End of the Brosnan era. I have a small confession. I actually liked this film when it came out. I even bought Madonna’s diabolical title track from it. Fuck you, young me. You may be thinner and less cynical, but at least I know a stinker when I see one. Not to mention the fact that I have seen over one real-life naked lady. In your stupid face!
Die Another Day (2002)
Have you noticed all the Bond stuff about lately? There’s at least 5 Bond adverts on regular rotation on the TV, not to mention countless magazine features, radio plays, boxset releases and a whole host of other stuff. Well, back in 2002 it was the same, but less legitimate because it was only the series’ 40th anniversary. The same old media circlejerking was there, but amongst it there were rumblings of continuous problems on Bond 20, rumoured to be called “Beyond the Ice”. Still, I was stoked. I was a hardcore Bondhead at this point and couldn’t wait for the film. Once it was out, I rushed to see it. I genuinely think the film broke my brain for a while. I liked all the action and stuff but I know I was disappointed with it. However, I went into denial, convincing myself it was great. This still happens occasionally now, but I’m more mindful of it. Watching it back with my lovely 2012 eyes I can see everything very clearly. Jesus Christ, is this poor.
James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) der derp derrr derr Jinx (Halle Berry) blee blah bloo blah waaarrgh Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) hurrr dee durrrrrrr Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike). BLURRRRFF Zao (Rick Yune). Okay, I’m being massively immature, but that’s saved valuable slating space. Whilst the film chose one of the shittiest plots imaginable (there’s a strong story link between this and Diamonds Are Forever) there are some really interesting ideas here. Die Another Day takes some risks. It’s pretty brave in some respects. It’s a pity that few to none of them pay off. Bond getting captured, imprisoned and disavowed is a really strong concept. It’s something audiences haven’t seen before, which is a huge plus when a series has been around for as long as the Bond franchise has. I like little peeks at the chinks in Bond’s armour. We certainly see that when he’s held and tortured in a Korean prison camp. It reminds me of the curveballs that Fleming would throw out sometimes in his books. A villain that models himself on Bond is a good idea too. Graves’ assessment of Bond, calling him out on his “unjustifiable swagger” and his “crass quips” that conceal “such inadequacy” is great. I like the little nods to previous films too, ranging from the subtle (a book concerning birds of the West Indies is seen, the author of which is where Fleming got the name “James Bond” from) to the smack-in-the-face obvious (Halle Berry’s watery entrance in a clingy bikini with a knife on her hip).
Brosnan is still on his game here. Watching his films back, I was reminded how good he was in the role. It’s a crying pity this mess was his swansong, but we’ll always have GoldenEye, dear friends. Halle Berry chews any part of the scenery that hasn’t been exploded. I like her in this. She seems really game and adds a sense of fun to an otherwise deadly serious farce. Toby Stephens joins Berry in the scenery-bothering approach, often biting out lines like a dog snapping at a butterfly in a summer garden. Rosamund Pike is gorgeous, but the “ice queen” thing doesn’t really allow for proper acting. She does get to to have a bit more fun as a baddie later on. I even like Zao, although he’s a really underdeveloped character. His diamond studded face is kinda cool though. Judi Dench is still a badass and Michael Madsen makes his debut and final appearance as M’s American opposite. I get the feeling he was set to become a series regular before the film embarrassed the series so much it necessitated a reboot. He doesn’t get much chance to make an impression, but he’s still a cool customer and I fucking love him in Reservoir Dogs.
Literally from the gunbarrel onwards something has gone terribly wrong here. For some utter arbitrary reason, a CGI bullet now shoots towards the screen down the rifling. Mental. You don’t fuck with the classics. Then, the iris opens on Bond surfing. I realise there are few exciting things we haven’t seen Bond do at this point, but surfing in a combat suit isn’t one I was desperate to see. Plus, it brought back unpleasant memories of A View to a Kill‘s “California Girls” fiasco which I was well on my way to repressing once more. The hovercraft stuff is sound, but having seen TWINE‘s epic intro, even that has lost its lustre. The title song. Oh Jesus, that fucking song. It’s painful to listen to. I like Danny Kleinman’s titles, showing Bond being tortured, but the song is unforgivable. It really is the worst song the Bond series has ever had. Plus, Madonna’s cameo later on is as welcome as a foreskin in my morning Coco Pops.
I mentioned some of the things I actually appreciate above and that’s basically it for this film. The sword fight between Bond and Graves is pretty entertaining. As naff as it is, I like the car fight between Bond and Zao too. It’s a positive step that Bond is back behind the wheel of an Aston Martin this time. I never liked those BMWs. That’s it. The ending is one big CGI mess with no tension or anything. Actually, thinking about it, the fight between Frost and Jinx is good too. Nice that it gets the same screen time as the scrap between the hulking great men.
Die Another Day was, is and will continue to be a real series low point. It’s Moonraker all over again. So many things went wrong with this one it’s hard to pin down just one element as the main cause of it all. What a load of old wank. Tell you what, if I’d have made this film, I’d have put on a dress and asked a cop to fuck me too. It makes perfect sense.