Die Another Day review by Luke Quantrill


"Saved by the bell."

"What are the problems we face in the world today?" asks a very serious Barbara Broccoli on the threadbare Ultimate Edition DVD extras of Die Another Day. Obviously, to judge by the film that was subsequently produced by this soul searching the major problem the world faced in the early part of the decade was North Korean villains undergoing gene therapy and setting themselves up as ginger British entrepreneurs. Next we see Barbara, Michael G Wilson and Malcom Purvis and Sid Wade at a script meeting. "There was a script for this film?" I hear you cry. Welcome to the infamous fortieth anniversary James Bond film, a pivotal moment in the enduring franchise and the last adventure for Bond series 1.0.

For this celebration Bond entry they tinkered with the gunbarrel and the bullet flys out of the screen for the first time a bit like the GoldenEye title sequence. It was a nice if not completely original effect although miserable gits everywhere found cause to grumble. After a short surfing sequence the pre-credit film settles down into an ok if not tremendously exciting hovercraft chase. For the third PTS in a row Brosnan is required to pilot a vehicle of some sort rather than use his wits. I did however enjoy the sight of Bond clinging to a huge bell at the climax of this scene and Brosnan's throwaway quip is very Brosnan and very cinematic Bond. The title sequence by Daniel Kleinman is absolutley brilliant and Madonna's much maligned theme was not actually that bad. Bond is tortured in the title sequence although everyone seemed to have forgotten this when the next Bond film rolled around and a torture sequence was loudly trumpeted as an extraordinary twist for the series. Granted, Brozza didn't get to take his clothes off and get whacked in the cobblers but I just thought I'd mention it.

The film proper opens with Bond looking like Robinson Crusoe in a North Korean prison. He is exchanged for Zao (Rick Yune) who now sports diamonds in his boat race thanks to 007's explosive briefcase. Bond has his double-O status taken away and is held in a British ship stationed in Hong Kong. M tells him that he is no use to anyone. After stopping his own heart Bond escapes and swims ashore where, still looking like Robinson Crusoe and wearing pyjamas, he walks into a plush Hotel and asks for a room. This is a great 'Bond' moment. He may look like like Grizzly Adams and have no money on him but he's still James Bond. Ho Yi as Mr. Chang is revealed by Bond to be Chinese intelligence. Zao has attempted to sabotage a North Korean/Chinese summit and Chang tells Bond to head for Cuba if he wants to find him.

In Cuba Bond's contact Raoul (Emilio Echevarría) discloses the whereabouts of Zao and Bond heads off to the beach where Halle Berry (Jinx) emerges from the sea in a skimpy swimming costume in tribute to Daniel Craig in Casi-, I mean Ursula Andress in Dr No. Some innuendo heavy banter follows. Bond and Jinx manage to destroy a Gene Therapy Clinic looking for Zao but he escapes in a helicopter. Bond's investigation of the clinic is an entertaining and nicely done sequence. 007 manages to take a package from Zao and the diamonds contained put him on the scent of Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens). In the twenty third in-joke of the film so far Graves parachutes with Union Jack symbol over London to land outside Buckingham Palace where he is to receive an honour from the Queen. Graves and Bond demolish the Blades fencing club in a duel before Graves' assistant and MI6 Agent Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike) intervenes. Die Another Day pilfers here and there from Fleming's Moonraker novel and Pike's character was initially going to be called Gala Brand. 007 is invited to Iceland by Graves but first heads to an abandoned London Underground station where M brings him back into the fold.

We are introduced to Q's virtual reality training specs and in a scene crammed with references to other Bond films Q gives Bond a ring which can shatter unbreakable glass. Finally 007 is given an Aston Martin V12 Vanquish with an 'adaptive camouflage' system which can make it appear almost invisible. "You should be able to shoot through this in a couple hours" says Q handing 007 the huge instruction manual. 007 tosses the book in the air to be destroyed by the automatic machine guns mounted on the car and quips that it only took him a couple of seconds. I chuckled all through these scenes.

The Bond music blares as 007 drives towards Graves Ice-Palace in a scene that reminds one of the approach to Atlantis in The Spy Who Loved Me. From this point in Die Another Day goes very fantastical with car chases, gadgets galore and some ill-advised CGI. The infamous CGI scene is uneccesary and whoever decided to leave it in the film should be forced to do community service and mop floors for a week. As for the car chases and gadgets, they are suitably grand scale and enjoyable and I didn't have a major problem with them. It might be a mess but Die Another Day is fun nonetheless. Graves has a super weapon called Icarus which he plans to use against US and South Korean troops and enemy minefields. Graves is now revealed to be Colonel Moon from the start of the film and Miranda is a traitor working for him.

The somewhat thrown together climax of Die Another Day features Bond and Jinx on a huge transport plane where Graves has a Robocop style suit. Lee Tamahori admitted making up this sequence because they didn't have an ending and I think we all believe him. A big ground battle with troops and Bond in the middle was there for the taking but failed to transpire. Once Graves and Frost have been killed, Bond and Jinx escape in a helicopter and we have the Moneypenny virtual reality scene. Miserable gits everywhere were unimpressed but this got a big laugh in the cinema I was in and I think it's a funny moment. John Cleese, soon to be sacked without a telephone call, adds a deadpan expression to the scene. Bond and Jinx find a small cliff top house to rest in with the stash of diamonds they've held onto and the Pierce Brosnan era comes to a slightly premature end.

Overall what is good and bad about Die Another Day? The bad would have to include the story, especially the North Korean angle, the more innuendo driven dialogue, the wobbly CGI, slightly overlong action scenes and Toby Stephens as Graves. Halle Berry wasn't helped by the character she was asked to play or some of her lines. The good? Large doses of grand scale fun, laughs, especially when John Cleese is on screen with Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan looks great for much of the film and looked like he had a couple of adventures left in him. To parrot myself and others here, Brosnan can make me laugh with a facial expression or reaction and I miss that greatly in a James Bond actor. He is suitably suave when required and gives nothing less than his best. You would think that Brosnan minced around like Peter Pan and was the worst actor in history if you took some of those Bond forums at all seriously. Thankfully not all of us has forgotten the service he gave to the series.

Die Another Day received reasonably good reviews when it was released from the general press and 007 forums. At some point it became the biggest piece of crap ever committed to celluoid. Even Michael G Wilson turned on it in the end as it became the principal reason why Bond had to be rebooted and be recast. Die Another Day is incoherent and never quite meshes but it is often helter-skelter fun and Lee Tamahori shows a commendable willingness to get on with things even if he is hampered by the story assigned to him. The slow-motion and fast-forward pans bring a vague freshness to the series but were certainly not essential.

I certainly wouldn't pretend that Die Another Day is one of the best Bond films. It resides in the final quarter of my Bond list but I can enjoy almost any James Bond film on the level of enjoyable cobblers and Die Another Day is no different. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to put on a black turtle neck jumper and go down Tescos in my invisible Mini Cooper.


c 2007 Alternative 007