MI-6 agent James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) infiltrates a North Korean military base where Colonel Tan-Sun Moon (Will Yun Lee) is busy trading weapons for African conflict diamonds. Moon discovers Bond’s identity and tries to kill him in a hovercraft chase, in which Moon’s craft tumbles over a waterfall. Bond is captured and imprisoned by Colonel Moon’s father General Moon. Bond is interrogated and tortured for fourteen years and is traded for Moon’s right-hand man Zao (Rick Yune) in a prisoner exchange. Bond is taken to meet M (Judi Dench), who tells him his double O rating has been revoked under suspicion that he broke under torture and revealed secrets. He believes he has been set up by another double O agent. He escapes from MI-6, goes to Hong Kong and learns that Zao is in Cuba.
In Havana, Bond meets NSA agent Jinx Johnson (Halle Berry) and trails her to a gene therapy clinic, where patients have their appearance changed through DNA restructuring. Jinx kills Doctor Alvarez (Simon Andreau) while Bond fights Zao in the clinic. Zao escapes, leaving a pendant which leads Bond to a cache of conflict diamonds with the crest of a company owned by Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens), a British billionaire who allegedly made his fortune with diamonds in Iceland. At the Blades Club in London, Bond meets him and his assistant Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike). A friendly swordfight between Bond and Graves gets seriously out of hand, but Graves invites Bond to Iceland for a scientific demonstration. M restores Bond’s double O status and Q (John Cleese) gives him an Aston Martin V12 with camouflage technology.
At the Ice Palace, Graves unveils a satellite that can focus solar energy to give year-round sunshine for agriculture. Bond seduces Miranda Frost while Jinx infiltrates Graves’ operation but is captured by Graves and Zao. Bond rescues her and discovers that Graves is really Colonel Moon, who has altered his DNA. Bond confronts Graves but Miranda reveals herself as the traitor who betrayed him in North Korea. Bond escapes from Graves and returns in his invisibility-capable Aston Martin to rescue Jinx. Graves uses the Icarus sky-laser to melt the Ice Palace. Zao pursues Bond in his Jaguar XKR. Bond kills Zao in the palace and saves Jinx.
Bond and Jinx pursue Graves and Frost to Korea and stow away in Graves’ cargo plane. Graves reveals himself to his father, along with his plan to cut a path through the Demilitarized Zone so North Korea can invade South Korea. General Moon is horrified, so Graves murders him. Bond tries and fails to kill Graves, but in the firefight, the plane decompresses. Bond and Graves continue to fight as Jinx tries to control the plane. Frost attacks Jinx and she defends herself with a sword. The plane passes through the Icarus beam and is further damaged. Jinx kills Frost, Graves tries to bail out, but Bond opens the parachute, which pulls Graves into one of the engines. Bond and Jinx bail out in a helicopter with the diamonds and spend the evening in a relaxing Buddhist temple.
The film was directed by Lee Tamahori and produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. It was inspired by Kingsley Amis’ novel Colonel Sun, with bits of some Ian Fleming books added. It was released on the 40th anniversary of the James Bond movies and received mixed reviews. The producers actually apologized for its excesses. It was shot in the U.K., Iceland, Spain, and Maui, plus some scenes in other places. Both Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry were slightly injured. The reform Club in London was the location of the duel. The music was by David Arnold and Madonna sang the theme song, plus appeared in a cameo. She was nominated for a Golden Raspberry for both. North Korea, not surprisingly, disliked the film, but it was also boycotted in South Korea because Korean soldiers were shown being ordered about by American officers and a sex-scene took place next to a Buddha.
This was Pierce Brosnan’s least favorite of his movies. He suggested that they dump the gadgets and go back to the series’ darker beginnings, when Sean Connery was Bond. They took his advice, fired him, and did just that with Daniel Craig. The thing that most critics laughed at was the invisible car, particularly when Bond tried to hide behind it. When Q (John Cleese) was showing it to Bond, he stepped behind the refraction planes and for a second it looked like he was doing a silly walk. Halle Berry also came up for criticism, but other reviewers thought she was a welcome touch of class, and at least she could fight. Her fuchsia crystal dress was by Donatella Versace. She had to leave the set for a few days to accept the Best Actress Oscar for Monster’s Ball. Pierce Brosnan was in a Dublin pub and a man asked to shake his hand. The man said, “That’s the closest my hand will ever get to Halle Berry’s arse.”
This was the first role for Rosamund Pike. She was asked to audition in her underwear and refused. On her first day, her first scene was a one-on-one with Dame Judi Dench, and she was terrified. Gustav Graves was said to be modelled after Richard Branson. One of the problems that faced the production was that there were only two qualified stuntmen of Asian descent. The title logo is in red for the 40th anniversary of the Bond films, which is the Ruby Anniversary. At one point, Pierce Brosnan picks up a book entitled A Field-guide to Birds of the West Indies, by James Bond—the book that gave Ian Fleming the name for his most famous character.