Die Another Day (2002) — Bond’s 20th outing

“So you lived to die another day.”

Kyle’s rating: In my life, I’ve watched more Bond movies than personal home movies

Kyle’s review: It’s so strange to me that this is only the 40th anniversary of the James Bond film series, even though that encompasses my lifetime and more. Is it me or has James Bond been around since the dawn of time, saving the world and drinking countless vodka martinis once they were invented? If only there had been some sort of visual recording process devised earlier in history, so that we might have more than just 20 movies to enjoy today.

Yes, the newest Bond installment, Die Another Day, is the 20th in the series. Arguably it is also the greatest Bond film ever, delivering more thrills that 4 out of 5 doctors will recommend as your daily dosage. Unless you’re a “Connery is GOD!!!” nut or a staunch anti-Bond separatist feminist, you should find Die Another Day to be epic entertainment easily rankable in your list of the top ten Bond films of all-time, if not in the top five. And as a self-assured, confidently heterosexual male, let me add that not only do I love Pierce Brosnan, but that he is the only male to gain permanent poster space on my wall. Go Pierce go!

With each of his Bond films, Brosnan has grown more fully into the role. With Die Another Day, he completely embodies everything Bondian and achieves total fusion with the character. Brosnan is Bond, as consistent a truth as white is pure. That is really convenient, because some of the stuff Bond goes through in this one requires us to fully accept Brosnan as Our Bond so we can appreciate his character arc. Real acting in a Bond film: it happens more often than you might think!

The action begins in North Korea: Bond infiltrates and attempts to foil a diamonds-for-weapons trade with the power-mad Colonel Moon (Will Yun Lee) and henchman Zao (the very cool Rick Yune), but when things go bad they go really bad. Bond is betrayed by one of his own, and by the time things somewhat straighten out, Bond has gained some significant facial hair and lost the trust of Her Majesty’s Secret Service. But hey, Bond has been rogue before and he does it again, looking for cigars and a little payback. Before it is all over, he’ll have cool showdowns with the bad guys and M, as his former boss has some thoughts to share about Bond’s freedom and usefulness. Bond will also encounter a new bevy of Bond girls, some who are fabulously gorgeous (Rosamund Pike especially, Halle Berry mostly) and some who are Madonna (Madonna). Can’t win ‘em all, I guess!

Don’t worry, Bond is rogue for a bit, but we still get M (the always wonderful Judi Dench), Q (John Cleese takes over as best he can from the divine Desmond Llewelyn), and Miss Moneypenny (Samantha Bond, who might finally get her man!). We get more gadgets than you can shake a non-gadget stick at, and Bond gets back into an Aston Martin again, automatically overloading the pleasure centers of Bond fanatics. We also get cool in-joke references to the first 19 films, a few earlier Bond actor personality quirks thrown into the mix courtesy of Brosnan (sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes it is a nod to Roger Moore), and something that was largely missing from the first three Brosnan Bonds: fun! Loads and loads of fun! It’s a bonkers plot and Bond’s escapes and quick-fixes range from the slightly plausible to the fundamentally improbable, but it is all so much fun that we don’t care! Bond is the man!

If you have ever liked a Bond film, you will totally dig Die Another Day. If you have never tried a Bond film, this is a good one to start with. Maybe you won’t like it. I actually don’t care. In my world there are James Bond films, food and water. The more I get of any of those things the happier I am. I think if more of you people were like me, the world would be a much better place. Oh well. Die Another Day rules, and it’s a useful mantra to repeat every morning into the mirror to encourage success in all your enterprises. Thanks, James Bond!

Justin’s rating: Does anyone else think that, for a spy, James Bond is not quite the stealthy type that he should be aspiring to?

Justin’s review: I could be James Bond. You laugh, but that smile will be wiped from your face — permanently — as my watch-laser-thingiee sears off your lips at two hundred yards. Now that I got your attention, consider how easy it is to BE Bond:

1. You’ve got to have an intimate knowledge of your name, to the point where you’re downright eager to share it with everyone you meet. Also, for added effect, use this format: “[last name], [first name] [last name].” People will wonder if you have some sort of sympathetic disorder, but you can rest assured that they know your name now, sucka!

2. Delegate out your dangerous action sequences to stunt doubles or a brainy computer known as PERCY. Sit at home, drinking a very watered-down martini, secure in the knowledge that whoever is getting their limbs torn off due to explosives misfiring, it isn’t you!

3. Have your come-on routine down pat. As a super spy, you know that women don’t want actual conversation, cuddling or shoes. No sir, all they need is about four or five painfully obvious pickup lines with some clever single entendres and a promise not to call them later that week.

I’ve never had much respect for James Bond, in any incarnation, mostly because my liking a spy depends largely upon my believing that said spy has — as the French say — a little something called “yowza!” In the movies Bond might be all “kick!” and “shoot!” and “escape!” and “sexsexsex!”, but my imagination is taxed when it comes to trying to translate this to the real world. All I come up with is some out-of-control horny seventh grade boy who reads too many comic books and talks to his wrist a lot as if someone’s listening on the other end.

Die Another Day competes for the 2002 award for painful romance scenes with the sand-is-rough dialogue of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. For no reason (other than scanning around with high-powered binoculars), Bond (Pierce “Fuzzy Chest” Brosnan) bumps into American spy Jinx (Halle “Shrieking Like A Small Dog When I Get My Oscar” Berry) at a Cuban resort place. The flirtatious nature of this scene is incredibly strained due to two reasons. The first being that neither of them have any lines better than something to do with bird watching and prey coming out at night. We’re supposed to buy into the sexual tension and desires and wonton carnality of two people who for all the world just met sixty seconds ago, but there’s no winning the ugly crowd of Stupid Pillow Talk.

The second problem with this scene is due to the five-second pauses that each character allows after delivering a tacky innuendo-laden pun. It gives the distinct impression that the movie is saying, “Hey, this is as simple as we can get the potty-talk unless we downgraded to ‘Me Wantee’, so we’re just going to give you stoners quick study breaks to figure out what that quote meant.”

Urgh.

This is the same James Bond nonsense that might or might not get your engines (CGI rendered, of course) running, but in any case will certainly be forgotten as quickly as the past Bonds have. You know, that one with what’s-her-name, that actress that never worked in Hollywood again. And the one that had that woman with the unfortunate last name of Christmas. In Die Another Day there’s a couple of suspiciously well-financed terrorists (who obviously do a lot of Bond e-Bay trading to get their funding) who have gone to every expense to (1) take over the world, and (2) graciously invite James Bond to come visit the Fortress of Icy Doom so that he can wreck their plans.

Big, big broo-ha-hah has been made over the fact that Jinx is supposed to be this awesome new Bond-alike, but she is a huge disappointment. I don’t feel strongly for Halle Berry one way or the other (though I do have to mentally repress the “lightning” quote from X-Men or risk non-stop screaming), but this is a waste of a character. Jinx gets captured by the enemy no less than TWO times, and manages to escape on her own no more than ZERO times. That’s American ingenuity for ya. No, she just growls out some dialogue that’s supposed to make us like her, as long as we ignore the fact that she needs Bond to write down detailed directions to make sure she isn’t running headlong into a minefield or a pool full of sharks.

It’s a shame, too, because the other Bond girl Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike) is such a breathtaking beauty that they could’ve just entitled this movie Frost, Miranda Frost and I would’ve bought out all of the seats in the theater just to get good box office. Frost unfortunately falls prey to scriptwriters who are just beginning to work their way through The Big Book of Bond Basics, as she is victim of Chapter One: So You’ve Created A Character With A Fixed Stereotype; Now Make Her Go Against Character… Oh, And Have Sex With Bond Too.

Toward the end of the film Frost and Jinx get into some sort of mean-spirited swordplay, despite the fact that both of them share some sort of sisterly bond (get it?) by sharing the marital bed with 007. It pained me to see them fighting so, obviously caused by pig-like men who figure that if you have two strong, independent women in an action flick, they must eventually have a catfight.

But to go back to me being Bond (you remember your lips, Mr. or Ms. I’ll Never Kiss Again?), I did feel a shared moment with him during this big car chase they had. Bond and one of his thousands of mortal enemies are skidding over ice, punching buttons in their CyberDeathMobiles, which made both cars shudder and erupt in techno-glory. There were missiles, ejection seats, machine guns, cloaking devices (apparently, Bond is in with the Romulans nowadays), spikes and whatnot. I left the theater, totally geeked that my car had buttons too! I felt the same surge of adrenaline as I sped down the road at a constant 37 miles per hour (thanks Cruise Control button!) and had the Xtreme option of as many as two separate preset radio stations. Justin will return in James Bond Turns 75: Constipated And Still Getting Some.

(By the way, am I the only person who was bugged by the fact that James Bond — who has gotten himself out of every tricky situation known to both man and Batman — couldn’t overpower his captors and/or escape in the *14 MONTHS* he was in prison and tortured?)

Didja notice?

  • For a film that has everything, including igloos, exploding in red-hot fireballs, doesn’t it strike you odd that two cars get dropped from a plane, nail front-end right into the ground, and don’t even smoke a little?
  • There are a ton of references to the first 19 Bond films, including Jinx (Halle Berry) walking out of the ocean like Honey Ryder in Dr. No, tons of previously-used gadgets including the jetpack from Thunderball, the crocodile submarine from Octopussy, the shoe with the poison-tipped blade from From Russia With Love, Little Nellie from You Only Live Twice, and various other set-ups and plot twists that are reminiscent of earlier films, like the deadly lasers (Goldfinger), three agents approaching the enemy (The Living Daylights), Bond going rogue (License to Kill), and loads of diamonds (Diamond Are Forever). Just to name a few.
  • Ian Fleming took James Bond’s name from the author of a book called “A Field Guide to the Birds of the West Indies”. In this movie, Bond picks up the very same book in Cuba and poses as an ornithologist.
  • Q gives Bond a new watch and remarks that “This is your twentieth, I believe.” This is the 20th Bond film, and also gives newcomers a hint as to how much Bond really thinks of Q’s gadgets.

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