Bond is back and bigger than ever. With more explosions, more gadgets and, of course, more Bond girls (the charismatic Halle Berry as Jinx and an icy Rosamund Pike as Miranda Frost), "Die Another Day," the latest in the James Bond franchise, proves it will have no trouble attracting droves to the theater.

Let's face it, agent 007 has a built-in audience of loyal fans who have been following the films since they started with Sean Connery. Pierce Brosnan, the current Bond, has the necessary swagger, sexual innuendo and has infused the role with enough nonchalant debonair attitude to satisfy the masses.

The film starts out in North Korea with an invigorating hovercraft chase through a dangerous minefield. As Bond overcomes obstacle after obstacle, including a 14-month stint in a Korean prison camp, he's fallen out of favor with his agency back in Britain. In order to regain their trust and make things right, he sets out on a quest for revenge on those who betrayed him, the diamond-infused Zao and the British millionaire Gustav Graves.

Toby Stevens plays the arrogant Graves and the two go at it in a spirited sword fight that is one of the more impressive fight sequences in the film. The other villain, Zao, played by Rick Yune, is dangerous, yet a bit too reserved to really be considered a threat. However, he is eerie to look at with his startlingly blue eyes and diamond embedded skin.

In this Bond incarnation though, it is the women who leave the lasting impression. Sly as a fox, Jinx, played by Berry, is introduced in a scene that pays homage to Bond girl Ursala Andress in "Dr. No," though Berry looks better in the bikini. Her edgy personality combined with her stunning good looks and athletic antics make her an equal of Bond's rather than simply a foil for his sexual appetite. Jinx could be the star of her own movie, and rumors are circulating that Hollywood might create a film based on her Jinx character.

Pike on the other hand, plays the ice-cold Miranda Frost, whose chilly demeanor Bond attempts to thaw with his womanizing prowess.

Returning to their roles on the big screen are Judi Dench as duly reserved M and John Cleese as the quirky inventor Q. Bond fans will delight in the references to other Bond films, such as the "Thunderball" jetpacks in Q's laboratory and lasers from "Goldfinger" as well as the addition of new high tech gadgetry such a virtual reality program and an invisible car.

The sets are impressive, especially the palace made entirely of ice. Some of the action sequences are a bit over the top, for example, Bond gets himself out of an icy situation by creating windsurf board out of a discarded piece of metal and a parachute. Even so, half the fun of a Bond film is the willingness to suspend your disbelief. The sexual innuendo and double entendre are also a given in any Bond film and screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade ("The World is Not Enough") don't disappoint.

Director Lee Tamahori knows his Bond audience well and brings all the necessary components together in a fun, flirty romp that rounds out the Bond film count to an even 20. Let's see if Bond has enough stamina to make 20 more. Three stars out of four


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