Film review: British heartthrob and secret agent Bond will 'Die Another Day'

    James Bond is back, and this time he has loosened up a bit. He has also brought along some friends. Dame Judi Dench and John Cleese return in their previous roles as M and Q, repectively, Halle Berry plays the new Bond babe, and plenty of new faces pop up in a plot that revolves around diamonds, DNA and death rays.

    Courtesy of MGM

    Got all that? It doesn’t matter. “”Fun”” is the operative word here, and keeping track of exactly why Bond has to go to Korea, Cuba or Iceland is secondary to enjoying the film as it is. Once logic is thrown out, watching forced love stories and cars repeatedly crash through walls becomes much more gratifying.

    Fans of the series should be pleased to know that the prerequisite sex, chase scenes and explosions have all been set to maximum level. References to old Bond movies also are frequent and unobtrusive, such as Berry’s emergence from the ocean, evocative of Ursula Andress’ Honey Ryder character in the first Bond film, “”Dr. No.”” Cleese’s hilarious Q also shows up with some goodies from the past, namely the jet pack and knife shoes.

    Pierce Brosnan, who reprises his role as James Bond for the fourth time, seems completely comfortable in 007’s shoes. He obviously takes the role very seriously and spends less time giving “”Damn I’m smooth”” stares in favor of actually acting. In perhaps one of those most demanding Bond roles, Brosnan must both show the desperation of a tortured man and spout cheesy one-liners with equal ease.

    Berry isn’t quite convincing as Jinx, the latest Bond chick. It’s OK; it’s playtime for Berry after hefty award-winning roles in “”Introducing Dorothy Dandridge”” and “”Monster’s Ball.”” She gets the job done by squeezing every bit of attitude possible out of lines like “”Ornithologist — that’s a mouthful,”” as she casually glances at 007’s “”private I.”” She also looks like Meryl Streep next to Denise Richards and her vomit-inducing performance in the last Bond film (1999’s “”The World is Not Enough””).

    The most welcome surprise is the effectiveness of the new characters. Foxy British newcomers Rosamund Pike (Miranda Frost) and Toby Stephens (Gustav Graves) are gloriously wicked in their roles as Bond adversaries.

    Bond’s encounters with uptight Frost helps provide the sexual chemistry and frustration missing from the Bond/Jinx combination, culminating in a bedroom adorned with swans that looks like it was decorated by Prince and Bjoerk.

    The character of Graves is also successful as Bond’s foil, with Stephens displaying his Guy Pearce-like demonic grin. These two rising stars largely contribute to the success of the film. If the world is a fair place, much more of them will be seen in the near future.

    The problem with including so much action and so many characters is that the film runs a bit long. Even with a running time of over two hours, characters like Rick Yune’s scarfaced villain, Zao, and Samantha Bond’s hilarious Miss Monneypenny feel underused. Still, this is obviously an action movie, not a character film, and Bond’s cool car chases, sword fights and surf scenes make up for plot holes and flat characters. Sporting both a cool new song and a laughably bad cameo by Madonna, this promises to be one of the most entertaining action movies released this year.

    Die Another Day

    ***

    Starring Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry and Toby Stephens

    In theaters Nov. 22

    Rated PG-13

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