James Bond Retr007pective: Die Another Day (2002)

We can’t put it off any longer. Here’s our retrospective on Pierce Brosnan’s last Bond movie, the bloody awful Die Another Day…

 

The Name’s Bond. James Bond: Die Another Day teases a fascinating take on Bond that never really happens. In a thrilling post-credits scene, he is tortured in North Korea for over a year. At first, this seems to have shaken his belief in the British government and his job but this is sadly quickly dispensed with to make way for the traditional unflappable secret agent.

The Song: Many Bond fans out there despise Madonna’s techno-pop anthem ‘Die Another Day’ with a passion but, I don’t know, personally I find it pretty catchy. Yes, the sound mix has dated poorly and the lyrics are head-scratchingly inane (“Sigmund Freud, analyse this” – WTF?) but it’s still more memorable than, say, Tomorrow Never Dies. Plus, the title sequence is cleverly integrated into the narrative by being depicted as Bond’s hallucinations under torture.

The Gadgets: With Desmond Llewelyn having tragically passed away, John Cleese is bumped up from his comedy role as R in The World Is Not Enough to the new Q. He gives Bond a sonic ring (who’d have a screwdriver?) and the Aston Martin Vanquish Vanish – yep, an invisible car. It was the ludicrousness of this that caused the gadgets to be stripped back for Casino Royale. 

The Women: Very rarely for the franchise, an established star is recruited to play the Bond Girl. Unfortunately, Halle Berry’s presence doesn’t make Jinx, an American NSA agent, much of a character. At the time there was some talk of a Jinx spin-off – I’d love a female-led Bond movie but this wouldn’t have worked. The secondary girl is Rosamund Pike’s Miranda Frost, who is a kind of less-good repeat of Elektra King as she turns out to be working for Graves.

The Villains: The central villain perfectly demonstrates how Die Another Day starts gritty and ends up ridiculous. Colonel Sun-Moon is a North Korean extremist who is later reborn as Gustav Graves, a British billionaire, thanks to some advanced gene therapy. Toby Stephens can only ham it up in a role that is peppered with far too many gimmicks (he has a giant space laser, a fancy dream machine, an ice fortress, a super-suit ETC). Grave’s henchman Zao is fairly memorable, as he has diamonds embedded in his face due to an explosion.

The Verdict: Darn you, Die Another Day! Instead of marking the series’ 40th anniversary and sending off Pierce Brosnan in style, we get this turgid, ill-conceived mess of a movie. It actually starts pretty strong but as it goes along the ridiculousness takes over to the point where it becomes the Batman & Robin of Bond. It’s so bad that it threatened to kill the franchise for good, though thanks to Daniel Craig’s tenure, James Bond survived to die another day.

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