Anyway, Die Another Day . What a weird movie. Well, a weird movie as far as Bond flicks are concerned, and perhaps there’s a reason why it marked the end of an era.
OK, obviously here they’ve actually tried to have things that haven’t been seen before in the series. Like surfing. And hovercraft. Anyway, Bond surfs up on the shore of North Korea, and takes the place of an arms dealer exchanging diamonds for military hardware with Colonel Moon (Will Yun Lee), sneaking some C4 into the briefcase to try and blow him up.
However the deal goes pear-shaped as Moon’s offsider Zao (Rick Yune) finds out who Bond really is after a tip-off, and everything goes haywire. After a dumb hovercraft chase, Colonel Moon falls off the edge of some waterfall, but Colonel Moon’s dad General Moon catches up with Bond and, despite expressing disappointment with his son’s “decadence”, arrests Bond.
Probably the first major tinkering with the Binder/Kleinman template since the beginning of the series, there’s a stylised fire/ice thing happening but interspersed with it is a torture montage! Presumably Madonna’s title song is part of the torture. Seriously, we’ve had plenty of pop artists come in and perform fantastic songs to kick off the show, this is just bad.
At least the rest of the soundtrack from David Arnold is still good.
While the shooting locations differ from the film settings, as you’d expect they wouldn’t have gotten permission to film in the Korean DMZ. But anyway, after the opening, the action follows Bond to Hong Kong, Cuba, London, Iceland and finally back in Korea.
After Bond’s 14 month ordeal of ice baths, being fed scorpions and being made to listen to Madonna’s late-career dross, he’s finally swapped out for Zao, who’d been apprehended in the West for doing something naughty.
Although now free from the clutches of the DRK, Bond is detained on an RN vessel by MI6, as he’s suspected of having given up information, hence his double-0 status has been rescinded, making him just 7. Hell, they won’t even let him have a shave.
Bond is having none of that, so he fakes a cardiac arrest, escapes the boat and finds himself in Hong Kong, where fortuitously he’s kept a tab running with one of the local pubs into the era of the Special Administrative Region. The hotel is run by a Chinese spook, who after some convincing tells Bond that Zao is in Cuba, so with Bond all scrubbed up and ready for action, that’s where he heads off to next.
The April Sun In Cuba
Bond’s a little less covert than the last time he was in Cuba during Goldeneye, Bond bumps into Giacinta ‘Jinx’ Johnson (Halle Berry), and is apparently quite thirsty after all that time in detention. He bluffs his way into the gene therapy clinic which apparently does some crazy things, and catches up with old mate Zao in a weird transmutation chamber, with his face blinged out from their earlier meeting. But before he can do anything, Jinx is apparently in the same line of work and has also infiltrated the place to destroy it. Zao escapes in the chaos, and Jinx also hightailing it. Having retrieved one clue from Zao – a small sample of diamonds – Bond just shrugs and decides to go home.
The diamonds have the mark of Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens), who is some random guy that drops out of the sky in London. There’s some cockamamie story about why he’s being offered a knighthood, but anyway, amongst all his other pursuits, he’s a fencing enthusiast, so naturally he hangs out at a fencing club with his beautiful friends like Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike) and “Verity” (Madonna), an instructor.
You can tell how cool Bond is because, whatever PTSD he might have from his confinement, he doesn’t immediately punch out Verity for being its voice. Instead he challenges Graves to a fencing duel, but that’s a bit tame so they go for real swords and fight until, well, not the death, but until someone’s bowels starts poking out. (This didn’t happen but I sure Bond would say something about “guts” if it did.)
Bond wins this round, and for whatever reason Graves invites the guy who’s just thrashed him to an upcoming tech demo he’s holding in Iceland. It’s at this point Bond is welcomed back in from the cold by M, who has figured out he probably didn’t do the leaking. Q (John Cleese getting a promotion) also gives him some new gadgets like a ring that can smash any kind of glass, and, wait for it – an invisible car!
Another MI6 agent is sent on the assignment – Miranda Frost! OK, she’s in Graves’ retinue, what could possibly go wrong. Anyway, M pretty much says to Ms Frost that she’ll probably have to root Bond for queen and country, and Frost just rolls her eyes.
The Big Dumb Object
Bond rocks up at Graves’ ice castle in Iceland. Jinx also turns up, and reveals to Bond she’s working for the NSA, which in 2002 apparently didn’t involve reading everyone’s email. Graves shows off his new toy – Icarus, a big-ass satellite that that reflect solar energy anywhere in the world. Nothing sinister about that.
Jinx infiltrates the sekrit base but gets caught by Zao, who had to turn up again at some point; Bond, after keeping up appearances with Frost, goes to do some skulking around himself, and manages to rescue Jinx from being lasered by “Mr Kill” (the most obvious aptronym for a henchman since Jaws).
They both get caught again, and as if it wasn’t obvious, Graves is Colonel Moon, having had some “gene therapy” himself, and also quite obviously Frost is the double-agent that shopped Bond way back at the start of the movie. The price for her betrayal? Winning a gold medal in fencing at the Olympics. What the hell.
Anyway, at this point Bond escapes the ice palace, where he witness the firepower of Graves’ fully armed and operational death beam, which unleashes some bad CGI effects for Bond to heroically escape. Jinx has been locked up again and is left to drown as the ice palace melts around her. Bond returns, retrieves his bad CGI stealth car, and he and Zao doriftu around the ice plain firing rockets at each other. After lots of zooming around, Bond dispatches Zao, breaks Jinx out of her cell, while Graves et al escape back to North Korea.
Well, at least we didn’t get a heap of bad ice puns like in Batman & Robin (1997).
Graves’ ultimate goal for Icarus was to cauterize the DMZ to clear a path for the North Korean forces to roll across to the south. He commands this operation from a cargo plane, where he gets his dad the general on to watch. General Moon seems as disturbed by his son’s transformation into the whitey Graves as anything. Graves also gets himself into some kind of rig that lets him control Icarus more betterer and also to zap people.
Can anyone stop Graves? Well, Bond and Jinx snuck onto the plane, so there’s that. Some nong fires their gun on the plane, causing it to depressurise and course through the death beam before Jinx manages to right the plane from the controls. Jinx and Frost fight. Bond and Graves fight. Graves eventually decides he’s had enough and prepares to escape with the one spare chute, but Bond unfurls it causing Graves to get sucked into the turbine. Will his Icarus-controlling Power Glove blend? Yes! Enough that the death ray is automatically switched off, instead of being stuck burning a hole in the middle of the Korean penisula.
With Frost given some light reading material, Jinx and Bond have to get off the plane, so they pull the spare helicopter out of the planes’ hold and manage to get it going before they die. Then they spend some time fishing diamonds out of each other. Ewww.
Well, huh. The first half is actually pretty good, throwing some curveballs into the usual formula, such as Bond actually having to go through some crap instead of just escaping through some massively contrived combination of luck and good fortune.
Graves comes across as a combination of Zorin and Julius No, although the plausibility of his origin is pretty daft. I think Jinx comes across pretty well too – as you have might’ve noticed I have a bias towards sidekicks who are at least a match for the leading man. It’s ironic that there was some talk of a spinoff series with Jinx, but the spinoff Haile Berry evetually got was Catwoman – yeah.
Anyway, given the “superhero” aesthetic creeping in here, for instance, the third act of this film seems to have, ahem, inspired the third act of Captain America: The First Avenger, it was absolutely the right thing to rethink the series before it got too fantastic. Brosnan signs off, very astutely recognising that he would be getting a long in the tooth after this, giving the producers the chance to prune things back to the essentials.
So, timely to assess the Pierce Brosnan era – generally, all quite watchable films, with some unevenness in quality (Goldeneye will finish up my in Top Ten, not sure about the others) and at least they never got quite as corny as some of the earlier films. He didn’t let the side down, we shall say.
As for this particular instalment, let’s give it 15 scorpions out of 20.