“You see Mr. Bond, you can’t kill my dreams. But my dreams can kill you.”
Ah, Die Another Day. So many people rate this as one the worst Bond films (even though it has a solid RT score) and while I mostly agree with the criticism leveled at it, and the film certainly isn’t in my top 10, it’s a better film than some would have you believe. It starts off in North Korea with Bond and some unnamed agents sneaking/surfing into the country. Bond infiltrates exiled North Korean General Colonel Moon’s compound pretending to be a weapons dealer. Someone sets Bond up, tipping off Moon of who he really is, and an awesome hovercraft chase ensues as Bond chases Moon. It ends with Moon dying (supposedly) and Bond being captured by Moon’s father. Then the slightly crap Madonna theme kicks in as Bond is tortured in prison for 14 months. This aspect of the story I found to be good, I like the idea of Bond being captured and it gives him reason to go after the person who set him up. The scene is played out over the song as well, which is a cool idea, and is the first film to to show plot over the song since Dr No.
After he is released, being swapped for Moon’s henchman Zao, the film then takes Bond to Hong Kong, Havana, London and Iceland in his search in who set him up. Meanwhile he investigates diamond entrepreneur Gustav Graves who later on turns out to be Colonel Moon after undergoing extensive plastic surgery. This is one of the more far fetched elements of DAD but to the films credit, it tries it’s best to make this seem believable, showing the procedure in depth. Another far fetched element of DAD is Gustav Graves’ master plan, his space laser Icarus. He tell’s the world he built it to bring light to area’s of the world that need it but in actual fact he plans to use it to cut through the DMZ to allow North Korea to attack South Korea. The plan is not only stupid, it probably wouldn’t work. Who say’s the North will attack the South? Had Graves/Moon previously established this with them? It seems a lot of money and resources to waste on a plan that only might work. Graves is played by Toby Stephens in a way where I am not sure if his performance is good or bad, but he is constantly entertaining. The original Gustav Graves, Colonel Moon, is played by everybodies favourite detective Wei Shen, Will Yun Lee. It’s only a small role but he plays a good villain and it makes me wish he was in it more, The Bond girls in DAD are mostly good. Halle Berry’s NSA agent Jinx is good, if perhaps slightly irritating. But she can fight as good as anyone else and it’s always good to she a Bond girl who is equal to Bond. A more interesting Bond girl is Miranda Frost played by Rosamund Pike a fellow MI6 agent who is revealed to be the one who ratted out Bond to Moon. It’s an enjoyable performance and in the climatic battle between her and Jinx I kinda wanted Frost to win.
The film’s direction by part time transvestite prostitute Lee Tamahori is a mixed bag. He can direct action well, with many action scenes being highlights of the movie, but he is too over-reliant on CGI and horrible low rent, Matrix-esque techniques such as shitty slow-mo and awful camera sweeps. The film didn’t need them, and they often ruined a perfectly good fight scene. While the CGI was overused, it wasn’t the worst ever. Sure, the scene where Bond rides a tidal wave is crap and so is the invisible car, but the later scene in the plane at the end of the film, is one example of the CG being implemented well. They couldn’t have done the sequence without, and it’s was certainly better implemented than other films of the time such as The Mummy Returns, or the Matrix sequels. The standout action piece in DAD would have to be the ice chase between Bond’s Aston Martin and Zao’s Jaguar, which are both equally kitted out with gadgets. A great scene which is mostly practically done. Much of the rest of the action in DAD required me to regress to my 8 year old self watching this film in the cinema, and in that case, the action is awesome. It’s over the top and often implausible but when the CGI Doesn’t get in the way, DAD is a great action film. The script isn’t one of the films strong suits and as many of the puns miss as they do hit, but for the most part the script is good for giving Stephens some fun lines or providing exposition until the next big action scene. The film also celebrates it’s heritage, as it is the 40th anniversary, by including references to past films for the fan’s. The score by David Arnold which uses parts of the old themes is also great, and it cements this as a Bond film which celebrates it’s Bond legacy.
The Bottom Line: Die Another Day is Brosnan’s weakest Bond film, but it is not as bad a movie as many would have you believe. The action is over the top, the direction often falters and the CGI is often crap but the film remains constantly entertaining and fun. It celebrates the 40 years of Bond’s past and provides plenty of nods for fan’s of the series. It doesn’t hold a candle to the 50th anniversary film, Skyfall but it is still gets many things right. DAD wouldn’t be my first choice if I was recommending Bond films but if you are watching all of the films, it shouldn’t be skipped either.
Up next – Casino Royale