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Pack up Pierce, Halle’s here

Los Angeles, Nov. 20 (Reuters): After 40 years, 20 movies and earning $3.2 billion at the box office, a middle-aged James Bond finally may have met his match in Die Another Day, debuting on Friday.

But it’s not a menacing villain bent on world domination, nor a half-baked Hollywood hero masquerading as the new Bond. No, it’s Oscar-winner Halle Berry who outshines the dashing British spy with a license to kill as the newest Bond girl. Last week, Bond’s producers disclosed secret talks to spin Berry’s role as US super spy Jinx in Die Another Day into her own movie, and as early reviews for the film trickle out, it seems the new girl is winning the raves.

Move over Pierce Brosnan!

Even the Irish star, who appears for the fourth time as James Bond, is singing the 34-year-old’s praises. “Some women are sexy,” Brosnan said. “This is a woman who is sensuous, but who has a style and humanity to her, which is very appealing.”

The Hollywood Reporter calls her the best addition yet to the Bond films, which began with 1962’s Dr No, in which Swiss actress Ursula Andress set the bar.

But don’t let Berry’s celebrity good looks fool you when she first appears in Die Another Day, emerging from the Caribbean onto a sandy beach in her teensy orange bikini (a la Andress 40 years ago). Jinx is one tough cookie, an undercover agent for the good ol’ US-of-A. who gets into, and out of, tough situations just like Bond.

Berry took the role of “Jinx” before winning the Oscar, Hollywood’s highest film honour, for last year’s racially-charged drama Monster’s Ball. Oscar is usually reserved for “serious” actresses only, and no Bond movie was ever too serious.

Berry said that even after winning an Oscar, she would have taken the role. “Jinx is sexy. She’s sure of her sexuality and knows how to use it, almost as a weapon,” said Berry. “They have a great partnership, and I thought what better type of Bond Girl to be than one who teams up with Bond.”

In this 20th Bond flick, the never-say-die super-spy could use some friends. He is captured by the North Koreans after foiling a plot to trade African “blood” diamonds for weapons and tortured for over a year. Believe it or not, Bond, at 40, can’t escape, and is eventually released in a prisoner swap.

When returned to Britain’s legendary MI6 spy agency, 007 is stripped of his license to kill by spy boss M (Judi Dench) and placed under guard in a glass-walled hospital cell because the CIA thinks he is responsible for the death of a US agent. But, as the saying goes, you can’t keep a good man down, and Bond escapes and uses his underworld contacts to make his way to Cuba where, armed with only binoculars and an old police revolver, begins to clear his good name.

It is about then that Jinx emerges from the Caribbean in a scene paying homage to original Bond Girl Andress, who emerged in a similar way in Dr. No and became the stuff of movie legend — not to mention schoolboy fantasies.

Indeed, several scenes in Die Another Day harken back to previous Bond movies. His Aston Martin sports car returns, and while it’s not a vintage DB5 of Goldfinger and Thunderball (this one is an invisible — that’s right, invisible — V12 Vanquish) it still has that old passenger side ejector seat.

In Cuba, Bond and Jinx blow up a hospital where Bond rival, a Korean named Zao (Rick Yune), is undergoing genetic re-engineering to change his identity all the way to his DNA.

But Bond finds something even more intriguing, Zao is carrying “blood” diamonds and that puts Bond back in MI6 and back in the spy business, for good. 007 reckons a mining mogul named Gustav Graves, (Toby Stephens) is selling the illegal diamonds to fuel some sort of sinister plot with the Koreans. Bond is not exactly sure what it is, but he knows it is sinister. It always is.

Bond also knows that Graves’ publicity agent Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike) is a knockout in a dress, so when she invites him to Iceland where Graves will unveil a new technology to change the world forever, naturally, he goes.

Just as naturally, Jinx shows up, too, and together the pair take on Graves and Zao and Frost and the rest of the bad guys.

If it all sounds too outlandish, too outrageous, too ridiculous to be true, it is, after all, James Bond. “You don’t fix what’s not broken,” said director Lee Tamahori, adding Bond movies are about three things: “Girls, gadgets and big action.”

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