– Summary –
Director : Lee Tamahori
Year Of Release : 2002
Principal Cast : Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rick Yune, Rosamund Pike, Judi Dench, Will Yun Lee, John Cleese, Colin Salmon, Rachel Grant, Samantha Bond, Lawrence Makoare, Michael Madsen, Madonna.
Approx Running Time : 133 Minutes
Synopsis: Bond drives an invisible car – yes, an invisible car. Halle Berry sexies up her image (as if she really needed to) in an orange bikini, Toby Stephens acts like prat, and somebody somewhere gave Madonna – f*cking Madonna, a cameo.
What we think : Of the four Bond films to star Pierce Brosnan, Die Another Day is easily the worst. In fact, it’s highly possible it’s among the worst Bond films ever, and that’s saying something. A director the caliber of Lee Tamahori, no slouch behind the camera, and a cast of (Madonna excepted) decent actors, should have produced a film of a much higher standard than what ended up crossing the big screen back in 2002. Instead, we get Bond driving an invisible car, a giant death-ray from space (which shouldn’t be surprising in a Bond film, I’ll admit) and a massive amount of CGI effects including a jetliner managing to stay aloft even when it’s collapsed structurally – Die Another Day is the Moonraker of Brosnan Bond, a gargantuan, convoluted, pointless mess of a film with so many flaws it beggars belief. There’s money to burn on this movie, it’s just a pity nobody thought about making a film people might like to watch.
Another Bond Film With “Die” In The Title. Yawn.
Cringe at the horror of Madonna’s godawful song….
You know things are going to be bad when the iconic theme song, a part of the Bond franchise since the very earliest movies, is a dance track by Madonna. And not a very good one at that. Die Another Day, the 20th film in the franchise and released to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Bond film series, was helmed by Kiwi director Lee Tamahori, the man who gave us such powerful cinematic entries as Once Were Warriors (seriously, an awesome film and one you should check out!) and, in a strange way, spelled the end of the Brosnan era with what can only be described as an ignominious thud. Die Another Day suffered very average reviews in the day, and even I found the film hard going when I saw it in the cinema. Looking back, perhaps I’d been a bit harsh on the film, maybe? I’d rubbished the film to all and sundry whenever I was asked about it by friends, but had my view of it been colored by external criticism that was perhaps unwarranted? Was Die Another Day as bad as I’d first thought – not bad, per se, but just thoroughly underwhelming?
Putting it bluntly, yes, Die Another Day is as bad as I remember. As a Bond film, it strains credulity beyond breaking point, skipping past fanciful adventure (for Bond) into outright science fiction and fantasy. Brosnan looks distinctly uncomfortable in the role of Bond here, forced to deliver lines so horrendously loaded with innuendo it’s impossible to construe them any other way than just puerile, juvenile humor – it’s not Brosnan’s fault the films so unworkably cumbersome, and it’s fair to say the script bears the brunt of critical derision. Instead of continuing with the franchise’s long established mantra of doing everything for real, here the production went for a larger CGI component, as well as a more “epic” scope that essentially turned Bond into a supporting player in his own film. The problems that hamstrung The World Is Not Enough, which were magnified from Tomorrow Never Dies, take center stage here in Die Another Day – the copious characters, the inane dialogue and the unworkable lack of chemistry between Brosnan and his leading lady – to destroy whatever momentum GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies managed to deliver to audiences.
The action sequences, even for Bond, are enormous to the point of ludicrousness. They seem designed to maximize the dynamic range of the audio track instead of progressing the story in any way; while I’m disinclined to agree that Bond is never meant to be taken seriously, nor it it really meant to be realistic, there still need to be a sense of realism in the modern Bond – after all, that realism was present in GoldenEye – for audiences to find an attachment to. Straight fantasy, where the laws of logic and gravity are merely suggestions instead of defining universal laws, had crept into Bond with a plot so befuddling and characters so incredibly lame, it undid all the work the previous three films had worked so hard to establish. Bond enters the film surfing an enormous wave – alongside two fellow agents – before infiltrating the dastardly General Moon’s compound and wrecking the joint in a massive hovercraft battle; at another point, he drives an invisible car across the Icelandic snowfields, dodges a massive heat beam from an orbiting satellite, and engages in a True Lies style battle with the central villain aboard an in-flight jetliner – the stunt team were given the mandate to make all the effects, design, stuntwork and production values bigger, badder and more excessive than anything we’d seen before.
If that was the case, they succeeded. Die Another Day feels excessive. It feels bloated, like the producers had too much money and couldn’t find any more ways of wasting it. The use of CGI, which looked wonky at the time and even worse now, a decade later, seems out of place in a film were practically all the major stunts are done for real – the finale aboard a disintegrating jumbo jet, with bits of fuselage flying off and the plane gradually heading earthward, is a blazing example of how CGI and a lack of reality give off a phony vibe that just annihilates the credibility of the film. The sheer hubris of the action set-pieces overwhelms the movie, a movie content to throw in all manner of awkward plot devices and cock-handed twists to keep its narrative bumbling along from one “moment” to the next.
Characters in the film – Bond aside – are terribly written and lacking in any kind of realism. I know, I shouldn’t expect realism from Bond, but as I mentioned earlier, the bar was set with GoldenEye and for some reason it’s gone back to camp parody. Halle Berry, an actress of a high quality who went through a real purple patch of shit after Monsters Ball, manages to bring some sexy to this film, although her bright orange bikini, as sexy as it is physically, visually is appalling. Rosamund Pike, as Miranda Frost, is as frosty as her name implies, and while I normally like Pike as a performer – given the right material – here she seems out of her depth. Frost is written badly, and Pike can’t elevate the dire script. Most poorly served by this script are the villainous duo of Rick Yune and Toby Stephens, neither of whom escape this film with their reputations intact. Yune can’t act, at all, and as a bad guy in a Bond film lacks any kind of screen presence, while Stephens’ character is the most inane, ranting cliche of arrogance we’ve seen in a Bond film – perhaps ever. Perhaps not entirely Stephens fault, but he doesn’t help with that wide-eyed, spittle-ridden, epilepsy-inducing prancing he forces upon us as the megalomaniac millionaire trying to kick of WWIII.
But it’s Brosnan, poor cliche-ridden Brosnan, forced to deliver career ruining lines alongside trying to make his stunts and athletic ability look convincing. One might feel sorry for him had it not been made clear that he’s helped with the script and “suggested” things here and there. Perhaps had he told the production to keep the innuendo to a minimum and ramp up some convincing – and plausible – villain and overarching plot, the film might have turned out better. Die Another Day is a bad Bond film; actually, it’s just a bad film period, with poor characters, juvenile scripting and a lack of… authority, really. The lowering of the bar with Madonna’s questionably musical “song” as an opener, as well as the decision to turn the Bond franchise into a big-screen Bad Joke, effectively spelled the end for Brosnan and the “new reboot” as a concept; perhaps it was fortuitous that MGM had some financial difficulty between this and Casino Royale allowed some serious rethinking on the part of the producers, because had the next Bond film been as bad, or at least as ill-conceived, as Die Another Day, we might never have had Casino Royale.
Dear Lord, this film is a mess. From the top down, the film lacks any kind of Bond-esque charm or wit, it’s barely amusing and even at its best, is never thrilling. Action sequences feel manufactured, dialogue clunks like logs from the mouths of the cast, and an over-reliance on poor CGI in the Big Action Scenes at times reduces what little entertainment value the film had to zero. It’s a shame this is the film Brosnan finished on, because he deserved better – he’s a better Bond than Die Another Day would have you think. Die Another Day…. just sucks. I mean it really, plainly, sucks.