40 YEARS OF BOND PART 5: LICENSED TO KILL: Swordfights, car chases and a diamond-faced villain - it's the best Bond yet.
BOND'S latest adventure, Die Another Day, is the best yet from Pierce Brosnan as 007 - and very probably the best since Sean Connery handed in his licence to kill.
That will come as a relief to the owners of the film world's longest- running franchise as Bond's title as top action hero has been under threat since Vin Diesel's Xander Cage emerged in summer hit xXx.
But after the first public screening of the 20th Bond adventure, at a packed Empire cinema in London's Leicester Square, my verdict is that Brosnan comfortably holds on to his crown and Diesel remains a pretender, waiting in the wings.
On this showing, though, he's going to have quite a wait because neither Brosnan nor Bond are showing any signs of age. Pierce has described Die Another Day - basically a simple tale of revenge as 007 tries to discover who betrayed him to the North Koreans - as a movie with muscle.
And he's right. It's a meaty, powerful, punchy effort, which delivers so much thrilling action that it leaves you breathless.
For me, the action highlight is some swashbuckling swordplay between Bond and main villain Gustav Graves - a pumped- up Toby Stephens. Eat your heart out, Errol Flynn.
The fast-moving sequence also features a cameo by Madonna as a butch fencing instructor but there's bags of other classic Bond action.
Like the opening when our hero takes part in a break-neck hovercraft chase across a minefield.
Or just when you think that you've seen just about every possible variation on the movie car chase, along comes Bond with a bold new idea.
007 and Korean baddie Zao, whose face is pitted with diamonds following an earlier encounter with Bond, send an Aston Martin and Jaguar belting across a frozen lake. Naturally Bond's new wheels is packed with all Q's latest gadgets. Best of the bunch is a camouflage button that renders the vehicle invisible.
There are plenty of lighter moments too, with a series of affectionate nods to favourite Bond films - like Bond girl Halle Berry in an orange bikini replicating the moment from Dr No when Ursula Andress emerged from the surf.
And as the cheekily-named Jinx, Halle fills a swimsuit more attractively than any Bond babe since Ursula, you'll be pleased to hear that there's another, more dramatic, bikini moment later on.
Although it's most definitely Bond's show, the girls do well in Die Another Day.
Oscar winner Halle kicks her height as a sexy action girl and Rosamund Pike is a scene stealer as the mysterious Miranda Frost. No wonder she's been tipped for the role of Lady Penelope in a new version of Thunderbirds. Unsurprisingly, 007 manages to romance both Jinx and Miranda.
Even the under-used Samantha Bond as Moneypenny gets an opportunity to shine when, right at the end of the high-octane action, she and Brosnan deliver the funniest gag in the entire film.
It's hilarious - based on Money-penny's unspoken devotion for 007 - that made me laugh out loud and meant that I left the screening shaken and stirred by the brilliance of Bond, and with a huge smile on my face.
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|Publication:||Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)|
|Date:||Nov 10, 2002|
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