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Die Another Day

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Die Another Day

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry
Director: Lee Tamahori
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 132 Minutes
Release Date: November 2002
Genres: Action, Suspense, 007

*Also starring: Rosamund Pike, Rick Yune, Michael Madsen, Judi Dench, Lawrence Makoare, Madonna, Toby Stephens, John Cleese

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Review by Harvey Karten
3 stars out of 4

Critics of President Bush, cool it. The prez was right in calling North Korea a member of the Axis of Evil. According to Neal Purvis and Robert Wade who knocked out the screenplay for "Die Another Day," at least some high-level apparachiks from that nation just north of the 38th parallel are not interested in conquering only South Korea or even Japan. They're out to dominate the world (a concept wholly beyond the imagination of the United States). What to do about this? Forget about sending Jesse Jackson or Jimmy Carter. This is a job for 007, who'll prove that America's greatest ally is behind us all the way, almost singlehandedly saving the Free World from the machinations of a DNA-reconstituted imperialist.

Bond (Pierce Brosnan) could have used the help of America's NSA agent Jinx (Halle Berry) early on. Having escaped death in every which way for the past forty years, things are looking bad as he's captured in North Korea while on a mission to deliver a booby-trapped box of diamonds to that nation's military elite allegedly in return for a few megatons of weaponry. Tortured for fourteen months, he looks none the worse for his steady diet of kimchi, sporting hippie-length hair, a well-barbered beard, and fierce desire for revenge against his captor, the vicious Zao (Rick Yune).

New Zealand born director Lee Tamahori ("Once Were Warriors," "Mulholland Falls") takes us to the Hawaiian island of Maui for the spectacular opening surfer scene, The city of Cadiz in Spain standing in for Havana, the town of Hofn, Iceland which is an hour's flight from Reykjavik, and Aldershot and Hawley Hill thirty miles south of London and various other British areas on the trail of the evil Zao. Even more important, Bond must chase down Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens), a Korean villain whose face has been changed through surgery to appear as British as Prince Charles but who is even more dangerous. Graves is planning the destruction of the Western World and its allies through the use of a machine carrying enough laser power to correct the vision of the entire world's myopics. On the way, Bond meets up with two babes with surprisingly unerotic names, Jinx (Berry) and the frosty Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike in a debut performance), carrying on with them in scenes just cute enough to keep the PG-13 rating.

With only a single stunt looking digitally enhanced, "Die Another Day" puts Bond in danger not only from Axis-of-Evil types who hang him by the wrist but from perils in the air, on icy land and in the sea. Peter Lamong's production design and David Tattersall's cinematography feature a stunning view of the world's biggest igloo, an ice palace build in the western coast of Iceland while the explosions are terrific as usual.

When a twist of a watch can blow up a dozen of the enemy and the same twist on a ring can shatter a fjord, nobody really stands a chance against Bond, who can beat even a world-class fencer on his own turf. Even Zao's Jaguar XKR is a Hyundai compared to Bond's fully equipped Aston Martin V12 Vanquish, as proven in a smashing car chase across frozen land.

"Die Another Day" does show Bond at perhaps his most vulnerable, presumably tortured for over a year and human enough to want revenge against his oppressors. Halle Berry does not face the challenges of a film like "Monster's Ball' and is well-suited for playing against type, though of all the characters she is the one most likely to be winking at the audience. On this 40th anniversary of the Bond series, "Die Another Day" features several references to earlier films such as Halle Berry's bikini (think Ursula Andress), jet packs from "Thunderball," lasers from "Goldfinger," and a pair of shoes with protruding nails harking back to my favorite of all, "From Russia with Love."

On the whole, an adrenaline kick albeit one with nothing new. The Bond girls, per our changed world, are no longer bimbos like Pussy Galore, and corny scenes such as 007's conversations with strange feline-loving villains are kaput, out of sync with modern times.

Copyright 2002 Harvey Karten

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