Bonding With The Best

007's showing his age, but he can still ride a mean wave.

James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) bandies his name about like it means Christmas, but his calling card loses its cheer in North Korea, when his cover as a secret agent is blown. In a visually stunning opening, Bond rises from the sea like a water monkey on a surfboard to trespass over enemy lines. Out to convict a corrupt North Korean colonel, James Bond is sold out by one of his own, and endures torture, Oriental style, until his agency bails him out.

Unceremoniously discarded by his employers as unusable, Bond decides to operate independently and goes out in search of the mole. En route, he encounters curvy American spy Jinx (Halle Berry) in Cuba; discovers an underground genetic facility, where he finds Zao (Rick Yune), the erstwhile colonel’s Man Friday; and chances upon some very exclusive diamonds. The diamonds lead him to billionaire Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) and publicist Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike), who invite him on a sojourn to Iceland, where Bond unveils a closeted conspiracy that could lead to World War III.

The story unravels steadily, panning greater global ground with a steady input of eccentric details. Occasional frames capture great action, like the one where Halle Berry does a back flip over a cliff, or even the opening surfboard sequence. The usual suspects, like M (Dame Judi Dench) and Miss Moneypenny make a comeback, though gadget expert Q has changed face

The film brims with multifaceted dimensions, but shows an increasing attempt to bamboozle the audience more with tiresome twitches in the tale than with gadgets and girls. Instead of allowing the personage of 007 to take its trademark shape, with its cultivated cynicism and excesses of style, the man is made to go through the motions with near-automaton alacrity. Dispensing logic and a sense of realism are accepted requisites, but surely even fantasy should not completely embrace science fiction...

Don’t be surprised to find Bond a little blue in the face; he isn’t getting any younger and although age shouldn’t be the defining criterion for the dynamism of this secret agent, Brosnan does look as though he’s stretching this role too thin, oomph and Omega notwithstanding. One doesn’t quite know what Halle Berry is supposed to do in the scheme of things - she ends up becoming Bond’s aide (and bedmate), but she simply isn’t convincing enough as sexy spy.

The finale is sorely disappointing, bringing back memories of big-budget flops. This one might just make you want to die today.

This article was first published on 25 Feb 2002.