James Bond Retrospective: Review of DIE ANOTHER DAY

(I am a pretty huge James Bond fan, so with the new SKYFALL coming out November 9th, I thought it would be cool to re-watch every Bond movie and review them on the site, counting down the days until the latest one is released)

I know this isn’t a very popular movie amongst Bond fans, but when I saw this in the theater back in 2002, I thought it was fun.  A guilty pleasure, if you will.  I haven’t seen it since, so after watching all the Bond movies in chronological order (except for SKYFALL, which I saw last Thursday), I was curious to see how this one would play out for me.

The movie starts off with Bond getting captured by the North Korean army.  After 18 months, he is traded back to England for a bad guy named Zao, whose brother 007 killed.  M deems Bond unfit for duty so she suspends him.  James is upset by this so he escapes and goes on his own mission, to find Zao.  Along the way he meets an American agent named Jinx.  Just think of her as the female James Bond.  They team up together to discover that Zao is getting his face reconstructed (due to Bond disfiguring it in the opening sequence).  His operation is being funded by a cocky British tycoon by the name of Gustav Graves.  But there’s some secrets being kept, and it’s up to Bond and Jinx to figure out what’s going on.

The Pre-title sequence is exhilarating.  Bond is posing as an arms dealer, but when he’s discovered… all hell breaks loose.  He tries to escape on a hovercraft.  He’s followed by Colonel Moon, who is also driving a hovercraft.  This chase is fantastic, and well executed.  Lots of shooting and explosions, but it’s a helluva lot of fun. The chase ends with the Colonel being killed, and Bond captured.  The title sequence goes on over 007 being tortured and interrogated as Madonna sings the title track.  Now, at least 10 years before this came out, I have always been saying that Madonna should do a Bond song.  I’m a big fan.  I always pictured her belting out a song like “Nobody Does it Better” or For Your Eyes Only”, so I was a bit disappointed when it turned out to be a techno song without much emotion.  I actually like the song, but it doesn’t necessarily feel like a “Bond” song.  Still, the opening is killer!

No one’s going to accuse DIE ANOTHER DAY of being a sophisticated spy movie.  It’s an over-the-top action movie that is to be enjoyed best with a big bucket of popcorn.  Unlike THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, this flick has a ton energy throughout it’s running time.  I may be shaking my head at some of the action set pieces, but I’m doing it with a huge smile on my face.  So yeah, I still feel the same about it as I did 10 years ago.  It’s a guilty pleasure.

After that terrific opening, we see Bond 18 months later with long hair and a beard.  Okay, so I’ve never wanted to see a shaggy and scraggly 007, but it kind of fits the ridiculous nature of the movie.  I did like the confrontation that M and Bond have when he first gets back from being held captive.  Jinx’s introduction is a hoot.  As Bond is looking at the Ocean through Binoculars, she rises from the water in slow motion, as the camera (and the audience) oggle her goodies.  There first scenes together are actually pretty hot.  Bronsan’s movies always had the steamiest loves scenes, and this film is no exception.  There’s some thrilling moments when Jinx and James are escaping a plastic surgery hospital in Havana.  I even liked the obvious (and cheesy) CGI shot of Jinx jumping into the ocean from a building hanging off a cliff.

The second half is when the action scenes get out of control.  There’s a sequence that has Bond and Graves challenging each other to a fencing duel that just gets insanely wild.  They’re clearly trying to kill each other, and no one seems to mind too much in the posh fencing club they’re in.  It’s still pretty funny.  Then the action shifts to Iceland where Graves is hosting the reveal of his big project Icarus in a hotel, but resembles more of an ice palace.  Loved the design of it too.  There, Bond gets help from another British agent named Miranda Frost.  There’s tons of action here.  Love the fight where Bond is fighting a thug with a bunch of lasers shooting around them.  That was cool.  There’s a great car chase with Bond trying out his invisible car as he goes head-to-head (or should I say car-to-car) with Zao.  The finale has Bond and Jinx battling Graves on board a jet plane, and features some good swordplay.

Brosnan is probably the most consistent actor to play Bond.  There’s a continuity to his performances (unlike Connery or Moore, who were different in every film), and I find comfort in that.  Halle Berry is great as Jinx.  I also liked her character quite a bit.  She’s a fun sidekick for 007.  I enjoyed Toby Stephen smirking performance as Graves.  Rosamund Pike is decent as Frost.  I think Zao, played by Rick Yune is a great Bond villain.  Love his deformed face, with diamonds stuck in it.  Judi Dench is reliable as usual.  Man, is it great to see Michael Madsen in a 200 million dollar Bond picture.  I love this actor, and just to see him squint and rasp his way through the dialogue in a big budget film is a delight as he plays Jinx’s superior.  I’m still on the fence about John Cleese as the new Q though.  He’s fine (though a bit too silly at times), but he’s just too recognizable.  I think the actor should be more of an unknown.  Oh yeah, and Madonna shows up to give Bond some info on Graves at the fencing club.  It is what it is… heh.

Director Lee Tamahori takes the helm this time, and he pretty much turned the franchise into a big special effect.  The action is bigger than ever.  I’m not saying it’s a better approach than the rest of the series, but there’s still a good sense of fun to be found.  That was the problem I had with THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH. Sure, there was action, but it just wasn’t very fun.  DIE ANOTHER DAY is fun!  I could do without some of that strobe slo-motion effect, or speeding up the action on occasion, but for the most part, the action looks great (except for a brief para-sailing sequence.  That looked stupid).  What the filmmakers have captured here is a fun and highly energetic spirit. This is helped by another great Bond score from David Arnold.  He knows how to modernize the Bond music without deviating from the traditional themes.  It’s great!

I know a lot of people who hate this movie, and I can see that.  It does go really far off the deep end in the action department.  But since it is so “out there”, I findit to be silly fun.  It’s not tongue-in-cheek like the Moore films, just goofy in how ludicrous the action scenes are.  I know it’s not a great film, but it’s an entertaining Bond flick.  Just turn your mind off at the door.  It’s far from the best of the series, but it’s a lot more fun than half of them.  ★★★ (out of ★★★★)

- Rated PG-13 for action violence and sexuality.

- Running time: 2hrs 12min.

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Categories: Austin Kennedy, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews

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