DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002)
Starring Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, Rick Yune, John Cleese, Judi Dench, Michael Madsen, Will Yun Lee, Samantha Bond and Madonna.
Screenplay by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.
Directed by Lee Tamahori.
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures. 132 minutes. Rated PG-13.
After forty years of James Bond films, the franchise has come up with a pretty hard and fast formula. The films always start with Bond single-handedly fighting off a group of heavily armed bad guys in a spectacular stunt sequence. He then always returns to England, where he finds out it was all the work of a rich madman bent on world domination. Bond and a beautiful female spy set about foiling the plot, fighting off the superhuman evil henchman and a beautiful femme fatale who pretends to help but ends up being part of the evil plot. Liberally mix in chases and explosions in exotic settings until the grand finale in which Bond infiltrates the megalomaniac’s lair and overcomes his dastardly plan while single-handedly leveling the whole evil hiding place.
This is a far cry from the original storylines of Ian Fleming’s novels, even some of the earlier films (like From Russia With Love) recognized that every case a spy takes is not necessarily about world domination. Most are more subtle and insidious than that.
So it was kind of cool when Die Another Day was willing to shake up the mix a bit in the first half-hour. During Bond’s spectacular pre-credits stunt sequence, he actually gets caught by the bad guys, and is held as a prisoner of war for sixteen months of torture. It is interesting to see the suave Bond reduced to a disheveled and distraught victim. When he is finally freed in a prisoner exchange (against the wishes of his superiors), Bond is considered damaged goods and they turn their back on him.
So far, so good right?
After this adventurous start, sadly, the movie does fall back into the formula, but it is a well done take on some old ideas. Pierce Brosnan just grows more and more comfortable in the role of Bond and finally has gotten to the point that you mostly don’t think of the actors who have played the role before (though he still doesn’t inhabit the role quite as well as Sean Connery.)
The big selling point for this installment is that last year’s Best Actress Halle Berry is on board as the beautiful American agent who Bond grudgingly teams up with, but frankly Berry brings little to the table as Jinx. She sleepwalks through a part that anyone could play.
More interesting is Toby Stephens as a bad guy whose foppish businessman exterior hides a fierce competitiveness and hard heart. The stunts, particularly those in and around a fortress completely made of ice, are very impressive.
So while Die Another Day doesn’t overhaul the aging series as much as you might hope, it is still one of the better Bond pictures in the last two decades. (11/02)
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2002 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 28, 2002.