Just like in every other 007 picture, James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is involved in chases, last-minute escapes and plenty of mayhem.
Provided by MGM Studios
The spy who came in with the gold
'Die Another Day' proves that no one does it better than James Bond
In 1962, I sat in the Maribel Theater in Chelsea, Okla., and watched as a bikined Ursula Andress rose up out of the surf in the first James Bond movie, "Dr. No."
A couple of days ago, I sat in the Eastland Theater in Tulsa and watched as a bikined Halle Berry rose up out of the surf in the 20th James Bond movie, "Die Another Day."
I relate these two things to illustrate a couple of things. One is that the films in the Bond series, one of the longest franchises in cinema history, don't change very much. They may have gotten a bit bloodier, a bit more sexually explicit and there may be some more sophisticated camera work and special-effects tricks, but they remain, fundamentally, wish-fulfillment adventures in which the hero is dashing and suave under pressure, the villains are oily and despicable, the women are beautiful, and the action and gadgetry are inventive and extremely cool.
The other thing to note is that I don't have much objectivity when it comes to Bond. To me, seeing a 007 movie brings back the era of the cinema and television superspy, which also happened to coexist with my teen years. A Bond adventure makes me think of that heady time when spies like Derek Flint and Matt Helm came sailing along in Bond's wake, while "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." and "I Spy" wove their own glamorous and exciting spy-adventure takes on the small screen.
Somehow, while everything else has changed all around us, James Bond has managed to stay in a time-warp, doing pretty much the same things he's always done -- and, miraculously, still drawing new audiences while keeping the old. James Bond is kind of like the now-disbanded country group the Mavericks -- retro and up-to-the-minute at the same time.
This time, the action centers on those Axis of Evil superstars, the North Koreans. In the film's first sequence, Bond (Pierce Brosnan) gets captured by that country's forces while trying to trade military equipment for purloined diamonds, a situation that leads to 14 months of rough treatment (presented rather cleverly as a montage under the credits). He comes out of it looking like Chuck Manson, but he still manages to keep a bon mot or two at the ready for his captors.
As the North Korean colonel (Will Yun Lee) says, amazedly, after dragging Bond out of his cell and into an interrogation chair: "Still you jest."
Eventually, Bond hooks back up with the good guys -- including his boss M, once again played by Judi Dench -- only to find that they don't much want him around, either, feeling that he unconsciously ratted some people out during the months he was being knocked around, half-drowned and stung by scorpions.
He, of course, knows differently, and sets out to redeem himself. It's hardly giving anything away to say that his subsequent quest takes him into locales like London, Cuba and Iceland; into the acquaintance of an arrogant, crocodile-smiling gazillionaire named Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens), and into bed with a fiesty knockout named Jinx (Halle Berry) and an ice princess -- literally -- who goes by the name of Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike).
There are chases, last-minute escapes and mayhem aplenty -- just like every other Bond picture. And it may be my imagination, but it seems to me that director Lee Tamahori ("Mulholland Falls," "Once Were Warriors") and director of photography David Tattersal (who shot the two most recent "Star Wars" pictures) have gone for a bright, saturated-color look throughout, something else that evokes the golden age of the secret agents.
Yes, some of the dialogue is more clunky than it is glib -- a hazard anytime someone tries the tongue-in-cheek approach -- and it's probably a little longer than it needs to be. But "Die Another Day" faithfully hews to the James Bond formula, giving us all the elements and allowing the '60s formula to not only live, but prosper, into the the new millennium.
John Wooley, World entertainment writer, can be reached at 581-8477 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Film: “Die Another Day”
Stars: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry and Toby Stephens
Theaters: Eastland, Southroads 20, Tulsa, Starworld 20, Owasso
Running Time: 123 minutes
Rating: PG-13 (violence, sexual situations)
Quality: *** (on a scale of zero to four stars)