James Bond – Die Another Day (2002) REVIEW
Director: Lee Tamahori
Producer: Michael G. Wilson & Barbara Broccoli
Writer: Neal Purvis & Robert Wade
Based on: James Bond by Ian Fleming
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, Rick Yune, Will Yun Lee
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There is no denying it, Die Another Day, is the worst James Bond film in the official franchise.
The World Is Not Enough was released to cheer from critics and fans with some feeling that Denise Richards was a misstep in an otherwise solid entry. Going into the 40th anniversary, Producers obviously felt the pressure to deliver something bigger, something people would love.
Die Another Day would not only be released on the 40th anniversary of the James Bond franchise, but would also be the 20th Bond entry. Two grand titles which clearly meant an unimaginable amount of pressure weighing down on Producers, and cast & crew as a whole. The game needed to be upped with no stone left unturned.
In same ways Die Another Day succeeded. In most ways it failed on many MANY levels leaving the franchise in disarray post Bourne and XXX.
After seeing Once Were Warriors, Producers knew they had found their director. Lee Tamahori came onto the film a few months into the script writing process. Script writers, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, were attached from the beginning penning various outlines and drafts before finally settling on the finished product. A few new ideas were introduced and further rewrites (common for big budget films) took place.
The usual two-year production cycle was thrown out the door in favour of releasing on the 40th anniversary of the franchise, which is fine as it gave production the extra time needed to accommodate for a grander concept. The plan was to go bigger and be better than any previous entry. Paying homage to the films previous was something everyone was consciously aware of, and upon watching Die Another Day multiple times this month, you can see every Bond film has been referenced, sometimes in major ways *cough* Diamonds Are Forever *cough*.
BMW had been the main James Bond vehicle since Pierce Brosnan took over the 007 position, but with the contract up, Aston Martin was quick to return to the series with the release of the V12 Vanquish, or as Q branch calls it, the Vanish. A move that had fans cheering for the return, but left everyone perplexed when seeing it on the big screen. Which I guess is how the film felt.
If you’ve erased this outline from your memory, I’m here to bring it all back in horrifying detail, and for that I’m truly sorry.
James Bond is on a mission in North Korea illegally trading diamonds for military grade weapons. When his cover is blown, Colonel Moon is chased away by Bond in an interesting hovercraft chase across a minefield. Bond manages to kill him, but is captured by Moon’s father, General Moon, and tortured for the next 14 months. During that time, no body or muscle mass is lost, nor is his training which never seems to falter throughout his mission.
After being traded back for Zao, Colonel Moon’s henchman, Bond goes on a personal mission to clear his name and track down Zao who has now escaped and is dealing in diamonds belonging to Gustav Graves. Along his journey, Bond meets NSA agent, Jinx, and gets all the usual gadgets including an invisible car from the new Q. Of course after his capture and release, Bond isn’t working for MI6 anymore, not officially anyway. M is trusting of Bond still and tasks him with finding Zao and following his hunch on Graves.
A brief and deadly encounter with Gustav lands him an invitation to Iceland where Gustav is showcasing his ICARUS satellite. Bond is greeted in Iceland by Mr. Kil and we find out Miranda Frost, Gustav’s PA, is an undercover MI6 agent.
In Iceland at the, Ice Palace, Jinx and Bond figure out that Gustav Graves is none other than Colonel Moon who had used gene therapy to not only change his DNA, accent, height and fighting skills, but also use the diamonds to build a giant satellite he plans to use to destroy anyone that stands in his way. Of course, Bond is there to ruin those plans and Jinx is there to ruin the film as the bad guys go down while Bond lives to die another day (deep breath) but not as the same actor or character because following this lump of shit the Producers and fans decided this type of Bond could no longer go on and a serious change was needed to make this franchise great again in the face of new challengers like Bourne (all done).
Did I mention Madonna makes a cameo as a fencing instructor? Or that Bond jumps the shark by jumping ice? Or that an invisible car almost completely throws all concepts of believability out the window? Or that a CGI bullet is included in the gun barrel sequence?
Holy crap, Die Another Day broke me. I thought Tomorrow Never Dies was bad. I thought Denise Richards was joke casting. I thought real stunts with real actors in situations that were a little out there was as far as the Bond franchise would go. But no. Die Another Day sees the line set by The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, drives over that line and keeps on going while using the invisible car to make another lap we can’t even see or hear.
I’ve heard interviews with the screen writers Neal Purvis & Robert Wade, and they genuinely appear to be big James Bond fans. They know the novels, the films and most of all they seem to respect the source material. But these two guys also gave us a script with Jinx. The material here is sub par with a somewhat interesting story being used for what appears to be a celebration of 40 years 007.
Bond’s capture and torture hasn’t been done before and starts the film off in an interesting enough way. The tone of the film is usually set from the pre-credit sequence, and as the credits role and we see 007 held by North Koreans, you’re expecting a film which plays on the formula quite drastically.
No. That’s not the case. Bond is set free after 14 months with a fake beard and long hair but zero loss of weight or PTSD. As a matter of fact, there are zero repercussions to his health throughout the entire film. Even The World Is Not Enough showed Bond being injured on duty and carrying that throughout, but not here. Brosnan is back as Superman, and Producers don’t want you forgetting that.
So Neal Purvis & Robert Wade get a tiny pass from me. Barely though. I mean the dialogue throughout is still bad. The major issues have to sit on others. Producers Barbara and Michael need to answer for this abysmal product and the fact they actually wanted to get Sean Connery to play 007’s father. An actor who has played Bond in the past to return to the franchise to play a character who is dead as mentioned in GoldenEye. Clearly they never acted on these impulses, nor watched their own films, but the thought alone sends shivers up my spine.
To make matters worse, they chose a director best known for Once Were Warriors, which in itself is fine, but the director knows nothing about handling a big budget franchise such as Bond. Apparently it was his idea to have the invisible car and wanted the gun barrel to include a bullet. An actual bullet. Why? It’s not needed. Doesn’t help the film. Doesn’t do anything but set the tone for this nightmare of an anniversary flick.
Anyone else could’ve done a much better job at directing than Lee Tamahori. His use of slow motion takes me right out of the action and has these strange and utterly pointless ways of showing the landscape by speeding the footage up and landing on a single moving vehicle. Oh I just hate it. Nothing about him on this franchise is good.
Lee even went to the effort of trying to have the ‘Bond is a code name theory’ put into this film which would’ve allowed him to show or mention other Bond actors. No. Just no. Bond is not a code name passed onto the 007 agent. So take that idea and toss it out the window along with this film. People try to use that theory as a means of explaining the different actors and timeline, just face it. Bond is a film franchise and has been around since the 60’s. We don’t need to try to explain it all. I don’t care that Spider-Man is in his mid to late 20’s yet has been around since the 60’s. I just deal with it and don’t think too much. And clearly Lee Tamahori was loved for some reason and had a bit of say, but thankfully not enough.
He can’t direct action and barely handles the other moments without trying to show off. Not a fan at all. And as a director, I can sorely blame him for the absolute worst casting in Bond history, Halle Berry as Jinx.
I have no idea, at all, what the hell anybody was thinking when it came to the character of Jinx. “I’ll always be a jinx to you.” “I think I got the thrust of it.” “Wow, now there’s a mouth full.” What the hell type of lines are these? WHAT THE HELL?! Seriously what happened to the James Bond franchise when it was all of a sudden decided that 007 needed a side kick. Worse than that, why is that side kick, Jinx? Even worse, why is she given such a vast amount of screen time and all the sexual pun dialogue and shown as an arse kicking female with her own agency behind her and gadgets…oh wait a moment. That’s right, Jinx was going to be given a spin-off.
While doing the press rounds, producers were clearly trying to push the Jinx spin-off movie as hard as possible. I remember going into this film thinking Halle Berry was okay in X-Men, got her tits out in Swordfish, and had a sex scene in Monsters Ball…she must be right for a Bond film. How very wrong I was, and how very wrong was the marketing for pushing her so hard down our throats that I wanted to violently throw up when watching Die Another Day this month. Multiple times.
I’m past the point of playing nice with these Producers. James Bond has always successfully been reinvented and updated with the times. But with Die Another Day, it painfully comes across like a non-James Bond film, and I put the blame on Producers. They have been in control of the franchise and know what makes a Bond film good and Halle Berry, is not a good fit. She’s undeniably sexy, but that does nothing to help a horrible performance in the film.
This review is already running long, and if you’ve managed to stick around and find something worthwhile, I thank you.
Toby Stephens and Will Yun Lee are both good actors in their own ways. I’ve seen both actors in various films throughout their careers and I’d like to see more of them. Here though, I’m fairly convinced these two are the only ones involved that had any idea to really ham up their performances. Colonel Moon starts as Will Yun Lee and although he’s only in Die Another Day during the pre-credit sequence, his role is later replaced by Toby Stephens. Unfortunately both men play the character as completely different. It makes little sense and doesn’t explain why Gustav Graves has zero martial arts skills which his earlier incarnation, Colonel Moon, shows off in a comical moment at the beginning.
I’m also fairly certain that Graves and Moon have different heights, and their way of speaking is completely different. This could be explained away, but I won’t give the film that much credit. Even with all that, how do you just create an identity in this day and age (2002) and have Gustav Graves pop up? No way, I don’t buy it and goes to show just how lacklustre MI6 is at research in this film. Although I like the character on a purely comical level, similar to Max Zorin, Gustav doesn’t fit the tone of what Die Another Day is attempting to be. And that ‘twist’ that Moon is Graves doesn’t work at all. Was it meant to be a shock to the audience? Because I always knew the characters were one and the same.
Equally bad is diamond tipped henchman, Zao played by Rick Yune. I like this guy, and unfortunately he’s just so wasted here. A few action scenes are provided, but he never really gets to spread his wings. He’s a wasted henchman and completely buried amongst the many on offer. Rosamund Pike is the femme fatale aptly named Miranda Frost. And my word, this woman is gorgeous but so bad here, and not in the good way. I’m just sick of these sexually charged characters in the Brosnan 007 films, and glad this is the final outing. On top of the bad MI6 work I spoke about before, the entire connection between Frost and Moon is played off as the NSA hiding information from them. Clearly this explains that Bond is innocent from the get go and points you in the direction of Frost. But no, the NSA just wants to hold off this information so the reveal holds a bit of weight.
I’m just getting so sick of this review, and I’m the one writing it.
Finally we have Pierce Brosnan. I have purposefully stopped myself from discussing him in detail until this review. Why, you ask. Because I needed to be 100% sure in what I was about to say. Pierce Brosnan has to be one of the best Bond’s to ever grace the screen hands down, yet also the worst. Sadly, Brosnan never got the chance to make the role his own. Each film appeared to write him as a different generation of 007. He never got the chance to make the character his own and constantly came across like he was imitating another actor.
Frankly, it’s just so sad because watching The Thomas Crown Affair proves what this guy can do with a Bond type character. He has style and charm, but it’s only ever shown in tiny glimpses throughout his run. I’ve heard some call his Bond run boring and uninspiring, trying to play catch up with the ‘new’ generation. And although I agree with those people, I also agree with Brosnan himself “I have no desire to watch myself as James Bond. ‘Cause it’s just never good enough. It’s a horrible feeling.”
This is such a sad thing for any actor to say, and especially when watching Pierce Brosnan in the role, he appears to be having so much fun. But nothing about his run feels fresh. Whenever I decide to put on a 007 film, the Brosnan era are always overlooked by me. Nothing about these films feels classic and I never like returning to them (save for GoldenEye and maybe The World Is Not Enough).
Die Another Day gave us 007 fans so much to talk about upon release and many years later. The over use of a CGI Bond riding a CGI wave, to the invisible car and Jinx. The overly sexual dialogue and terrible execution of the directing. Even the music, which I praised last month, takes a massive step back here. Lazy, and annoying throughout.
Recently people have mentioned that the first third of the film is worth watching and turns bad at the Ice Palace, I’m going to be honest and real here, because after my many viewings this month, I’ve come to the conclusion that Die Another Day is ruined at this moment onwards for me, the CGI BULLET in the gun barrel sequence. It embodies everything wrong with this film. Big, bad and unnecessary when the good old 007 will always do. Oh, and CGI that’s noticeable.
Avoid this film at all costs and be thankful people learned their lesson from this lump of coal.
James Bond will return in Casino Royale