James Bond has become synonymous with stunts. In the action field, he's not a fighter, like the martial arts brigade, but a throwback to the era of suave gentleman spies. He doesn't wear an old school tie anymore and has stopped donning a dinner jacket and wandering down to the casino of an evening, with a sporty gel on his arm.

In the 21st century, he is an anachronism and he knows it. Sooner or later, M (Judi Dench) is going to say, "You're no use to anyone now." In fact, she does, right here, in Die Another Day, the latest in the franchise.

007 has been rotting in a North Korean jail for more than a year and looks like Ben Gunn. Even Miss Moneypenny (Samantha Bond - no relation) wouldn't catch her breath if she saw him. British Intelligence doesn't have time for washed-out prison fodder and so he's shown the door.

The plot is preposterous. But then, it usually is. That's not the point. When Pierce Brosnan says, "The name's Bond... James Bond," do the hairs on the back of your neck turn cartwheels? If not, you can write him off as an Aquascutum salesman having a bad day.

To be fair, Brosnan has the measure of the man. Without being rude to The Most Famous Scotsman, he grows ever more accustomed to the role and is probably the best Bond of them all. Certainly, he's put through his paces by Maori director Lee Tamahori and comes out of it stirred, but not shaken.

Halle Berry, fresh from her Oscar triumph as the first black actress to win the top award for Monster's Ball, is surprisingly lacking in character. She appears from the waves off Havana, wearing Ursula Andress's bikini from Dr No. She looks sculptured, untouchable, physically fit. She's so controlled, she could be an android. Even when doing that undersheet naked thing with the bonkmeister, she's disciplined.

Toby Stephens plays the villain as a vain, super-rich, competitive, ex-public school playboy, who is good at games. Actually, he's an Asian warlord's son, with a DNA transplant, involved in a massive diamond scam. Please don't ask for an explanation. Scriptwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade went wobbly on screen cred at this point.

Bond is after the person who betrayed him in Korea. Berry is working for an American ounter/overt/undercover/licence-to-chill agency of national security, whatever that means. The stunts are spectacular. The venues have style. The mood is tougher, raunchier.

007's Aston Martin has borrowed Harry Potter's dad's invisibility cloak, which is a bit of a cheat, and there should be a warning outside cinemas: DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME. The magic of CGI can make anything possible and some of the stuff here is beyond possible.

JB lives! Even in 2002. Is Ian Fleming turning in his grave? Or having a party? Somehow, it doesn't matter. James has left the building. Bond remains the property of Broccoli & Partners.

Reviewed on: 20 Nov 2002
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Die Another Day packshot
Pierce Brosnan as 007 and Halle Berry as the bird in the wetsuit fight North Korean face changers.
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Director: Lee Tamahori

Writer: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, Rick Yune, Judi Dench, John Cleese, Michael Madsen, Will Yun Lee, Samantha Bond

Year: 2002

Runtime: 123 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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