Tim, and even old George were thinking as they sat politely watching the film together at the Royal Premiere in London.) Brosnan lacks charisma, a quality that both Connery and Moore enjoyed in abundance.

Die Another Day is an enjoyable romp, mostly because of the plotting and the stellar supporting cast. But the references to earlier Bond films - more than anything - underscore the fact they don't make 'em the way they used to.