Die Another Day

Da da Dm....da da Dum....dum de da da dadum da da dum de DAA DA DA DAAAAA! Bond is back for his 20th outing in Die Another Day. Its the usual concoction of dastardly villains, evil henchmen, beautiful women, gadgets and action. This being the 40th anniversary of Bond, the film has a strange air of coming complete circle.

Having read all the Ian Flemings novels when I was eleven, the opening of Die Another Day was excellent - it showed Bond in a gritty and violent world where he's a captive - tortured and beaten after having his cover blown during an investigation in the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea. This is the Bond that Fleming wrote about (in the various novels Bond was tortured, beaten, had his fingers broken etc during his escapades).

It seems that the man Bond was sent to investigate, Colonel Moon ( Will Yun Lee) has a source that reviled to him Bonds true identity. After being tortured and abandoned for fourteen months, Bond doesn't reveal anything about himself or who he's working for. Finally upon his release, Bond soon learns that he is no longer required by his country and that he is seen as a liability by British Intelligence. He is deactivate from his double-0 status by MI6 chief, M (Judi Dench), shades of Licence To Kill coming in.

Escaping, Bond realises that he must act alone to take revenge on those who have wronged him. This leads him in pursuit of Zao which in turn takes him to Cuba. Upon arriving in Cuba, Bond manages to meet (and bed - well...he is still Bond) the mysterious Jinx (Halle Berry). Further investigations in Cuba lead Bond to conclude that his quarry has aligned himself with a new super-villain, the rich industrialist Gustav Graves (Toby Stevens).

Graves has charmed the world media with his playboy antics and extravagant lifestyle. What the world doesn't realise is that Graves is planning to cause mayhem with a satellite weapon called Icarus, a weapon that harnesses the power of the sun to fry the Earth with a giant laser beam. Bond and Jinx (who it turns out is an NSA agent) head to Graves' ice palace in Iceland and then back to Korea to defeat Graves and Zao and to save the planet.

Die Another Day starts really well with Bond being shown not just as a spy, but as an assassin; a cut-throat operative. He's no longer the suave smooth agent but instead after being locked up, he's dishevelled and has a long beard. Bond is tough and much more highly motivated than ever before - in fact he's angry and outside of the intelligence family. Unfortunately this momentum doesn't really carry though the whole film.

Pierce Brosnan is excellent as Bond, he was definitely born to play the role and hopefully he'll be around for a while. His Bond seems to go from strength to strength and has a firm grip on the role since 1995's Goldeneye. Halle Berry is good as Jinx, with a little too much Foxy Cleopatra at times but very very easy on the eye. The rest of the cast are no slouches either with Dame Judi Dench as the brilliant M and Michael Madsen as Daniel Falco her opposite number in the NSA. Rosamund Pike, who plays another MI6 agent sent to keep an eye on Bond, is also very easy on the eye and has the right...er...assets for a Bond girl. The usual suspects are also there in the shape of Samantha Bond as Moneypenny and John Cleese as Q (promoted due to the unfortunate death of Desmond Llewellyn, who previously played Q in almost every Bond film). The villains are suitably hammy with Toby Stevens going into over drive with the sneers and megalomania.

There are a lot of subtle (and not so subtle) gags to outline the Bond heritage - such as previous Bond gadgets in Q's workshop (The crocodile from Octopussy, the rocket Jetpack, briefcase from From Russia With Love and so on). Also Q hands Bond a new gadget laden watch and says something to the tune of its the twentieth one that Bond has had (one for each official film, geddit?). Interesting (read - sad movie geek fact) - at one point Bond picks up a book to read in Cuba, 'Birds Of The West Indies'  written by none other than a man called James Bond. Its the book that Ian Fleming appropriated the name of James Bond from in 1952 because it sounded suitably dull and anonymous.

There were some disappointing aspects, like the over done innuendos (seemed more like a Roger Moore Bond film at times) and some of the stunts. Bond stunts have always been amongst the worlds best live stunts and Die Another Day is no exception. However, there are a couple of stunt sequences that are more or less completely computer generated and are just awful. Painful even. These are the blatantly obvious CGI Para Surfing sequence and the awful helicopter escape scene. Live stunts, which include the well published Aston Martin versus Jaguar car battle and the superb hovercraft chase, were perfect at illustrating the ridiculous, unimpressive and cartoonish CGI stunts. Another good scene involves lasers cutting around a room whilst Bond fights an evil henchman and also tries to avoid getting cut in half - reminiscent  a little of Goldfinger.

Hopefully the next Bond film will go easy on the CGI and stick with the live stunts. Also hopefully they will keep the gritty realism that Brosnan has brought to the role. Die Another Day isn't the best Bond film, but is a good way to waste a couple of hours. Just use a lot of self control and try to ignore the ridiculous CGI stunts.

Score 7/10