Die Another Day
The James Bond franchise - twenty films in forty years and counting - was built on a certain 1960s-period wit, on light satire of the evil-tycoon-with-deadly-weapon, and a series of smilingly unbelievable threat situations, in which the villains, instead of just shooting Bond, insist on the kind of slow death that allows for last-minute escapes, all punctuated by what you might call stunts of fantasy. By a miracle of casting, the series started off with Sean Connery as Bond, who set the bar so high that everyone since has had to be compared, unfavorably, with him.
"Die Another Day" has managed to forget every one of those rules and gives us two hours of high-decibel, meaningless action, along with the skinny, slim-shouldered Pierce Brosnan as a forgettable 00-something-or-other. In 1995, when we first met him as Bond in "GoldenEye," we were grateful that he could at least speak well. But this television actor turned film leading man has too little talent to carry a series as big as this one, and the script has not even one line that we can enjoy. Even the double-entendres fall flat.
Is there a plot? Well, there's action, but I'm not too sure about cause and continuity. The film starts out with Bond being captured in North Korea while trying to do something or other to a very bad man there. Cut to 14 months later, when he's released from prison in a prisoner exchange. Meanwhile, if I remember correctly, the bad man has had his DNA replaced in Cuba, and now is no longer Oriental but Caucasian and is played by Toby Stephens, as Gustav Graves, diamond mogul who claims to have discovered a mine in Iceland, but in fact gets his diamonds from conflict-ridden West Africa, a no-no on the world market. Graves has built an ice palace in Iceland, but has also built a space satellite that focuses the sun's rays into a laser point that can melt just about anything and anybody, which he will ultimately use, at the end of the film, to explode the minefield along the DMZ in Korea so that the wicked North Koreans can invade the South once more. Are you still with me? I thought not. No matter.
Bond's partner here is Halle Berry, whose charisma and sense of the screen simply obliterate Brosnan when both are seen together, as is the case when he is on screen with anybody at all. Remember "The Thomas Crown Affair," when he vanished every time Rene Russo appeared? Well, I do.
"Die Another Day" has gadgets up the ying-yang, including Q's new invisible car, but it never uses them well. There are too many of them, and they do too little to be at all memorable. The script is only mechanical; that is, it has no room or time for character or wit or even a good one-liner. And Lee Tamahori's direction - let's remember that he made the brilliant and heart-rending "Once Were Warriors," about a Maori family in the process of disintegrating - is nothing but endless action at peak decibel level, with no sense of a film's proper rhythm or focus. The genius of the early Bond pictures was that the action served the plot. Here it's reversed; the plot, such as it is, is nothing but a peg to hang the action on. It gets old, and boring; and the last thing we want from this series is to be bored.