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Die Another Day (12A)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc One: Commentary with director Lee Tamahori and producer Michael G. Wilson; Commentary with Pierce Brosnan and Rosamund Pike; MI6 DataStream on-screen trivia track with integration to 19 behind the scenes featurettes.
Disc Two: 'From Script to Screen' documentary (53 mins); Car chase documentary 'Shaken Not Stirred On Ice' (23 mins); Inside Die Another Day (77 mins); 6 mission briefings; Storyboard to final shot comparision of 4 key scenes; Multi-angle exploration of 4 action sequences; Title design; Digital grading; Equipment briefing; Image database (over 250 stills); Trailers; TV spots; Madonna music video 'Die Another Day' (plus making of); '007: Nightfire' trailer (PlayStation 2 game), plus making of... James Bond special edition DVD trailer.

JAMES Bond has seldom had it so hard. Lambasted for being boring, and even past it, following The World Is Not Enough, 007 has been forced to watch over his shoulder as every major studio attempts to muscle in on the secret agent genre, with mixed results.

The most recent pretender to Bond’s supremacy, xXx, offered an extreme sports variation on the secret agent theme, so it is little wonder, therefore, that within minutes of 007’s latest outing, he can be seen surfing into his latest mission on the crest of a very large wave.

The momentum is maintained throughout, with 007 pitted against yet more villains intent on world domination, armed with his usual array of glib one-liners, smooth-talking charm and life-saving gadgets.

The tried and tested formula even gets shaken up a little, with Bond’s invincibility put to the test during the opening sequence, after he is captured by the enemy and abandoned by the British government - prompting a torture montage offset against the usual title visuals.

But after that, it’s pretty much business as usual, as the betrayed super-spy sets about exacting revenge, clearing his tarnished name, and bidding to save the world.

Pitted against him are the usual array of megalomanics, including Rick Yune’s heavily-scarred North Korean renegade, Zao, and Toby Stephens’ sneering businessman, as well as a turncoat British agent, in the shapely form of Rosamund Pike’s sword-wielding Miranda Frost. All three provide worthy adversaries.

But plot plays a distant second fiddle to the explosions and gadgets on show, as director Lee Tamahori bids to inject new life into the franchise by piling on the set pieces.

Not content with ‘blowing shit up’ early on, during a thrilling hovercraft chase, Tamahori then throws in a Cuban gun battle, a thrilling sword fight and a car chase on ice (between Bond’s Aston Martin and a Jaguar), before the plane-set finale.

Yet in looking forward to try and keep Bond at the forefront of the genre, Tamahori also balances proceedings with some hugely entertaining nods to the past, imbuing Bond with the toughness of Connery and the humour of Moore, while also building on Brosnan’s reputation in the leading role - it is easy to see why fans consider the actor to be the second best Bond ever.

As such, we are treated to the spectacle of yet another bikini-clad Bond girl emerging from the sea (Halle Berry, wearing orange instead of white), a henchman who owes a lot, in appearance, to Oddjob, another death by laser attempt, and plenty of jibes at the expense of former escapades and gadgets.

The returning cast members are also used to good effect, with Samantha Bond’s Miss Moneypenny given a sexier edge, and Dame Judi Dench’s formidable M continuing her love/hate relationship with Bond - the scenes between the two are especially strong.

John Cleese registers strongly as the new Q, doing much to fill in the void many fans feared would be left following the death of series favourite, Desmond Llewelyn, while the Bond girls - Berry and Pike - lend proceedings a more balanced edge by playing Bond at his own game and exposing his weaknesses.

Not everything works, however, and there are moments when proceedings become a little too strained. At two hours and 15 minutes, the film could easily have lost a couple of its CGI-heavy set pieces (one escape sequence, in particular, looks embarrassingly bad), while the one-liners come a little too thick and fast.

But, overall, this is rollicking good fun and a genuinely thrilling entry into the James Bond series which does much to erase any doubts that Britain’s finest had lost his edge.

 

 

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