“Die Another Day” is the 20th James Bond movie. That statement alone should tell you all you need to know about this movie. If you’ve seen one Bond movie, then you will know what to expect (and what not to expect) going into this one. And because the franchise is putting out its 20th feature, everything that could possibly be done has been done, and nothing that hasn’t been done will ever be done.
“Die Another Day” opens like all Bond movies do, with Bond (Pierce Brosnan) being inserted into a dangerous situation to perform some dangerous mission, all the while utilizing impressive gadgets. In this case, Bond has been sent to Communist North Korea to kill a rogue Colonel bent on uniting the separated Korea peninsula at all cost. The mission goes wrong when Bond is betrayed, and as a result Bond is captured and tortured for 14 months. Yes, that’s right. Bond is captured and tortured for 14 months!
Fast-forward to 14 months later, and Bond is released in a prison exchange between the Americans and the North Koreans. The person Bond is being exchanged for is Zao (Rick Yune), a confidant to the Colonel Bond was sent to kill. But things back at home is not to Bond’s liking, as he’s isolated and suspected of giving up sensitive information that got a fellow agent killed. Determined to clear his name and avenge his 14 months of captivity, Bond sets out to find the traitor, get Zao, and as a result a whole lotta stuff blows up. What, you thought they wouldn’t?
It goes without saying that “Die Another Day” is replete with gadgets (including an invisible car), beautiful woman with kooky names (Rosamund Pike and Halle Berry, as Frost and Jinx, respectively), and dialogue that is brimming with sexual innuendos and bad puns. It also goes without saying that the untouchable Bond, who despite being touched for 14 months of grueling torture, recovers from his wounds (mentally and physically) without missing a beat. Hey, he’s Bond!
Which brings me to this conclusion: The Bond films have become rollercoaster rides instead of movies. The films are nothing more than elaborate action set pieces connected by a flimsy plot. In-between the explosions, super-duper weapons, and machinegun fire, there is gratuitous sex, cartoonish villains with global domination schemes, and Bond, forever stoic and untouchable. This is the Bond formula, in a nutshell, and I doubt anyone will ever mess with it. And why should they? Each successive Bond movie has made more money than the previous. As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke…”
Pierce Brosnan, as Bond, has stopped trying to act. That doesn’t mean he can’t act, it just means that he’s played the role for so long that it’s like a second skin. Brosnan is Bond, just as Connery was Bond when Connery was playing the role. Brosnan wears the tuxedo like he was born to it.
Halle Berry (“Monster’s Ball”) joins the action as American superspy Jinx, Bond’s equal in the ass-kicking department. Berry is playing her first gun-toting role here, and she isn’t completely comfortable in the role. Berry sometimes looks uneasy, sometimes awkward, but the actress manages to convince us just enough to be effective. As the love interest, Rosamund Pike looks good in and out of dress. What else was she supposed to do? Who cares. Besides doing the synth-poppy opening song, Madonna shows up in a glorified cameo, but still manages to convince us that she has no acting talent to speak off.
“Die Another Day” offers the viewer an excellent twist about halfway through that I doubt anyone saw coming, even though all the hints were there. Another twist, involving the identity of the traitor, was not so successful. Yes, it makes sense, but the sudden shift in character personality by the traitor seems unnatural.
All that said, this is a James Bond movie. And going in, you should know what that means.
Lee Tamahori (director) / Ian Fleming (novel), Neal Purvis, Robert Wade (screenplay)
CAST: Pierce Brosnan …. James Bond
Halle Berry …. Jinx
Toby Stephens …. Gustav Graves
Rosamund Pike …. Miranda Frost
Rick Yune …. Zao