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Review: Bond's been there, done that

By Paul Clinton

Bond is all dressed up but going nowhere in the latest film.
Bond is all dressed up but going nowhere in the latest film.

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CNN's Jason Carroll has more on the 40th anniversary of the James Bond film franchise and takes a look at 'Die Another Day,' the 20th movie in the series. (November 21)
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(CNN) -- "I wasn't impressed," muttered a woman behind me as we exited the industry screening for "Die Another Day." I couldn't agree more.

Sure it's all wrapped in a big glossy cinematic package, Pierce Brosnan still takes his martinis shaken not stirred, Halle Berry is drop dead gorgeous in her orange bikini while rising like Venus on a-half-shell off a Cuban beach, and as always there are plenty of gadgets.

But there is something so 20th Century about James Bond. Taking into account such films as "The Matrix," (1999) and the new technology evident in other movies such as "The Lord of the Rings," and the "Harry Potter" series, this 40 year-old franchise is beginning to look frayed around the edges. That being said, "Die Another Day," will make millions and will undoubtedly be the No. 1 film in the country next week.

The film does begin with an excellent cold open. Even before the opening credits roll, you're treated to a great sequence in which Bond and some special forces cohorts surf their way onto a North Korean beach and proceed to assassinate a rogue North Korean colonel who plans to invade the south. It's an impossible and completely over-the-top sequence -- in other words pure James Bond.

Unfortunately, Bond has been double crossed and the mission results in his capture by the North Koreans. After 14-months of torture, M (once again played by Judi Dench) and other powers-that-be back in London fear Bond has cracked and -- even though he has now lost his usefulness -- they arrange to get him out of North Korea before he spills everything he knows.

Of course 007 hasn't cracked. The only thing he's spilled is a bit of blood dripping artfully from his perfectly shaped nostril. Now Bond has to escape from his own government and hunt down whoever set him up. And we're off.

More style than substance

As usual the plot makes no sense -- this is a Bond movie, after all, and a plot would be way too much to ask for -- but I digress. There are some wonderful one-liners scattered here and there, and of course a few wicked double entendres, but overall this script, by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, just fills in the spaces between action sequences.

Berry shines as Jinx, a Bond Girl who can hold her own.
Berry shines as Jinx, a Bond Girl who can hold her own.

Toby Stevens ("Possession") portrays the supervillian Gustav Graves, Rick Yune ("The Fast And The Furious") plays his evil sidekick Zao, and both come across as standard issue Bond bad guys. Naturally there is a heavy babe factor here. Leading the pack is Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry ("Monster's Ball" 2001). She's the first Bond girl with an Oscar on her mantle. Kim Basinger is also an Academy Award winner ("L.A. Confidential" 1997) and a Bond girl, but her Oscar came years after her turn as a Bond magnet.

Berry is delicious as Jinx, an undercover National Security Agent for the United States government. She meets Bond in Cuba but somehow she, too, is involved in the whole mess in Korea. Remember the plot is secondary; her exact reason for being there is far from clear. What is clear is that she looks great in a string bikini. Jinx is no shrinking violet, however. She saves Bond's cookies from getting baked a couple of times and he gallantly returns the favor. Newcomer Rosamund Pike also makes a lovely -- if somewhat flat -- impression.

Director Lee Tamahori ("The Edge" 1997, "Along Came A Spider" 2001) keeps things spinning while throwing in all the standard Bond ingredients. A world-wide stage, fast cars full of automatic weapons and missiles, lots of meaningless sex on very expensive sheets, and gigantic stunts accompanied by gigantic explosions.

But overall it's so, so predictable. There's a heavy stench of "been there, done that" hanging over the film. It's everything you'd expect -- but nothing more.

"Die Another Day" opens nationwide on Friday, November 22 and is rated PG-13 with a running time of 123 minutes.

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