Worth A Look: 25.64%
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8 reviews, 186 user ratings
|Die Another Day
by MP Bartley
Jimmy Bond has reached his 40th birthday this year, and in a neat coincidence it's also his 20th outing. It's hard to think of a such a strong franchise that still creates such interest and anticipation in it's 20th outing (although Halloween and Friday the 13th are trying damn hard).
Largely, it's due to its unchanging formula of girls, gadgets, fast cars and sneering villains tied up with the obligatory opening sequence. Director Lee Tamahori wisely doesn't screw around with these requirements, but adds a little something else to the mix. The result is 'Die Another Day' which is both birthday celebration and a small step outside the boundaries.Now we're not talking major re-invention here, James hasn't started batting for the other side or anything, but the start is certainly a jolt out of the expected Bond escapade.
"The One With All The Ice"
Instead of the usual completition of his last mission which then launches him into his new globe trotting, in the pre-credits sequence by Madonna(as Comic Book Store Guy would say -"Worst. Song. Ever") Bond finds himself captured deep in Korea after going after villainous Colonel Moon and his right hand man, Zao (Rick Yune).
This capture follows through the title song and credits which details his torture and then fastforwards us a year to when Bond is still imprisoned.
It's certainly an attention grabber and an impressive way to kick off the latest in a franchise which is always in danger of laziness and falling into self-parody.
Things do return to normal however, when Bond unexpextedly finds himself free and thus sets out to find the traitor responsible for his capture. Tracking down Zao he finds himself in Cuba hooking up with CIA agent Jinx (Halle Berry), before finding a link to diamond miner and millionaire Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens).
The action then whisks itself off to Iceland where Bond and fellow MI6 agent Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike) are witness to Graves' ice palace and satellite, Icarus.
So after an initially unsettling and intriguing start, 'Die Another Day' settles into what we expect of a Bond film, and fittingly for the series birthday, Tamahori and company dissapoint no-one. Brosnan further cements his status as the best cinematic Bond since Connery, with a smooth performance veering between professional killer and vengeance seeking loose cannon.
Pike is suitably glamourous as the girls, even though she and Berry have little to do but spout off lame putdowns and attempt to put some female sass into the film. It's a noble attempt, but in a Bond film a largely thankless one. Bond films are in a lose/lose situation with the females: if they attempt to be forward thinking they've still got to fall into bed at the drop of Bonds cravat, but no attempt to make them characters leaves them as mere scenery. Ah the fruitless life of a Bond girl...
Berry however continues to establish herself as the worst actress in the world. Her performance is a childish one - there's no line she can't oversell, no lame double entendre she can't spout like it's the funniest and sexiest thing in the world ever, no delivery more deadening.And her role as a CIA agent is completely undermined by her jumping into bed with Bond at the first opportunity.
However Dench makes up for this with her usual steely show as M, while Cleese picks up nicely as Q where the late, great Desmond Llwellyn left off. Samantha Bond is as bad as ever as you'd expect and it's a shame that MI6 is now a home of cosy familiarity instead of the hard edged workplace it used to be under Bernard Lee.
What perhaps sets 'Die Another Day' up with the best of Brosnans previous outings is the quality of villain he finds himself up against this time. Stephens gets the snooty, lip-curling intelligent villain spot on and snarls his lines with relish. Yune meanwhile has the more physical role, and is suitably brutish with a nice touch of having a diamond embedded face (why doesn't he have them removed? Because he wouldn't look half as cool as a villain obviously). It also helps that for once Bond is fighting villains younger than him, rather than battling geriatric pensioners like Jonathan Pryce's Elliot Carver (Tomorrow Never Dies).
Tamahori also has fun referencing the past Bonds throughout. From Berry's beach entrance stirring memories of Ursula Andress' 'Dr. No' entrance, to a tour of Q's laboratory that has some blasts from the past for Bond experts, it's a knowing wink to the series past for those in the know, and an unintrusive joke for those who aren't.
One thing that still sets Bond apart from everything else in the action genre is its reliance on good old fashioned stuntwork. It's a refreshing change to see a car chase over frozen lakes that hasn't been cut together in an epileptic fit, and from that to a swordfight in a Gentlemans club, through to a further pursuit in Graves' Ice Palace, the care and attention put into these sequences shines through.
It's a shame then that the few attempts at CGI are piss-poor. It hasn't been this badly done since the appearance of the Scorpion King in 'The Mummy Returns'. It's a further sign that Bond films should stick at what they know, and CGI isn't it. It's also further proof that this is half a great Bond film, and half an awful one. Conveniently, it's at about the half-way point, and it's also the point at which the CGI starts to overload the film.
Also, some of the dialogue and double entendres are cringe worthy, the first Bond/Jinx scene in particular. And it seems that the more Bond films we get, the further away we get from actual spying and further towards to outlandish gadgets that are just silly. An invisible car? Please. It's a shame that Bond becomes more and more reliant on gadgets to get him out of trouble rather than his skills and training.
Are there plot holes? Of course, but then we're talking about a series of films where the main villain managed to launch space shuttles from a hollowed out volcano in Japan and no-one noticed.But no matter. While 'Die Another Day' is never going to be seen as classic Bond, it's more than enough to slap down pretenders to the throne like 'xXx'.
While it's unlikely that Bond films will ever be seen as the defining action films they once were, but essentially they're like having sex with your ex. It's comfortable, reassuring, reliable and as long as no-one expects anything more from it, everyone should go home satisfied.
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originally posted: 11/21/02 08:44:36
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