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Die Another Day
MGM Studios

Die Another Day, the 20th installment in the James Bond series, is disappointing. Granted, Pierce Brosnan (as James Bond) is hot, so that kept me entertained for awhile. However, there were definitely not enough shirt-off muscle-straining torture shots when he's a captive of the North Korean "evildoers" in the beginning. The action is so-so -- a lot of it looks good but there's not enough tension. The new car is Bond-worthy, but a good portion of its screen time it's invisible (it can disappear due to complex optical camouflage).

And what about the gadgets? Those are sometimes the best part of the film (aside from the half-naked ladies). They totally dropped the ball on the gadgets in Die Another Day. They barely make an appearance. John Cleese shows up (in a throwaway 5-minute performance as the new Q) and he's like "here's a watch, and here's this and that, and then here's your car". He doesn't even go into features or anything. When he finally does start telling Bond what the car can do, Bond interrupts him by blowing up the manual. And you're like: LAME.

Halle Berry: let's discuss. For an Oscar-winning actress you'd think that a cheesy sex-kitten part would be a total cakewalk. What a chance to camp it up and have fun. First off, her lines would be cringe-worthy on paper alone. I KNOW Bond is cheese, I know Bond is un-PC, but it shouldn't be flat out bad. Instead of redeeming the script, Halle's delivery was so self-conscious and awkward, it was awful to watch. For a beautiful woman, she was (almost) not even sexy during her attempts to reel off the patented "double-meaning" come-on lines while playing an innocent/knowing secret agent/random tourist at the same time.

Pierce Brosnan is a good Bond in my book. He does a credible job, as does Rick Yune as bad guy Zao. Rick's former career was as a top model and although he spends half the movie with metal things embedded in his face, he still looks good. Madonna pops in for a cameo as a bemused fencing instructor and Dame Judi Densch (as M) spends the whole movie being mean.

The plot is pretty forgettable although there's some cool stuff about genetic manipulation where people get DNA "facelifts", turning themselves physically into someone else. The special effects were good, and the sets were decently lavish. I especially liked the ice palace/hotel where the last half of the movie is set. The ice palace is located in Iceland (of course), and is complete with vast expanses of sheer ice surrounding on all sides as far as the camera can see. Which allows for some cool ice-chase sequences and a lot of aerial shots.

Overall, though, I say boooo. I grew up on the Bond franchise and I'm a huge fan of action movies, so no writing off the "girl reviewer" factor here. It's frightening when a spoof (Austin Powers) of a classic becomes somehow more genuine and entertaining than its inspiration. The best thing about Bond movies is the cheeky wink-wink sexual banter, the clothing, the locations, the sophistication and style. And the explosions. This latest installment doesn't make the grade. The writing in Bond movies has always been campy, but the classic Bonds had a certain wit to them that Die Another Day is sorely lacking. Man, even the title sucks.

  -- Margo Tiffen


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