Directed by Lee Tamahori, starring Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Rosamund Pike, Rick Yune, Toby Stephens, Michael Madsen, Will Yun Lee, Judi Dench, John Cleese, Samantha Bond, Colin Salmon.

The Bond franchise may be celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, but from the evidence of Die Another Day it's plainly obvious that 007 is not going to be hanging up his gun for another while yet.

The traditional pre-credit sequence sees Pierce Brosnan's Bond captured after a run in with North Korean renegade Zao (Yune). After being imprisoned and tortured for 14 months (and developing an alarming castaway-type beard and hair-do in the process), he is sent back to his own side who, believing that he has cracked, promptly rescind his license to kill. Someone has set Bond up and he's out for revenge, travelling from Hong Kong to Cuba, London to Iceland and back again to North Korea en route to the diamond-strewn ending.

But does the plot really matter? Bond movies are little more than a collection of sharp suits, outrageous gadgets, sexy women and over the top set-pieces including, of course, the obligatory power-crazy lunatic who wants to reassemble the world to his own specifications and 'Die Another Day' is no mould-breaking exception. However, first time Bond director Lee Tamahori isn't afraid to take liberties with 007's invincibility, allowing for a modicum of character development in the first third of the film. Bond is beaten, tortured and then ostracised by his own side - but it's not long before he's back in the bosom of the English secret service, meeting with a forgiving M (Dench) and John Cleese's irascible Q who grudgingly hands over the latest gadgets and product placements.

Pierce Brosnan, in his fourth outing as James Bond, is more comfortable in the role than ever before, giving Sean Connery a good run for his money in the dangerous charm stakes. This time round he gets paired with fellow spy and bad girl Jinx (played by a glowing Berry) - who he first encounters rising from a tropical sea a la Ursula Andress - as well as English rose Miranda Frost (Pike) who, in every way, pales in comparison to the stunning Jinx.

As Ms Frost would say, it's sex for dinner and death for breakfast - but there's plenty of time for stunning set pieces in between, the best of which is a gentlemanly fencing competition in a London gentleman's club between Bond and baddie Gustav Graves (Stephens) which thrillingly escalates into all-out war. There's also a spectacular car chase across a frozen lake, a race against time in a melting ice castle and an almighty airborne cat fight.

The only problem seems to be where the whole thing is going to end and the film is definitely fifteen minutes and an action sequence too long. Still, there's no doubting that 'Die Another Day' is an event film with more bang for your buck. High-voltage Bond for the 21st century.

Caroline Hennessy