For more on my process of rating the James Bond movies, read this.
It’s easy to dump on this movie, easily the worst of the Pierce Brosnan era and, in my estimation, the worst of the entire franchise. Because it’s easy and I’m lazy, I’ll do just that.
The first Bond of the 21st century (and the first post-9/11), Die Another Day doesn’t look like a Bond movie: GCI replaces impressive vistas; torrents of double entendres replace witty, interesting dialog; green screen stunts replace specular feats of daring action; a Jesus-style beard replaces Bond’s clean shaven, suave look; Bond’s car literally disappears in the middle of the film. Yes: Bond has an invisible car. The movie completely abandons style (and reality) to spend several more million dollars on pointless special effects. Everything in this movie is artificial (the surf scene is obviously shot day-for-night) and it is the most (only?) Bond film that is antithetical to what makes a Bond movie.
Let’s just dive in.
Pierce Brosnan made for an excellent Bond, convincingly charming with deeper, obvious conflicts bubbling just under the surface. However, much like the horrible CGI and ugly fake-night surf scene, the film fails at even making Brosnan looks like 007. Bond is an empty shell of cliche and boredom. The dialog with Jinx is embarrassing, lacking any subtlety to hit you over the head with “innuendo” that would make hack romance writers blush. Between the script and the direction, Brosnan is entirely wasted in his last Bond movie. I don’t blame him; how could anyone contribute their best work to this mess?
Bond girls (0)
Instead of continuing to bash Halle Berry’s Jinx in this section, I will instead use this first review to complain about something else. After the first couple of 60s Bond movies that had one-dimensional female characters intended, mostly, to bed Bond, we are treated to more complex characters who don’t fall into the black/white, good/evil camp. Lacking a clear distinction, how do I then classify Rosamund Pike’s Miranda Frost? She’s a double agent, working for MI6 and serving the villain. She also sleeps with Bond, which, you know, is a thing Bond girls do. So do I rate her here or under the next section?
I’m going to cheat for this one. There is no way I can give more than 0 to a movie with this dialog:
Bond villains (0.5)
The villain’s plan (and story) is complicated and stupid, so I’m not going to summarize. Instead, I give you this Gustav Graves/James Bond back and forth:
And then Gustav puts on a Power Glove to virtually fight Bond and Jinx in the “epic” finale. Exciting!
Madonna! Auto-tune! The line “Sigmund Freud, analyze this!” “Like a Virgin” this is not.
Seeds of good ideas can be found in Die Another Day, though most of those seeds bore fruit in far better movies the preceded or followed it. 007 infiltrates a North Korean army base in the opening scene but is captured and help prisoner for 14 months, long enough to grow a Jesus beard while enduring torture. M trades one the North Koreans Bond encountered at the base for Bond’s release and he’s not in good shape, and MI6 all but accuses Bond of talking and outliving his use. A movie following that thread could be exciting. Bond vs. MI6? Bond battling PTSD? Bond as a traitor? Those could be interesting ideas for a movie.
Instead Bond escapes and the film settles into a cliche revenge plot, with Bond single-mindedly trying to find a mole in MI6 who betrayed him in North Korea and get revenge on his captures. Bond follows a lead on Gustav Graves, who turns out to be the North Korean colonel from the opening scene with a new face but the same old daddy issues. Bond kills the male villain, Jinx kills the female villain. The end.
Released during the 40th anniversary of Dr. No, Die Another Day apparently has a reference to every 007 movie that came before it. The most obvious and well-known is the scene where Halle Berry as Jinx emerges from the ocean in a bikini, an “homage” to Ursula Andress’ famous first appearance in the original Bond outing. That this call back is the most well-known part of this movie — that a ripoff of a far superior film is what this one is most remembered for — damns this movie to the invisible car dump of film history.
- Bond, taking on an entire army, announces that he has a license to kill. That’ll scare ’em!
- I’ve focused on the negative, but the fencing scene between Bond and Graves was quite good and included zero (0) GGI.
- John Cleese was in this one, too. I’m fairly sure he does not include it in his reel.
- With so much product placement in this movie, interesting that they choose to literally hide the expensive car in this one.