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Movie Review

Die Another Day marks the 20th installment—and the 40th anniversary—of the longest-running, most successful film franchise in Hollywood history. The formula is as simple and straightforward as the preparation of 007’s signature vodka martini (very dry, shaken not stirred). Start with a completely amoral British secret agent who has a license to kill and a magnetic charm with the ladies. Add a volatile political situation, usually involving a megalomaniac with a twisted plan for world domination. Manipulate the agent’s pursuit of said megalomaniac (and his evil, often freakish right-hand man) for maximum action, mayhem and the eventual destruction of the villain’s lair. Toss in expensive cars, high-tech gadgets, fashionable formalwear, sly sexual innuendo, exotic locales, shapely women in various stages of undress, casual sex, and violence that produces a substantial body count.

Shake, don’t stir.

The series’ latest concoction opens with James Bond in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, trying to unmask a traitor tied to diamonds and a satellite/weapon of mass destruction. Immediately, Bond’s cover is blown. A hovercraft chase across a mine field ends with his capture. After 14 months in an Asian prison, Bond resumes his search by traveling to Hong Kong, Cuba, London and, finally, Iceland. Along the way he encounters the ethically dubious practice of transplanting DNA for genetic therapy, beds two fellow agents and makes full use of his license to kill.

positive elements: The good guys value loyalty and patriotism. Bond risks life and limb to save the civilized world, as well as the life of a fellow agent. Terrorism is condemned, and it’s implied that harvesting DNA from "people who won’t be missed" is a heinous practice.

sexual content: When Bond first meets Jinx (she emerges from the surf in a skimpy bikini), they exchange sly innuendoes before it is suggested they spend some "down time" together that evening. The very next shot shows the pair engaged in passionate foreplay in bed. Later, a masseuse named Peaceful Fountains of Desire prepares to work on Bond until he exposes the encounter as a set-up. Cool to Bond’s come-ons at first, Miranda Frost melts in the agent’s arms and winds up in his bed. Miss Moneypenny uses a virtual reality gadget to have a fantasy fling with 007. Several women are shown in lingerie or bikinis. There’s a shot of a well-endowed nude female ice sculpture. The opening credits are accompanied by fire-and-ice silhouettes of naked women, made all the more inappropriate by the way they’re interspersed with shots of Bond being tortured in a Korean prison. Elsewhere Bond punches out a man as the victim’s barely clothed bedmate lingers in the background. That subtle blend of sex and violence has come to be expected in Bond films, but its familiarity makes it no less insidious.

violent content: Torture and murder are portrayed as evil when coming from the villains, but simply a necessary means to an end when the violence comes from Bond and other "noble" characters. Scores of soldiers, guards and other faceless pawns get blown up or mowed down in gun battles. On a more personal level, people go toe-to-toe with swords, beat each other senseless with martial arts moves and pull guns in a threatening manner. Jinx puts two slugs in a doctor at close range. A man on a hovercraft crashes through a stone wall and plummets over a waterfall. When an airplane’s cabin loses pressure, several passengers get sucked out of the hole. Bond escapes from a hospital by using a defibrillator as a weapon. The villain uses a computerized glove to administer crippling electric shocks. A fistfight amid runaway laser beams ends with a man being shot through the back of the head by one (the beam emerges from his lifeless mouth). Bond and Jinx use a laser to cut off the dead man’s arm in order to trick a security panel with the handprint. Other villains are knifed in the neck, stabbed in the chest, impaled by falling objects or sucked into a jet engine. Going mano a mano with heavily armed cars, Zao and Bond get into a dogfight on ice. Men on snowmobiles get mercilessly run down, their bodies hurtling into a building. An exploding briefcase full of diamonds leaves Zao scarred (and wearing very expensive "face studs"). Jinx nearly drowns. A "simulated" shootout in the offices of the British Secret Service yield many casualties.

crude or profane language: Sexual innuendo notwithstanding, there are fewer than 10 profanities (the worst examples are a use of "g--d---," and one woman calling another a "b--ch" as she kills her).

drug and alcohol content: Alcohol is the beverage of choice for Bond. He’s shown drinking in a half-dozen scenes. He also visits a cigar factory in Havana and is later shown puffing on one.

other negative elements: Vengeance plays into Bond’s motivations. Also, Jinx says she was named that because she was born on Friday the 13th, and it is implied that she’s superstitious.

conclusion: The action is wild and, occasionally, innocent fun. A scene in which Bond dangles from the edge of an icy cliff face that lets loose from a glacier is really clever. But all too often Die Another Day spoils the ride with glamorous violence and immoral sexual antics. The movie may be a rush, but at what cost to fans who continue to have Bond’s warped values (namely that promiscuity is cool and merciless bloodshed heroic) pounded into their psyches?

Could I be overreacting? Can an action franchise that has made a fortune selling amoral sex and violence really influence the way viewers think and behave? If it can’t, why have critics objected to scenes in which Bond smokes cigars, complaining that they glamorize dangerous behavior? And why did 25 corporate "partners" pony up a reported $100 million of the film’s $140 million budget just to be associated with the 007 brand? Because movies are a powerful means of communicating messages, and for many filmgoers, James Bond is a role model.

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