Flicks & Folios – Film review: Die Another Day

Pierce Brosnan is starting to get a little older and has said publicly that he isn’t sure he’ll do another James Bond film, but I’m not sure that matters. It’s been an amazing ride, and Die Another Day isn’t an exception.

The film crackles to life with Bond in North Korea bearing diamonds in exchange for highly specialized weapons. His photo is snapped the second he gets off the plane and a high-tech scanner from the North Korean bad guy runs his image through an unknown scan system. Of course the MI-6 identification comes up moments after the premise of our film is set. He is a British agent”?a licensed killer. And that’s exactly what Bond does.

Then, after a thrilling chase on hovercrafts over mine fields, we careen into, arguably, the worst Bond song ever. Madonna, who pulls off a nice cameo, provides the dreadful tech-style song. The credits are also – I think – supposed to be the usual naked women in silhouette but they are made to look techie again and it sucked! The problem is that “Cubby” Broccoli’s widow seems to have futzed with the formula as the film series’ new producer. And she screwed it up in an obvious attempt to appeal to a new generation of viewers. But I would argue that Bond films always do well – there was nothing wrong with the formula.

A bunch of high-tech gadgets turn into a plot, but the never-been-caught Bond is suddenly hostage for more than a year and tortured. Thrown into baggy clothes, a mop-like wig and an unbelievably tidy moustache and beard, Bond’s suave and debonair appearance is suddenly challenged. Moments into the film he is released and taken back to MI-6 secret headquarters where he can be checked over and allowed to recuperate. At that point the new female “M” (Dame Judy Dench) mercilessly tells Bond his freedom came at too high a price. The ratfink they traded him for is free and won’t be tried for his horrific crimes. M’s hatred for Bond is obvious, and Judy plays the role well. She decides to revoke his status and send him out to pasture. Does it work? Are you kidding?! Bond decides to escape the confines of the detention area and turns up sopping wet in one of his favorite hotels.

Right away he’s ahead after a shave, shower and fresh tailored clothes. He immediately traps the manager of the hotel, who is a Chinese agent, and bargains for money, transport and a new passport.

In beautiful sunny Cuba he bumps uglies with gorgeous Jinx (Halle Berry). She says she got her name from being born on Friday the 13th, but in reality she’s a lovely NSA agent. She’s also the first woman who almost got a spin-off series from the Bond films. She is decidedly strong. Decidedly sexy. She is a strong woman in a film series filled with women with silly names and small acting parts.

Also a delight is a lovely sequence with British comic champion John Cleese as the new “Q”. His witty repartee with Bond is adorable. His latest gadget is – well invisible – an Aston-Martin car that arrives in an underground “launch pad” unseen. As Q explains, tiny cameras placed around the vehicle project back what they see. Of course there are a few logic problems with that idea. What if someone is walking past the car? (which if you watch does happen!)

The Chinese connections get him to Iceland to a hotel made from ice. Lush! It belongs in a picture book. On a frozen lake, it also houses newly reconstructed bad guys who’ve had DNA reconstruction. Their Korean appearance is now typically blue-eyed blond. Quite a transformation! Now Bond’s nemesis is racing his high-speed racing craft and inventing mirrors on satellites to trap the power of the sun at a moment’s notice. He does all this by not sleeping. His ruthless right hand man is Zao played by Rick Yune.

Bond’s bad guy is Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens). His fellow, good-girl MI-6 agent is Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike): or is she?

The film includes a few amazingly good scenes but has an absolutely awful animation sequence of Bond riding the waves from a makeshift avalanche. It’s pretty cheesy, which is a tremendous let down in a film history of amazing fast-paced sequences.

On the whole the film is a great romp, Halle Berry is fun and the bad guy is, of course, caught by the great Bond after a hair-raising finish that makes the special effects guys shiver:’cause they spent more time on making it look good.

On the whole I’d say the film is great, but when I bought the DVD I fast-forward past the horrible opening song.

Laura Seymour first published herself, at age 8. She has since gone on to publish a cookbook for the medical condition Candida. She is working toward her B.A. (Psyc).

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