A spectacular deadly hover boat sequence in a mine field no less, sets the stage for the twentieth James Bond film Die Another Day that sets in motion a series of computer-generated explosive events, one after the other in typical Bond fashion till the climactic scene of Bond’s fully loaded Aston Martin signals the beginning of the end – skating by at high speeds on the thinnest of ice. While James (Pierce Brosnan) is outrunning Zao (Rick Yune), the conflict diamond infused henchman on said Ice, Brosnan looks as cool as the other side of the pillow, never panicking or stressing out that he may die at any moment, able to pinpoint the specific feature needed to outsmart the villainous henchman at a split second’s notice.
One feature missing the most from the Aston Martin Vanish that is featured to have every gadget possible under the sun is heated seats. I wonder if Q (John Cleese) didn’t think that would be necessary in the frigid Icelandic locale. A locale that would make Batman and Robin’s Mr. Freeze proud of the architecture. Maybe he’ll vacation there.
The actual final action sequence is the biggest the franchise has attempted – villain Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) setting off a Death Star type of weapon, named Icarus, in an aircraft that’s being destroyed by said weapon as Bond and Jinx (Halle Berry) take it down. Graves is dressed in an Iron Man/ T-1000 amalgamation like suit with all the bells and whistles that a madman megalomaniac would add. All he needs is a catchphrase like his arch nemesis Bond, James Bond has.
Spoiler alert – Bond doesn’t die, he’s always going to make it out alive, sometimes inches from death. It’s one of the few guarantees in life besides death and taxes. But Die Another Day signals the passing of the torch of one Bond actor to the next – Brosnan’s final appearance as the MI6 action hero super spy. Stepping into the role after a brief stint by Timothy Dalton, Brosnan has fully embraced the character coming close to the perfection that Connery brought to the role but not quite reaching that pinnacle. Brosnan has the flair, the charm and seductive charisma necessary for the character being the most believable Bond in the past 20 years.
Shifting from one villainous superpower to the next (from the Russians and KGB to North Korea), a new decade is upon the storied franchise that has entertained generations of fans with a pop culture idol that people around the globe can fantasize day and night of being in those very shoes. But, in a more modern world, CGI has reigned supreme over the practicality of it all. On location has been replaced with green screen losing that authenticity of the globe-trotting Bond. Watching Bond surf a tidal wave with chunks of iceberg while escaping a death ray from space and not batting an eye is just too ridiculous to be believable of a skill for Bond to possess. It’s CGI for the sake of CGI that adds zero weight to the story. Let’s see how creative we can be in trying to kill the main character that has held the weight of a franchise on his back for 40 years.
Yes, I understand the technology in bringing these action set pieces to life is brand new to the franchise but, its sloppy and cluttered causing more a distraction than adding a unique storytelling tool when an on-location shoot may not be available.
I mentioned earlier the guiltiest pleasure filmic all time, Batman & Robin because this could very well be in the same universe as Joel Schumacher’s BDSM inspired superhero film. Who in their right mind thinks of having, no, wanting a hotel carved entirely out of ice as a place for people to visit willingly? For a franchise that has toed the line of reality and fantasy, Die Another Day is far removed from what made the franchise the powerhouse it is today.
Plot wise – Die Another Day is what we’ve come to expect from a James Bond film – the plot isn’t what will draw an audience. Whose Line is it Anyway has a more complex plot structure to it. You watch a Bond film for the explosive action, which never fails to out for the previous film, the Bond girl who is more than a trophy Bond gets for saving the world and finally the gadgets that push science forward a quarter of a century. As soon as Bond takes off the virtual reality glasses an Easter egg hunt of past Bond gadgets is vomited on screen. Remember the one-man alligator boat? Or perhaps the shoe with a switchblade? Or even the jet pack? Look at the history, look at how iconic this franchise is with all the innovation it’s procured – they aren’t living in the past glory days.
A villain is just equally as good as the henchmen or women they employ. Rivaling Jinx is Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike) who always plays a fantastic psychopath.
Jinx is the perfect Bond girl. Long gone are the days of this franchise treating women in a misogynistic manner, giving them less to do but be rescued by Bond and be at the mercy of his seduction. Not all old habits die out – the sexual tension built by innuendo and double entendres is very much present, but the Bond girl has become Bond’s equal. It helps that Jinx is played by the badass Halle Berry who can handle her own in an effortless way. If there was ever a film to want to be in James Bond shoes in regard to meeting a counterpart Bond girl, it’s this one. Slow-motion and a homage to the past makes their meeting the best in the franchise.
A Bond film is nothing without the supporting roles that have their contribution, large or small. Each supporting character that surrounds Bond pushes the story forward sometimes in ways that aren’t too noticeable most of the time. M (Judi Dench), Miss Moneypenny (Samantha Bond) and Q will always be Bond’s lifeline. Though the world of Bond may change, these characters stay consistent.
Die Another Day is the worst of the Brosnan led films in the franchise relying more on the special effects and the payoff to the action than telling a good story. Performances are all solid, especially from those around Bond. Brosnan himself has proven he’s worthy of the signature tux, bowtie, and an array of skills that anyone wishes they had in their arsenal. Bond has not only changed the film industry but reflects real life in its stories. With a new decade and century comes bigger threats and different types of warfare among the megalomaniacal villains that threaten all walks of life. At least there is a fierce woman running MI6 that doesn’t take anyone’s crap that can dish it right back.
It’s a pleasure to see how this franchise has grown and developed their women characters.
Written By: Neal Purvis & Robert Wade
Directed By: Lee Tamahori
Music By: David Arnold
Cinematography: David Tattersall
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, Rick Yune, John Cleese, Judi Dench, Samantha Bond
Release Date: November 22, 2002
Running Time: 2 Hours 13 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 56%
My Score: 2 out of 5
Based On: James Bond by Ian Fleming