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Movie Review: Die Another Day

Die Another Day
Directed by Lee Tamahori
Written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade
MGM/United Artists, 2002

During the Timothy Dalton Bonds, Dalton mentioned that James Bond isn’t Superman. Ian Fleming wrote the character to be flawed in some way, even though he still got the job done. In Die Another Day, that goes right out the window.

At least this time, the director makes a little more sense. Ninth ever Bond director Lee Tamahori directed the acclaimed drama Once Were Warriors, but he also helmed the very fine underlooked film The Edge. However, as we would see with Tamahori’s attempt at a 2005 sequel to anti-Bond franchise xXx, he has a flair for emphasizing the unbelievable.

This was the first post 9/11 Bond film, so now there were more definable enemies than in the nineties–rogue Russian agents, a media baron, an oil heiress–now North Koreans, although I guess in an attempt not to purposely condemn North Korea, these guys are rogue, too.

007 (in Pierce Brosnan’s fourth and final turn) beats up a weapons buyer and takes his identity, meeting with a North Korean named Colonel Moon (Wil Yun Lee). The exchange is diamonds for weapons (isn’t it always in a Bond film? Or $100 million for something), and Bond has made sure to throw some C4 in on the deal, too. But Bond is made by a traitor to the British government, and he’s soon elbow deep in action again, eventually sending Moon to his death and greatly upsetting his father, General Moon (Kenneth Tsang).

Bond is not killed, but tortured, during the opening credits, much like we are when we have to listen to Madonna’s electronic warbled voice during the credit theme song. The next we see Bond, weakened, heavily bearded, and being exchanged for an awful terrorist named Zao (Rick Yune). Bond is then basically held prisoner by his own government in a medical facility, told by M (Judi Dench, also her fourth) that he could have talked during his torture and that if it were up to her, he’d still be in captivity considering the price. He’s stripped of his 00 status until a full investigation can be made, which means Bond goes rogue again.

Bond, with the help of some people in Hong Kong, finds out that Zao could be in Cuba. There, he finds a plot involving conflict diamonds, the gems from African mines that fund wars, somehow turning up with the trademark of a Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens). He also finds the NSA’s Jinx (first ever Bond girl with an Oscar, Halle Berry), who comes up Ursula Andress-style in her sexy introduction and becomes Bond’s ally.

In Cuba, there’s another side-plot discovered that involves gene surgery, a painful process that changes one’s DNA makeup, and Zao is taking part in it. When he escapes, Bond begins to investigate Graves, joined by his publicist Miranda Frost (decidedly hot Rosamund Pike), who is also secretly working with MI6 to bring Graves down. Graves, a la Diamonds Are Forever, has a mega-weapon using the gems that concentrates the sun into a huge beam and causes mass destruction blah blah blah. Graves has been through the gene surgery, but who was he? And who is betraying Bond? He tries to find out at Graves’ ice lair, the first elaborate Ken Adam-esque design by now longtime and current production designer Peter Lamont.

I like this film better now than I did back then, but it’s still ridiculous, and Bond does become Superman in this. There’s a scene where he’s in a land-speeder and he smacks hard into an iceberg and isn’t hurt at all; he would have at the very least been unconscious or in a coma. There’s a sequence involving deadly multiple lasers where he and Jinx (who is tied up, no less) somehow dodge every one of them.

Beyond that, I couldn’t believe that Bond couldn’t figure out who had betrayed him in North Korea. Come on. Haven’t you been around the block? Michael Madsen plays the dumb American intelligence guy; what’s to be expected in the post 9/11 world, really? Still insulting. It’s hard to believe, but after only seven years and four films, the Brosnan Bonds needed to be retooled after an excellent return in Goldeneye.

Follows: The World is Not Enough

Next: Casino Royale

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