Film Reviews: Wednesday, November 21, 2002
Die Another Day
Starring Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry. Directed by Lee Tamahori. Written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Rated PG-13.
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Aging 007

The wheezing James Bond franchise returns to Die Another Day.

By KRISTIAN LIN

The 20th film in the James Bond franchise, Die Another Day, begins unexpectedly well. After the requisite opening sequence in which lots of things get blown up or shot, a mole betrays 007 (Pierce Brosnan) and delivers him to his enemies. The opening credits and Madonna’s title song play over a montage of Bond being beaten and tortured by North Korean secret police. See, now this is cool. One reason why the debonair superspy has grown so uninteresting is that bad stuff never really happens to him.

It gets better. After a year of hard time, his freedom is traded for that of a North Korean terrorist (Rick Yune). Bond is brought in by an American intelligence chief (Michael Madsen), who sneers, “Look at him! Like he’s some kind of hero!” M (Judi Dench) is similarly unwelcoming, telling him, “If it had been up to me, you’d still be in that prison.” Not content to stay put while he’s debriefed, he escapes from an MI6 holding facility, cuts his own deal with the Chinese government, and sets about tracking down the terrorist and the agent who betrayed him. A loose-cannon 007 motivated by personal vengeance and unfettered by the need to serve his country would have been a terrific way to rejuvenate this series, especially with Halle Berry (an overrated actress who still brings more to the table than the usual Bond girl) in the mix.

Sadly, it’s too good to last. The movie subsides into a nonsensical plot that involves African “blood diamonds,” an invisible car, a medical therapy that changes a person’s DNA, and a satellite that can focus the sun’s energy on any spot on Earth. The identity of Bond’s betrayer is supposed to be a mystery, but it becomes obvious halfway through the film. The bad guy is a high-rolling English businessman (Toby Stephens) whom Bond meets at a de rigueur cocktail party that looks sillier than usual because it takes place in a giant igloo, and all the furniture looks like it was bought at the local Pier 1 by someone in a hurry.

Any artistic promise that director Lee Tamahori (Once Were Warriors) might have shown in the past now appears to have been swallowed up by Hollywood. His action sequences are edited so badly that it’s sometimes hard to tell who’s shooting at whom. The special effects are behind the curve, too — this year’s Blue Crush had surfing sequences that were far more convincing than the ones here. The technical inadequacies make the Bond franchise feel out of step even more than its casual racism, lame quips, retrograde attitude toward women, and the fact that the Austin Powers movies have parodied it to death. Die Another Day continues the trend of Bond movies that are more sedentary than sexy and more sclerotic than erotic.


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