On the strength of exceptionally creative gadgetry and stunts, "Die Another Day" marks a welcome reprieve from
the malaise of the last few Pierce Brosnan Bond pictures. The 20th Bond adventure (not counting the un-sanctioned "Never
Say Never Again"), "Die Another Day" is Brosnan's fourth outing as Bond, and his best since the first, 1995's
The last two films, "Tomorrow Never Dies" and "The World is Not Enough," suffered due to pedestrian
scripts, unexceptional stunts, and (worst of all) weakly drawn villains and Bond girls. The two movies were so forgettable
that I challenge anyone to remember the plot of either, and who played either villain. Just as the "Star Trek" franchise
dropped off after Gene Roddenbery's death and the Muppets nosedived after the passing of Jim Henson, the Bond franchise appeared
to be in free fall after the death in 1997 of producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli.
"Die Another Day," however, marks a welcome return to form. The new film is directed by Lee Tamahori, who has
helmed episodes of "The Sopranos" as well as genre films like "Along Came a Spider," and he's just the
right director for this type of adventure. He brings a ton of creativity to the action sequences, both notably the beginning
and ending sequences (both set in North Korea).
Bond begins the film on a mission in Korea's de-militarized zone- at the end of the pre-credit sequence he's captured
and thus held in North Korea for 18 months, emerging emaciated and with a scraggly beard. He later does battle with a North
Korean terrorist ("Fast and the Furious"' Rick Yune) as well as a snobbish English entrepreneur (played by Toby
Stephens who, with his exaggerated swagger, looks not unlike the Evil Conan O'Brien.).
It also helps that in the Bond girl role for the first time in memory is a real actress- Halle Berry, the first-ever Oscar-winning
Bond girl and one who marks a welcome upgrade from such cartoon starlets as Famke Janssen, Teri Hatcher and Denise Richards.
Berry's strong and sexy, a perfect modern-day Bond Girl. Rosamund Pike is very good as well as Bond's more mysterious female
sidekick, bringing the female side of the Bond franchise up to par once again (a distracting cameo by Madonna notwithstanding).
Brosnan has said that he will appear in one more Bond film (at 50, he's getting a little old for the role). Here's hoping
all of the next film's elements (the action, the stunts, the villains, the girls), come together as perfectly as they do in
"Die Another Day."