What's the Big Deal?
Die Another Day is an action spy adventure film released in 2002 and is the 20th entry in the James Bond series. It was released to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Dr. No and the 50th anniversary of the character who first appeared in the novel Casino Royale in 1952. It was the fourth and last film to star Pierce Brosnan as 007 who finds himself betrayed by someone within the British government and later seeks revenge for being imprisoned in North Korea. Despite very mixed reviews, it became the most successful Bond film yet with global takings of over $430 million dollars. However, the film was criticised for poor use of CGI, excessive product placement, too many gadgets and a plot that felt all too familiar to Bond fans. As far as I'm concerned, it marked the absolute low point in the entire franchise.
What's It About?
British secret agent James Bond infiltrates a military installation in North Korea where Colonel Moon is trading conflict diamonds for weapons. But Moon's assistant Zao is alerted to Bond's identity and a chase ensues which ultimately results in the death of Colonel Moon. Bond is captured alive but tortured and held captive for 14 months before being released as part of a prisoner exchange with Zao being returned to the Koreans.
M suspends Bond's 00-status as she suspects that he might have compromised information after torture, but Bond escapes from MI6 custody and sets out to find out who betrayed him. His search leads to a strange clinic in Cuba where genetic manipulation can alter the appearance of clients where Zao is receiving treatment. Alongside NSA agent Giacinta "Jinx" Johnson, Bond soon uncovers a link between British entrepreneur Gustav Graves and a mysterious satellite called Icarus...
What's to Like?
Avid viewers of the previous 19 movies will be in hog's heaven trying to spot all the endless references. From Halle Berry rising from the sea like Ursula Andress to Bond's jet-pack from Thunderball gathering dust in Q's lab, every one of Bond's previous adventures is referred to in some way. It gives the film a sense of fun, like they were celebrating Bond's 40 years in cinema as much as the viewers.
And fun was something that had been lacking from recent movies, until now. Die Another Day is so light-hearted and corny that I half-expected Austin Powers to appear in shot with his trademark crushed velvet suit and giving a quick two-fingered peace sign.
It's impossible to take seriously, even without wondering where the bad guys got their modified Jaguars from (is there an evil version of Q Branch somewhere and if there is, I suspect a much better movie is waiting for us all there). It's noisy, daft and full of the ridiculous sort of action we've come to expect from Bond at this point.
- Both Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan voiced their objections to this movie citing the poor CG, invisible car and overuse of gadgets as their main concerns.
- The movie set a new record for the number of product placement deals with various companies (24) and the most amount raised by such deals ($120 million). These include Aston Martin, Jaguar, Bollinger, Heineken, 7 Up, British Airways, Mattel, Kodak and Energizer batteries.
- The abandoned Underground station where Bond meets M is called Vauxhall Cross, a reference to the real-life location of MI6 headquarters in London: 85 Vauxhall Cross. It's about a five minutes drive from where Bond enters the station.
What's Not to Like?
I did have a list here somewhere, hang on...
Right. The cast, from top to bottom, play the whole thing for laughs. Stephens is deliciously hammy as the villain but as Jonathan Pryce proved in Tomorrow Never Dies, there should be no place for ham in a Bond film. Brosnan, for his sins, isn't much better as he struts about the set like an arrogant peacock, dropping innuendos that have all the sophistication and humour of a brick to the face.
The bad guys even have their own supply of gadgets and cars loaded with toys—where in the blue blazers did they get them from? The henchmen are forgettable and have the dumbest names seen in the series—Mr Kil must have taken literally seconds to think of.
The film's simplistic plot still manages to get itself tangled up amid the carnage going on around it so you're never 100% sure what's going on. The jokes couldn't fall any flatter if Bond told them at a funeral and I suspect that the invisible car was put in as a joke that someone forgot to remove from the script at a later stage. Who are they trying to kid?
The classy stunt work so beloved of the series is reduced to endless and crude CG that makes a mockery of the levels achieved by the team since Octopussy unexpectedly raised the bar with that thrilling train sequence or The Man With The Golden Gun and its legendary corkscrew car jump over a river. No Bond film should ever, ever have a sword fight in it and certainly not one with Madonna lurking in the background like a predatory sex offender.
Oh and speaking of Madonna, her theme tune is the worst the series has seen and by quite some way—I've heard cats mating with more harmonious skill! Its monotonous dance beat and repetitive lyrics are meaningless, signalling from the off that the film you are about to witness is not a proper Bond film in the traditional sense but a series of video game-style action set pieces that will underwhelm and disappoint. Fleming is rotating in his grave like a crankshaft!
Should I Watch It?
Die Another Day marks the sad ending of not just Pierce Brosnan's time as 007 but the Bond character as a whole—there would be no more adventures for the sexy secret agent from here on. The series had reached a point where only a stellar reboot and alternate universe would suffice—going backwards would have to be the new forwards.
Bond had morphed from a gentleman spy into the sort of gizmo-addicted action man he never was in the books. Had Fleming lived to see it, he would have issued an injunction against its release. Loud, noisy and utterly bereft of class, this limp effort is a soulless exercise in marketing and nothing more.
Great For: uniting the family into hating the movie, making you wish you were watching some other Bond film, North Koreans (but in truth, this film offends pretty much everybody)
Not So Great For: anyone with an IQ above 6, Bond fans, Ian Fleming's coffin as he continues to rotate ever faster, Madonna fans
What Else Should I Watch?
Frankly, any other Bond film. The series is not just a parade of exotic locations, explosive action and partially-dressed ladies—it also threw up some genuinely great films.
Goldfinger would be the series' peak until Daniel Craig's reboot Casino Royale gave it a serious run for its money. From Russia With Love is a gripping and thrilling Cold War spy film that largely dispenses with the gadgets and focuses more on the characters. Roger Moore's The Spy Who Loved Me echoes that style of story but throws in some impressive action sequences and the scariest henchman Bond has ever faced in the form of Jaws.
For a more entertaining celebration of Bond's existence, Skyfall was released to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Dr. No and not only is it a classy thriller but it's exciting, well performed and better in every single way to this abomination.
Giacinta "Jinx" Johnson
Will Yun Lee
Neal Purvis & Robert Wade *
Release Date (UK)
20th November, 2002
Action, Spy, Adventure
Worst Supporting Actress (Madonna)
Razzie Award Nominations
Worst Original Song, Worst Actress Of The Decade (Madonna"
© 2015 Benjamin Cox