‘Die Another Day’ – Bond at 40 on Max

For the 40th Anniversary of James Bond and the 20th Bond feature, Die Another Day (2002) put the fourth and final go round for Pierce Brosnan as 007 through an ordeal no Bond has gone through before. After a successful mission but a failed escape, he’s captured, imprisoned, and tortured for 18 months in a North Korean prison.

It’s a shockingly gritty opening for a film that delivers some of the best set pieces you could want, from the mayhem unleashed during the not-so-subtle infiltration of a fortress-like spa for the rich and criminal to a car chase through a melting ice palace to a deathmatch aboard a runaway airplane melting from a solar laser like an ant under a magnifying glass.

The plot… well, why worry about that? Heroes and villains that make a Bond movie, and this one has a mysterious millionaire with a wicked way with a foil (Toby Stephens) and wild card compatriot by the name of Jinx (Halle Berry), a slinky CIA spy who rises from the surf like Ursula Andress in Dr. No and crosses paths with Bond in curve-hugging designer spywear. There’s also a frosty MI6 contact (Rosamund Pike) that Bond thaws with his usual romantic heat and a silent Korean assassin (Rick Yune) whose face glitters with embedded diamonds.

The over-reliance on epic CGI effects results in a few chinks in the spectacle (the tidal wave looks like a video game effect), but the thrill-topping succession of death-defying disasters and unbelievable battles—more fantastical than the usual duel between supervillain and master spy—just don’t stop coming. It was wildest Bond film in years, and director Lee Tamahori had a grand time with it.

Judi Dench and John Cleese are back as M and Q, respectively, Samantha Bond makes her final appearance as Moneypenny, and Michael Madsen, Will Yun Lee, and Colin Salmon costar.

Four years later, Daniel Craig brought a gritty edge to 007 in the next era of the franchise in Casino Royale (2006).

Rated PG-13

Also on Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
Die Another Day [Blu-ray]
Die Another Day [DVD]
The James Bond Collection (24 Film Set) [Blu-ray]

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The special edition Blu-ray and DVD releases are as packed as ever: two commentary tracks (one by director Lee Tamahori and producer Michael. G. Wilson, the other by stars Pierce Brosnan and Rosamund Pike), an interactive viewing option with trivia and featurettes, a feature-length making of documentary, numerous featurettes, and other interactive features.


Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at RogerEbert.com, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.

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