Die Another Day

The 20th Bond film, and after the debacle that was Goldeneye, well and truly back to basics.

The basics being the requisite beautiful women, shaken martinis, despotic criminal masterminds, exotic locations, gadgetry and thrills, but also the surprises as special effects and movie set pieces mature.

A Bond film is like your own bed - you're never as comfortable sleeping anywhere else, and Die Another Day delivers that comfort in shovelfuls.

Although comfort isn't really the right allegory, since you'd have to be comatose to get comfortable in a James Bond film rather than sitting on the edge of your seat through the stupendous action sequences.

Lee Tamahori (of Once Were Warriors fame) seems to realise that the Bond franchise is essentially about action, and he wraps a scorching action movie up in all the Bond accoutrements. The attempts at providing something different are at best irritating inconveniences (like having Bond's status revoked so he has to work outside - M accepts him back and lets him work in every way apart from on paper so it makes no real difference).

This time the Blofeld/Strombo/Dr No et al is a North Korean army officer hell bent on overtaking the south. After Bond (Brosnan) is captured disposing of him and kept imprisoned and tortured for a year, he lives and escapes to a facility to resequence DNA, giving him a new appearance, that of British playboy billionaire Gustav Graves (Stephens).

Bond's out and after his right hand man, zombie-like Zao (Yune), complete with diamonds embedded in his face from an explosion. Also hot on the trail is NSA agent Jinx (Berry, enough to melt Antarctica when she first comes out of the surf).

The two track the villains from Cuba to the wastes of Iceland, where the Bondesque criminal's lair is a palace made of ice to unveil his new project, Icarus - a giant mirror in space designed to be a reserve sun, in reality a superweapon to decimate pro-South Korean forces.

After shagging both Jinx and the delectable double agent Miranda Frost (Pike), James blows everything up, shoots, fights, and scrapes his way from one spectacular action sequence to another, each one more over the top and explosive than the last.

All involved have stayed faithful to the formula and provided both the expected and the brand new successfully, including John Cleese, firmly in place as the new Q after the death of Desmond Llewewlyn.

Interesting (and a bit frightening) to see Madonna turn up as Graves' fencing coach. The title sequence wasn't the best of the series, nor was her title track.

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