While reading here, keep in mind that the review is a little biased because: a) I love James Bond movies; b) I think Pierce Brosnan rocks; c) I like action movies almost regardless of whether they’re any good or not.
With that out of the way…
This Saturday, I saw the latest installment of the James Bond franchise, Die Another Day. My biggest question going into this one was, “Who’s the bad guy going to be?” I mean, think about it - during the cold war, the “bad guy” was always, like, a communist or some other terrorist against the World Order. Of course, you had your SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) people, but even the SPECTRE folks were, on some level, the same as the “evil commies.” Now that all that’s pretty much over, if you notice, Bond villains aren’t nearly as interesting because they’re utterly contrived - Who’s going to believe a bad guy is a media mogul who wants to do bad stuff so that he can get the scoop on other folks? I wasn’t disappointed this time around.
Die Another Day is the story of James Bond (Brosnan) getting captured while spying on some North Koreans who are plotting to take over South Korea (and, subsequently, the rest of the world). After a period of time, he gets released in trade for a North Korean assassin, Zao (Rick Yune). M (Judi Dench) thinks that trading Bond for Zao was too high of a price to pay and tells Bond that. Bond decides that he needs to track down Zao and recapture him in order to make things right and, in doing so, finds that Zao is working with the group of North Koreans who want to take things over. Which, thus, means that Bond now has to finish off the group of people who captured him in the first place. Revenge is sweet.
Take that, then throw into the mix Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens), a philanthropic thrill-seeking diamond broker; Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike), his secretary who happens to be an Olympic-level fencer; and Jinx (Halle Berry), a woman who proves to be a wildcard in every situation. What you come out with is a Bond movie on par with the excitement of the originals, but with the effects and stunts you come to expect out of Hollywood action movies today.
Brosnan is my second favorite Bond, right after Roger Moore. (Don’t get me started on who the “best Bond” is; it’s a personal taste issue, and while the politically correct answer is “Sean Connery,” I will maintain that my favorite is Roger Moore.) I think he does his best job in this movie, finally coming into the role the way I had hoped he would with Goldeneye. If he had done this well with all of his Bond films, he’d be my new favorite.
I’ve never been a big Halle Berry fan, but I think she did well here. I heard something about people wanting to make a Jinx spin-off movie or something, and I hope they don’t. She was good, but not that good. She did throw in a certain quality that helped to kick the whole thing up a notch.
As far as the Bond girls go, Rosamund Pike was the one in this movie. Again, I’m not a big Halle Berry fan, and while she looked good, Pike was by far the hottest one on the screen. (Rosamund, if you’re reading this, feel free to stop by my place anytime.) She played her character well, and added a sort of subtle British element. Love it.
The humor here was well done as far as Bond movies go. There were the usual one-line groaners and lewd double-entendres, but there were some legitimately funny parts, too. John Cleese returns in his role as Q (I thought, after the last time, he’d be called “R,” since Desmond Llewelyn died, but “Q” works, too). And this time Moneypenny (Samantha Bond) has a nice scene all to herself that I was very pleased with. (I won’t ruin the surprise, but you’ll know it when you see it.)
The action and effects were superb, though there was a scene with Bond sort of parasailing on a tidal wave that was a little less than convincing. I wasn’t too concerned about it, though. I was too busy feeling excited by the whole thing.
All in all, I was very pleasantly surprised. Normally I have to classify movies in certain genres to put my feelings in context. Bond movies are sort of their own genre, sort of like Schwarzenegger films - it’s not an action movie, it’s a Bond movie. In that case, I try to gauge how good that movie is in relation to other movies of its respective genre - apples to apples, if you know what I mean. In this case, I’d say Bond has outdone himself. I could easily compare this to other action/intrigue movies and feel pleased about it. If only they could come up with Bond movies this well done all the time.
Anyway, I’d say see this on the big screen. I’d pay the full $7.50 for it - it’s well worth the watch.