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Monday, 18 November, 2002, 00:02 GMT
Bond beats new action heroes
Pierce Brosnan in Die Another Day
Bond: Back to teach XXX a thing or two

The 20th official James Bond film proves to be more than a match for its modern counterparts with Oscar winner Halle Berry appearing alongside Pierce Brosnan.

Vin Diesel's smirking tough man was supposed to redefine the espionage hero for the 21st Century.

After all, who would want to don a tuxedo or a Saville Row suit when they could fight international adventures in a snowboarding outfit?

But Vin Diesel should not be popping the champagne corks in victory just yet. Not when Bond capers like Die Another Day are still being made.

Pierce Brosnan (right)
Relentless action in Die Another Day
Quite simply, Brosnan's latest Bond is his best yet. Die Another Day has more spark and energy than any of the franchise's films in the last 15 years.

Straight from the word go we are thrown into a typically complicated caper - but one that puts Bond definitely on the back foot, never quite knowing who to trust, or where the true evil lies.

It opens in traditionally spectacular form, with 007 infiltrating North Korea to hijack a shipment of illegally-mined diamonds - and kill the man who is buying them, North Korean hardman Colonel Moon (Will Yun Lee).

Bond is rumbled but manages to foil the jewel handover and blow up much of Moon's private armoury - and, seemingly, despatch both Moon and his right hand man Zao (Rick Yune) for good measure.

But Moon's army captures the secret agent, and we are treated to some rather less than dashing scenes of a bearded Bond having his head dunked in a bucket of icy water.

Halle Berry
Halle Berry reinvents the Ursula Andress moment
When he is released - in suitably Cold War border-crossing-on-a-foggy-morning style - the paranoia sets in.

Bond returns to London, and to an M (Judi Dench) annoyed at his being captured - and frustrated they have had to swap him for Zao, who has been fighting a one-man war with the west.

Poor old 007. MI5 do not want him, and there is a madman on the loose. His quest to find the truth takes him from London to Havana - linking up with Halle Berry's American spy Jinx - to Iceland, crossing swords with a brash billionaire, Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens).

Halle Berry is a good foil for Bond even if her character is ludicrously two-dimensional, even by Bond girl standards.

That said, the scene where she rises out of the water like Ursula Andress is both iconic and ironic.

New Zealand director Lee Tamahori's film is gritty and gloomy during the early setpiece in North Korea, then steps up a gear when the action hits gadget central.

The sequence where Bond and Zao joust in souped-up sports cars amidst Icelandic icebergs is at once ridiculous and brilliant.

And Tamahori does a good job in cranking up the tension entering the cloak and dagger world of Graves and the dastardly plan that takes Bond and Jinx to the icy north.

All these and two great sword fights, and Madonna proving why she will never win a Best Actress Oscar. Welcome back, Mr Bond.

And you, Diesel - get your coat.

Die Another Day goes on general release on Wednesday.






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