Just as Sherlock Holmes is the detective, James Bond is the secret agent.
Spoofed in “Austin Powers,” copied in “XXX,” praised in “Trainspotting,” the suave and seductive, the passionate and powerful, the witty and wonderful, James Bond has been a movie staple (practically its own genre) for the last 40 years.
But 007 transcends celluloid and paper with a history of acting legacies, a Swatch line, a perfume line, a lipstick line — James Bond is not just a secret agent; he is a lifestyle.
Ian Fleming’s brainchild novel, “Casino Royale,” started the life of British MI6 secret agent Bond, James Bond. Although never officially making it to the silver screen, a mock “Casino Royale” was made in 1967 but was an utter failure (even with Woody Allen, Orson Welles, and Peter Sellers). The book’s success catapulted Fleming into the limelight, and four years later, EON picked up and produced the first James Bond film starring the effervescent Sean Connery in “Dr. No.”
Forty years later, four actors retired, countless women after, Pierce Brosnan stars in the twentieth installment of the James Bond saga, “Die Another Day.”
The titular agent is in North Korea attempting to assassinate the son of Colonel Moon (Will Yun Lee, “Witchblade”) to prevent a war across the demilitarized zone. After his cover is betrayed, an exhilarating hovercraft chase ensues that ends in a successful assassination and Bond getting caught.
Fourteen months later, after a beautiful torture scene montage to Madonna’s theme song, Bond is traded for evil henchman Zao (Rick Yune, “The Fast and the Furious”). However, his freedom is temporarily denied. Bent on capturing Zao, Bond leaves for Cuba, where he finds Zao undergoing gene therapy. With his newest female companion, Jinx (Halle Berry, “Monster’s Ball”), the pursuit leads Bond to Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens, “Possession”), millionaire and diamond expert, as he reveals his newest gift to the world, Icarus.
Capable of directing the sun’s rays to any location, Icarus presents Bond with a melting dilemma in Iceland. Once the connection between Gustav and Zao is discovered, Bond is back in North Korea, fighting with the NSA and MI6 to save the world from yet another over-ambitious millionaire bent on world domination.
Quite simply, “Die Another Day” is one of the most interesting Bond entries.
Despite a weak plot full of loose ends (something rather characteristic of the newer Bond efforts), the film is enchanted by an ensemble that matches “Goldfinger” and “Dr. No.” Pierce Brosnan has proven to be the best 007 since Connery, and it is a shame it is his last role, as he seems to have really fallen into Bond’s nuances, most importantly the swagger of a person who does not need to fear anything.
Every line is recited with a perfect nonchalance, while his eyes and facial manners perfectly reveal what he is feeling. Halle Berry is also terrific, putting the last three Bond women to shame with her sex appeal, wonderful grins and smirks.
As a villain, Stephens is the weakest part of the cast, never seeming to care enough about taking over the world, but Yune has got to be the coolest henchman since Jaws.
Time has certainly played a part in “Die Another Day“‘s production and editing choices. The old elegance and superiority that James Bond had over his nemeses is lost in the overcompensating action. The majority of the film is too similar to modern-day action-packed flicks.
Perhaps in an effort to compete with stars like Vin Diesel and movies like “The Matrix,” “Die Another Day” has James Bond doing very un-Bond-like things — drag racing a Jaguar and an Aston Martin across a frozen lake, driving in reverse firing missiles at Zao that are ridiculously countered by Zao’s Bond-like car, etc.
Since when does a henchmen get toys as cool as Bond’s? That’s like someone else sleeping with a Bond girl! It’s a fitting image for the impression with which “Die Another Day” leaves the viewer — cheated on and cuckholded, but ultimately glad to see 007 back in action.