Die Another Day

 
Die Another Day

UK/USA, 2002. Rated PG-13. 132 minutes.

Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, Rick Yune, Judi Dench, John Cleese, Michael Madsen, Will Yun Lee, Samantha Bond, Colin Salmon, Michael Tsang
Writers: Neal Purvis & Robert Wade, based on characters by Ian Fleming
Music: David Arnold (score), Mirwais Ahmadza´ (theme song) Michel Colombier (theme song), Madonna (theme song), Monty Norman (Bond theme), Paul Oakenfold (Bond theme remix)
Cinematographer: David Tattersall
Producers: Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson
Director: Lee Tamahori

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Grade: B- Review by Carlo Cavagna

Young and beautiful, willing and pliant, Bond Girls have been part of the Bond tradition for forty years. To play them, talent has never been a requirement beyond the ability to camp it up (how else to explain Denise Richards or Tanya Roberts?), and the actors who play them often sink back into the obscurity from whence they came. Remember Maryam D'Abo from The Living Daylights? No? She recently appeared in a straight-to-video Christopher Lambert feature called The Point Men, helmed by her former Bond director John Glen.

Of course, some have survived having "Bond Girl" on their resumes, a few were already established stars, and two have even gone on to collect Golden Globes and Emmys--Diana Rigg (On Her Majesty's Secret Service) and Jane Seymour (Live and Let Die). But one award, the Oscar, has never been associated with a Bond Girl. It would be Wrong.

Yo, Carlo, what about Kim Basinger?

She doesn't count. Never Say Never Again was not an official Bond film. A comeback vehicle for Sean Connery, it was never approved by the Bond producers, the Broccolis. Besides, that Oscar for L.A. Confidential, came over twenty years and a half-dozen Razzie nominations later. Halle Berry in Bond Girl regaliaAnyway, no actor who has already won an Oscar would dream of playing a Bond girl. Oscar winners choose Important Films after they win. Even Basinger made that ponderous atrocity, I Dreamed of Africa.

Now, reigning Best Actress Halle Berry has changed all that.

Dude, she just won that Oscar in March. There's no way she knew she was going to win an Oscar when she accepted the Bond film. Besides, Berry is hardly the first to drag her Oscar through the mud. Look at Angelina Jolie.

Shut up, I'm on a roll. Don't interrupt me with the facts. My point is that Berry, for her first performance after being anointed with the Oscar, has chosen to kick butt, recite corny double-entendres, and rise out of the North Atlantic wearing an orange bikini (in an obvious ode to Ursula Andress in Dr. No).

That scene was in the Caribbean.

Wrong. The Cuban scenes were shot in Spain and in England. North Korea? Shot in England. Iceland? Mostly England. Almost the whole film was shot in England. The palm trees are digital. The ice is digital. Even the damn sunshine is digital. Part of the pleasure of a Bond film has always been to visit exotic locations all over the world. Bond was a globetrotter. Now he barely leaves his own backyard.

Bond is keeping up with the times, and the times dictate that he must compete with the likes of Vin Diesel. Die Another Day delivers surfing, short-attention-span editing, and copious digital effects, most of which are not too credible. The most shameful example is the second surfing scene, in which Bond rides atop a monstrous wave created by a sheet of falling ice. I was reminded of Terry Gilliam's rudimentary old Monty Python cartoons, in which he would cut out figures from drawings and photographs and paste them together. Another overly silly item is Bond's nearly invisible car, which makes the Roger Moore-era gadgets look plausible.

Hey, you rated this movie a B-, and now you can't stop bitching about it. Says here that a B- is "good but uneven." You wanna tell us what's good about it, or what?

Right. Sorry. Ahem. Though Die Another Day does not live up to the first two Brosnan films, it is on the whole a net improvement over The World Is Not Enough, a dreary sleepwalk through the Pierce BrosnanBond formula brightened only by inadvertent camp queen Denise Richards and the first appearance of John Cleese, the late Desmond Llewellyn's successor as 'Q.'

It's not that the plot is any more comprehensible (it isn't, and all you need to know, all that you ever need to know, is that demented people want to blow things up), or that the stunts are any better (they aren't, and they're too fake, with the notable exception of a rousing sword fight). It's that the cast performs better overall.

Though he pales by comparison to villains of the past, Toby Stephens' millionaire Gustav Graves is a better and more appropriate Bond villain than Robert Carlyle's morose Renard, bringing far more panache to the table. The Bond girls, Halle Berry as U.S. agent Jinx and Rosamund Pike as British agent Miranda Frost, are much better, too. Though she can be rightly mocked for taking on a Bond film, Berry is almost as strong a sidekick as Michelle Yeoh in Tomorrow Never Dies, while striking newcomer Pike is a more traditional Bond babe. Of course, when there are two Bond girls, one of them usually turns out to be evil. Hm, which one might that be?

The greatest improvement, unexpectedly, comes from Brosnan himself. In my review of The World Is Not Enough, I wrote that he was an empty suit, too bland and hesitant to take control of the role. Shortly thereafter, Brosnan showed none of those traits as a nasty, ethically challenged spy in The Tailor of Panama. Well, somebody involved with Die Another Day must have seen The Tailor of Panama and told Brosnan to act more like that--with some anger, with some magnetism. It's particularly necessary for Die Another Day, because the conflicts are more personal than usual for Bond, who has a falling out with 'M' (Judi Dench) and British Intelligence, like in License to Kill.

Before this film was made, Brosnan talked about doing only four Bond films. It seemed like a good idea because Brosnan didn't seem too comfortable as 007. Now Brosnan says he wants to do one more. It seems like a good idea, now that he's finally shown he has something to offer the role other than dashing good looks in a tuxedo.

Review © December 2002 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images ę 2002 MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


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