Two out of four stars (Rated PG-13 for action violence and sexuality)
“Die Another Day” is the 20th James Bond spy-thriller in a series that dates back 40 years. It follows a checklist that has become rather stale and formulaic, like the customary explosive opening ten minutes that always finds 007 in a precarious situation that he manages to escape from in time to don a tuxedo and enjoy his favorite martini, shaken, not stirred.
But this Bond film goes off the beaten path, not necessarily for the better. While Pierce Brosnan returns for his fourth stint as the British secret agent, this time 007 doesn’t escape and winds up in a North Korean prison, tortured for 14 months. A prisoner exchange at the DMZ separating North from South Korea leads to his return, where the scruffy and unshaven agent is held for suspicion that he divulged secrets to the enemy.
Bond spends the next two hours hopping around the globe from Hong Kong to Cuba (actually Spain) and then London and finally to Iceland in pursuit of the villain who double-crossed him in Korea. The villain this time is the flamboyant but forgettable Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens). In true Bond fashion, Graves’ henchman is Zao (Rick Yune), who looks like he walked in from the set of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” except that his face is embedded with small diamonds.
Graves has a diabolical plan to launch the next Korean War with the assistance of a laser-beam firing satellite to trigger all the American mines placed in the DMZ. Wasn’t this the plot in the last “Austin Powers” film? They should have come up with something more original than that one.
Ah, but 007 has some assistance from the new Bond girl, an American agent known as “Jinx,” played by Halle Berry. But there’s also another British agent named Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike) who’s keeping tabs on James at the request of M (Judi Dench). John Cleese also returns as weapons expert Q, played strictly for laughs.
The downside of “Die Another Day” for many will be the seemingly non-stop action sequences and loud explosions that appear to take center stage while the Bond character is almost relegated to second string. If one didn’t know better they might have thought the projectionist was mistakenly running a reel from “XXX.” “Die Another Day” is not your father’s James Bond movie, but did they have to turn it into your kid brother’s?
Gary Brown is co-host of the Montgomery College Film Series. For information call (936) 273-7324 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.