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Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Judi Dench, John Cleese, Rick Yune, Rosamund Pike

Directed by: Lee Tamahori
Written by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
Produced by: Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli
Distributor: MGM

US: 22/11/02 UK: 22/11/02

A device enabling facial mutation falls into the hands of a North Korean general named Zao (Yune). Being tracked by Bond, Yune will don facial prosthetics for the part as his character comes across the mutating device and begins to undergo facial transformation. But the experiment goes awry, leaving him half-changed.

10 Jan/Wall Street Journal: Do Koreans know the difference between movies and reality?
3 Dec/New York Post: Berry's Bonded Body
25 Nov/New York Times: Best Bond US Opening Ever at $47 mil
19 Nov/New York Post: Berry boast: Sexiest Bond babe ever
Berry may go for an 007 spin-off movie
Berry had trouble keeping up with Bond
New York Post/Unzipper licenced to thrill
London museum pays homage to 007

Atlanta Journal/People
Chicago Trib/LA Times
New York Post/New York Times
USA Today/Washington Post
Entertainment Weekly/Seattle Post
Reel reviews/Rolling Stone
Film Reporter

Dave Reviews Out Loud/
Ebert & Roeper

Halle Berry shows Ursula Andress a thing or two

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Bond plots have hardly changed since the first stab in 1962 with Dr. No. Mad criminal genius insists on controlling the world. Only one thing stands in his way. Bond... James Bond.

In the 40th anniversary, 20th Bond flick, 007 is personified in just under his 50th year by Pierce Brosnan who does the biz big time. This time he's helped by what has to be the babe of all Bond babes, the freshly Oscared, totally gorge-alicious Halle Berry.

The plot is, of course, fairly superfluous. But like the rest of the movie, it references and pays homage to many of the classic Bond set-ups from the previous nineteen. In this case 'Moonraker' with a satellite gizmo to hold the world to ransom or destroy the planet, or some such nonsense.

But as we all know, the real reason we watch Bond are for the babes and gadgets - and the way 007 handles them both with English savoir-faire. Throw in a load of puns ranging from the groaners to the laffers and you have the template many have copied but few have matched - XXX anyone? I don't think so!

Die does not disappoint on any point - it's great fun with a ten-minute action packed opening before we even get to the opening titles. This time around Bond has some real ass-kicking competition with Berry and a fantastic young English actress, Rosamund Pike in a career making first movie. Both have the brains, beauty and the moves to give the old chap a real run for his money. This shows just how much the times have a changed since Ursula Andress unforgettably rose from the sea in her skimpy 1962 bikini. These days the girls really are on top - in or out of the sack.

Complementing these beauties there always has to be a beast in the shape of a megalomaniacal villain Bond is destined to defeat. This time he's played all guns blazing and all gums sneering by Toby Stephens (Maggie Smith's and Robert Stephen's sprog). Stephen's has a real pumped-up physical menace that's a major improvement on the dinky Robert Carlyle from Bond's last outing. The six-minute sword fight (yes Sword Fight, yes six minutes) between him and 007 is both fantastically thrilling and campy at the same time. Classic Bond. And the point being to take us right back to those less complicated days with real hands on action - and when Bond's sexy gadgets stretched to the car ejector seat and a laser watch.

In between these personal duels, director Lee Tamahori significantly ups the stunt ante with a bevy of lengthy action sequences involving beautiful cars, racing hovercraft, jumbo jets, space lasers, and ice-palaces. Okay - the CGI shows sometimes, but he directs so confidently and with such a modern style, it's easy to forgive. It's worth noting that Brosnan hurt his knee shortly into the shoot and that does explain a couple of rather obvious blue screen projections. Though they could simply be 'une homage' to Connery's back projection shenanigans in 'Dr No' and 'From Russia With Love'.

However you'll accept all that just to see the inspired gadgets. Especially the stealth-mode 'invisible' Aston Martin Vanquish lovingly kitted out by John Cleese's hilarious new Q who keeps up the traditions set by the late Desmond Llewelyn. Then there's the glass shattering signet ring, the weapon watch, the mobile phone detonators, the knives. Yep we have the lad's wet dream in gadgets and guns.

This also has to have one of the strongest supporting casts assembled in many a movie, not just in any Bond movie. Judi Dench, Samantha Bond, Michael Masden, Madonna and Rick Yune all give Brosnan top-notch acting to play off. And watch out for the hilarious climax that follows the stupendous fight climax. I won't spoil it, but Miss Moneypenny finally comes into her own.

Bond is back for the new Millennium - and to paraphrase Blofeld's most famous line... " No I expect you to die another day far far into the future Mister Bond!"

Agent 007 is back in his 20th film adventure, and things are darker and more serious now. As his boss M (Dench) says to him at one point, "While you were away, the world changed." A serious director also explains this shift. We start in North Korea, where Bond (Brosnan) is undercover on some sort of diamonds-for-arms deal that goes horribly wrong, leading to literally 14 months of torture (perhaps the first Bond title sequence that actually advances the plot!). Once freed, Bond is now suspect--was he brainwashed by the Axis of Evil? But of course, he knows there's a massive plot afoot to take over the planet, and so he heads off to Havana, London, Iceland and back to Korea to catch billionaire madman Gustav Graves (Stephens) and his diamond-studded henchman Zao (Yune). Of course, he picks up two gorgeous and very feisty women along the way (Berry and Pike), each of whom play pivotal roles in the adventure.

Even with this more sober sensibility, the film is a lot of fun, unafraid to flirt with absurd humour and pure silliness, endless double entendre and outlandish stunts that really get our adrenaline pumping (only one looks digitally faked). In fact, the sword fight is one of the best ever put on film--awkward, rough and thrilling. In this sense it's the first Bond film in years that feels like a true classic of the genre. Production values are very high indeed, and Tamahori somehow manages to balance the film's over-the-top elements (a ludicrous hotel built out of ice) with more believable down-to-earth tension. These more dramatic aspects of the film make it feel long sometimes--it drags a bit, which is surprising, but usually means characters are being developed more than usual. Brosnan continues to mature as his own distinctive Bond--darker, more complex, not completely trustworthy. And the supporting cast actually get characters who make sense ... within the daft 007 world of course. All seem to be having a great time, taking the story seriously, but only to a point. It's pure class, along with lots of carefully crafted humour that's genuinely sharp and funny. Honestly, nobody does it better! Rob Cohen and Vin Diesel must cry themselves to sleep at night; XXX simply doesn't hold a candle to this. to


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