The James Bond formula is back (with a few flourishes) and it works as well
as ever for fans of action-adventure, high-concept, thrill-a-minute,
high-risk, danger and sex, all mixed ever so sprightly. It's here, the
knock-you-socks-off opening ending with a spectacular, never thought of
before escape from certain capture or death, the three dimensional action
toys that make boys slaver in envy, and always time for sexual innuendo,
ending in a form of bliss to cap the escapist flair.
In this opening sequence, Bond (Pierce Brosnan) surfs into it through
spectacular waves (and a beautifully shot sequence) but doesn't fare so well.
In an attempted escape in hovercraft over the mine fields of the
demilitarized zone between the Koreas, he appears to have put an end to the
totally evil son of Korean Colonel Moon, seeing his enemy disappear over the
ledge of a steep dam before he (Bond) is captured and tortured for months.
He's finally released in a trade for the scabrously evil Zao (Rick Yune) who's
face bears jeweled scars as though he was scratched by a fairy with bear's
claws. Nice conceit.
The folks back at M6 headquarters, particularly M (Judi Dench), are none too
happy that they got their boy back by losing one of their most dangerous
captives, and 007 loses his 00 credentials. Yes, he is deprived of his
numbers! What an idea.
But, that doesn't mean he won't be busy manipulating his weapons and skills
in a private quest for those that are posing a threat to the planet. Only,
what is the threat. The investigation leads us to the hugely wealthy Gustav
Graves (Toby Stephens) and his physically perfect sidekick Miranda Frost
(Rosamund Pike) who turns out to be a mole for the Brits, a fellow agent.
In any case, Graves is leaking news about his new invention and Bond wants to
infiltrate. He accomplishes this by bettering Stephens in a joust that
starts with fencing swords and escalates to more lethal cutlery. Graves'
diabolical refusal to lose is aroused by his loss but he attempts to put it
aside and briefs Bond on his satellite laser beam (my cannon is bigger than
yours) without revealing its global threat.
Bond, however, is tracking down the man he was traded for: Zao, the released
Korean operative. Little does he know that another agent, Jinx (Halle
Berry), is on the same quest in a more official capacity. Since Zao is on an
island off Cuba's mainland, what do you know, she appears in Bond's
binoculars as he's scoping out the castle on the island. She's rising out of
the surf and provoking a rise in Bond as well as all the males in the
audience. But it's Bond who makes the contact, which appears a spontaneous
hook-up between consenting adults before it turns into more action than he
Turning up with info on Zao, however, appeals enough to M6 to reinstate the
agent, and he's soon provisioned with the latest set of franchise devices by
Q (John Cleese), starting with a car that's tricked out with invisibility,
among its range of defensive and offensive attributes. Lucky man, this
As Bond, Brosnan exploits his best manner of insouciance and class,
attributes that not only become him but are him. While we may hold a special
spot for Sean Connery as the true Bond, Brosnan is the cureent best choice
for the many faceted role.
This is the first of Bond's assignments in which he works with a partner, and
Halle Berry holds in her full talent potential to fit into the thinner
scope of action fare. She does a fine and complete job of it, lending
her physical finery to the enterprise. No doubt, though, this is where the
money and the fame is, and we don't slight her for it even though it's
something like putting a master chef in a MacDonald's kitchen.
Dame Judi Dench (seems PC to grant her her title) is deliciously unerring in
her role as the fastidious M, Bond's ornery boss. Anytime you get to not
like her for what she does and says, you can rest assured that she'll
vindicate your esteem of her in the end.
Madonna appears as Verity, a thankless role for which no thanks should be
asked for or given. We liked her more in "Dick Tracy". A cameo doesn't
bring out her colors.
But, that's not the worst of the casting. Michael Madsen adds his unique
stamp to the character of Damian Falco who appears to be a CIA ubermensch
from some other movie. His part makes little sense and adds no fire
Into the added firepower department for the series steps Rosamund Pike as the
haughty agent who serves up betrayal as though it was a ham sandwich. As this
British beauty and Halle Berry come together in a life or death matchup,
there's no question that these two "10s" have nothing to fear about physical
gradings. Both are total winners. We see a big future for this stunner
whose career seems only to have started.
As for the Bond franchise, its current setting may break no new ice in the
literary department, but it fulfills its essential mission to entertain for
2 hours and 12 stunt-filled minutes in its patented, formulaic, satisfying
way. We think it'll survive yet another day.
~~ Jules Brenner