Monday, November 17, 2003

Managed to finally catch up with the most recent (20th) Bond movie Die Another Day over the weekend on pay-per-view. Most of the reviews I've read had been fairly sniffy, complaining that the movie had jettisoned the franchise's unique selling points in its attempts to keep up with all the recent fantasy and comic-book competitors. While its true that the film is bathed in a light dusting of blue techno sheen, I thought the movie was by and large successful in its attempts to modernise the brand while staying faithful to the Fleming formulae. And besides, over the 40 years of Bond movies, many have been a reflection of their own cinematic era, most notably perhaps Moonraker in the late '70s.

Die Another Day starts with some lively stuntwork before Bond is caught in enemy territory and gets tortured while Madonna sings the title tune (for once, I'm going to avoid the obvious joke). The lively title sequence works well actually, although the song works better on record than it does as a theme tune. Fourteen months later, Bond emerges hirsute and semi-naked into a post-9/11 world, looking like the Naked Rambler, or (given his squeaky voice) The Missing Bee Gee. Then there's the usual bollocks with M, Moneypenny and John Cleese before the babes are introduced.

Halle Berry is Jinx in Die Another DayI'm a big Halle Berry fan but the best to be said about her performance as the unfortunately-monikered Jinx is she looks good in an orange bikini: she struggles to find a tone for her character and the banter between herself and Bond feels forced and unsexy. Rosamund Pike as the icy fellow agent Miranda Frost fares a little better, but she's laughably too young to make a convincing couple with Brosnan, who's still handsome but beginning to show his age. Madonna has a cameo as a fencing instructor who comes a little undone, and despite what you may have read, she seems no more uncomfortable than Berry with the arch verbal jousting.

Once the usual convoluted exposition and lusty romping is out of the way, the action picks up a gear in the second half when Bond uses his spiffy invisible car to stop an eccentric billionairre (a hammy but amusing Toby Stephens) from doing something or other to the world with a machine that harnesses the power of the sun (OK, I admit it, I wasn't really paying attention to the science bit). Which all just left time for a reasonably funny Miss Moneypenny gag before the closing credits.

A reasonable addition to the series then, even if it's likely only to be remembered in years to come as 'the one with the invisible car and Halle Berry in an orange bikini'. Hey, there are worse reasons to see a movie.


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