Movie Review: ‘Die Another Day’ (50 Years of Bond)

Die Another DayDirector: Lee Tamahori

Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Rosamund Pike, Thomas Stephens, Dame Judi Dench, John Cleese, Samantha Bond

Plot: Bond is initially sent to assassinate a South Korean General by posing as a smuggler of conflict diamonds. During the course of the mission he gets captured and tortured, then exchanged for another prisoner then he breaks out and goes rogue but is sent by M on a secret mission to investigate another guy who turns out to be the same guy and he’s building a laser in space and has a robot suit and an ice palace and rocket car.

Review: In the previous 19 entries of this series we’ve watched the movie in question, taken some time to reflect on it and assemble our thoughts before pen metaphorical pen to paper. Since we don’t particularly want to spend any more time thinking about Die Another Day then we have to this review will be written on the fly while watching the film. Please forgive the scattershot format.

Right of the bat everything feels wrong. They’ve been variations to the ‘scope’ sequence that opens the film in the past with each actor striking their own pose, but the added CGI bullet here just looks hokey and cheap.

Now, why didn’t Bond think of using ‘surfboard’ as a method of infiltration before? Maybe because it’s unpredictable, unreliable, puts you is a heightened state of visibility and is outright stupid. Also, Brosnan is much to old to be convincing in this kind of sequence. Likewise the radar dish knife. Why does it have a knife?

Die Another Day

“No-one can see meeeeeee!”

Ok, highjacking the meeting is pretty good, and being introduced to the villain kickboxing the crap out of a guy bound up inside a kick bag is pretty intimidating. The bratty young Korean general with a Western education also has the potential to be interesting. Blood diamonds gives the movie a nice touch of realism. Bringing hovercrafts into any action movie is often a warning sign of impeding silliness, but I guess it makes sense with the minefield.

The henchman – Zao – with the diamonds embedded in his face is pretty cool, but testament to how incompetent the film-maker is. He had a cool look, and instead they turn him into a jelly man.

Pretty nicely shot action sequence (not a patch on the boat chase from the previous film) but passable. Something weird in the sound design though, all the explosions are strangely muted and cut shot. As a stylistic choice it makes it sound like a video games. Also, you’d think they’d know how to shoot convincing green screen by now.

Without a doubt the worst Bond theme song ever released. They go with the decent selection of Madonna to perform and they turn out this mangled rubbish?! The random ‘Sigmund Freud’ spoken word section cracks me up, it’s just so dumb. Really, really bad. A shame that it drags down the visuals of the intro as the torture themed effects are pretty impressive, aside from the weird stop motion footage in the background. Also that torturer spends quite a bit of time on her make-up before going to work.

Bond being captured by a hostile nation who really goes to town on him is a pretty interesting path for the series to take, especially with Britain denying their involvement with him. Serious real-world stuff. Pity it only impacts on the one scene and doesn’t affect the rest of the movie.

Die Another Day

Oh Michael Madsen, will no-one give you a break?

The handling of the whether or not Bond actually was giving up information to the Koreans is strangely left hanging. M tells him that he was, he denies it and it never goes any further. Also the quick mention of how his internal organs are magically in perfect condition after months of poison and physical torture is a total cop out. Also the brief mention of the cyanide. Only just beginning the second act and they’re already trying to patch up the plot holes.

The close up of Bond pointing dramatically at the camera is possibly the worst shot in the entire series.

Wait…the CU on Bond’s eyes overlaid with the heart rate monitor is the worst shot of the series. And the flash back is rubbish.

The blurred, slow motion footage while Bond magically controls his heart rate is also the worst shot scene in the movie in the series.

Bond arrives at the hotel – he really is an expert of subterfuge and stealth. No wonder he’s the most well known – ergo worst – spy in the world.

Right – Havana. A nice, exotic locale, just right for Bond. Let’s not go over the top with shameless stereotyping…oh, too late.

When Ursala Andress walked out of the ocean in Dr. No it was one of the most memorable moments captured on film and turned the notion of a ‘Bond Girl’ into a cinematic tradition. She was elegant, beautiful and mixed vulnerability with danger all in a matter of moments. It was noted very early on in the production of Die Another Day that they would pay tribute to that scene. For some reason they took ‘tribute’ to mean ‘Halle Berry flapping around in the water like a porpoise with an eating disorder’. Then she walks up to Bond and slyly suggests that she would like to put his penis in her mouth. Classy lass.

Die Another Day

The dynamic between this characters is stunted and uncomfortable. Their ‘banter’ feels like it was recorded during a first reading of the script. It’s more awkward then two 13 year old kids having to perform a romantic scene in a school play. Halle Berry having the hair style of a seven year old boy does not make her any more appealing. Also, the random fruit eating during sex – weird.

Now for the ‘DNA Therapy’ clinic, which looks more low-tech then the first aid kit in my bathroom.

I don’t know why that security camera has a cable running from the lens to the body, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t do anything.

Bond movies have always stretched credibility, but this DNA replacement therapy really gets into the realm of the absurd. It makes no sense whatsoever, and it’s not helped by the ‘doctor’ drooling over Helle Berry and fondling the check he receives to sell it as convincing.

Wow, this action movies along at the speed of boredom. I especially love how they added pointless slow-motion in a possible effort to replicate bullet time and the way the gas canister punches a big hole through the concrete without exploding.

WORST use of The Clash ever. The introduction of the character Greaves is horribly mishandled. Rushed into the story with ridiculous amounts of information thrown at the screen at once. Fortunately a bunch of reporters are on hand to ask a series of unconnected and otherwise out-of-context questions to fill in the blanks. They ask a range of unusual questions about fencing, publicity whoring, being knighted, not sleeping and his diamond business. Scriptwriting for Those too Dumb to be Dummys.

Die Another Day

Given what is revealed about this guy later, how does no-one question where he came from, or how he’s managed to obtain a knighthood in the few months since he popped into existence.

GO HOME MADONNA YOU ARE DRUNK. I hope you’re drunk, there’s no excuse for this dialogue.

You’d think we’d have heard by now that James Bond could beat Olympic level fencing champions.

As pointless as it is, the sword fight is pretty decent. And I love the random voice in the background saying ‘steady on!’. Gold.

We’re not usually of the opinion that the death or other absence of an actor should prevent a role from being recast, but someone other than Desmond Llewellyn doling out the gadgets feels off. It could’ve worked but replacing him with a bumbling cretin does nothing but tarnish the memory of the iconic character. Nothing against John Cleese, he’s just being John Cleese…it’s the producers who have failed. Especially having him repeat Q’s dialogue.

Die Another Day

“Invisible, you say? What bullshit.”

Fuck you VR training scene. Also, this entire scene filled with the old props. Yes, we get nostalgic as well as everyone else but laying it all out like this will only be appealing to the simple minded. And fuck the invisible car. More on that travesty later.

Now Rosamund Pike’s character, Miranda Frost, is having a meeting with M, revealing her to be not who we suspected by a British Secret Agent. Not that we had the chance to suspect her of anything by this point because in the previous hour of the film she has only featured in one scene. Suddenly dedicating an entire sequence of the movie to a plot twist that focuses on her character smacks of poor writing. The M quizzes her on how much sex she’s had with co-workers, which just puts me in mind of her role in Notes on a Scandal.

Bond arrives at the Ice Palace. Most villainous hideouts have that lairy feel to them, hidden in volcanoes and whatnot, but why on Earth has a supposedly legitimate business man like Greaves built himself an ice palace? Such a thing as ice bars do exist, but they’re only for short visits. This thing is shown to be a functioning hotel. Does no-one see the problem here? Does he hold a monopoly of hypothermia treatment? It’s the kind of Bond villain base that a five year old would dream up. Also it looks as though it’s made out of plastic and dry ice. The diamond mine next door is equally confusing – how did coal get compressed to that point for an extended period of time in that climate?

Die Another Day

As Bond pulls up we get one of the more absurd moments – some guy, apropos of nothing, walks up and snarls at Bond while informing Bond that his name is ‘Mr. Kill’. Perhaps Greaves needs to reconsider his hiring practise as this guy is not performing well as a doorman.

Jinx just arrived again – let’s talk about her some more. She was the focus of much of the film’s marketing strategy being touted as ‘not just another Bond girl’ and ‘equal to Bond’. This, of course, is a filthy lie as she doesn’t get through the second act without being taken hostage and being rescued by Bond. But we’re more than an hour into the film and one has to begin to wonder…what the hell is she doing here? We find out later that she’s am NSA agent but she never seems to be doing her job. Generally she just flounces around exchanging tired, cringe-worthy innuendo with Bond. She has no character beyond a shallow ‘sassy tough chick’ archetype and her performance almost make Denise Richards look convincing as a nuclear scientist. She’s an incompetent agent, a boring character and puts in a terrible performance. The fact that they tried to suggest giving Jinx a spin-off series is a joke. Bring back Mei Lin from Tomorrow Never Dies.

So that invisible car has turned up again. Apparently making itself transparent is roughly the same and not fucking existing. If you buy for a second that the car is invisible then is doesn’t explain why they can’t see the weird shimmering shape following them. Or the tire tracks appearing out of nowhere. Or fail t notice the snow landing on a transparent surface or see the frost building on the car. Or hear the engine. Also, why doesn’t he just sneak up on them? They’re obviously immensely stupid henchmen who shortly after go chasing a man who just spied on them and beat the snot out of one of them, but ignore him because he’s making out with a girl.

Another shameful ‘tribute’ to a far superior film as the iconic character ‘Mr. Kill’ uses a red glowing laser to cut up Jinx while she’s strapped to a table. Except, unlike the tension filled sequence in Goldfinger, this one has MOAR LAZORS!!! AND A SPINNING TABLE!!!

With all the money thrown into this film one would think that they could come up with some convincing effects. Between the terrible CGI, shonky green screen and obvious model shots it really is the worst looking Bond of the modern era. All of these elements come together when he see Bond surfing a tidal wave between icebergs to get away from a giant space laser. Why didn’t anyone look at that during production and say ‘well…that looks terrible, better do something’? Really is the Nuking the Fridge moment for the franchise.

Die Another Day

Anyway the movie gets more awful from this point. The bad guy fashions himself a cut-rate Iron Man outfit and flies around in a ridiculous giant plane. Everything crap that has happened continues to happen. This is a badly conceived, badly made and badly cast movie that turned out so crappy that Pierce Brosnan refused to continue with his contract unless he was assured that the franchise would not continue in this style. It doesn’t even redeem itself with camp value – it’s just awful. It also ends of the scriptwriters grossly misunderstanding the relationship between Bond and Moneypenny, and Halle Berry seemingly able to climax by having a diamond put in her belly button.

Score: You don’t get a score. Now go and sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done.