Shiny Shelf


Die Another Day

By Stephen Lavington on 20 November 2002

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

Without a doubt the strangest Bond film since Feldman’s ‘Casino Royale’, ‘Die Another Day’ veers from madness to madness – increasingly outlandish set-pieces (born from the self-destructive requirement that different and more exhilarating stunts are required for each instalment), a crazily improbable ‘gene-therapy’ sub-plot, a new and especially bizarre Aston Martin super-car and a henchman made up apparently of offcuts and half-formulated traits – diamond-studded, albino, communist soldier Zao (Rick Yune).

If ‘From Russia With Love’ was built of Lego, finely crafted and detailed but ultimately generic ‘building block’ filmmaking ‘Die Another Day’ is Duplo – big, colourful, with plot twists unmissably signposted, endearingly clunky without being boring or insulting. In a way it seems to out-pastiche ‘Austin Powers’, reclaiming the stereotypical idea of a Bond film populated by maniacal super-villains in exotic lairs and armed with outlandish doomsday devices for its own purposes. It enjoys success comparable with ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ – the film goes so over the top with such brash disregard for anyone of a delicate sensibility that it is quite hard to actively dislike it.

A lot of credit for putting some fun back into Bond lies with the director, Lee Tamahori. The past three films have had three different directors and three different styles – Martin Campbell’s grey, post-cold war Russia (‘Goldeneye’), Roger Spottiswoode’s hack action film (‘Tomorrow Never Dies’) and Michael Apted’s thoughtful but fatally muddled ‘The World is not Enough’. To this can be added the zippy, cheerful work of Tamahori; exciting, competent and dotted with trendy camera-work and occasional staccato pans to add fun to scene setting. He has also brought CGI to Bond’s world. A double-edged sword at the best of times, Bond gets a pretty good deal – very few actively ropy shots and some sub-standard front projection (though nowhere near as bad as ‘A View to a Kill’) but mostly good stuff used effectively and only when necessary – there are still plenty of old fashioned flashes and bangs.

Brosnan is well at ease with the role and wears it perfectly. He even gets the chance to do some acting, but even the most ’serious’ of his performances is influenced by the ironic stylings of Roger Moore, Brosnan never takes the role too seriously. Plaudits go out to the rest of the cast too. Rick Yune snarls and scowls, Rosamund Pike smoulders and cuts down admirers with icy stares, Toby Stephens is a perfect parody of Bond himself and Halle Berry does a decent job with a surprisingly small part (though let us hope that the rumours of a spin-off ‘Jinx’ film remain just rumours). All take the film with the suitably huge pinch of salt, adding the whiff of pantomime that Purvis and Wade’s script requires. To be fair to them this is a better outing than their previous effort ‘The World is Not Enough’ and their attempts to balance the film between bawdy humour and attempts at characterization are much more successful.

There are also a surfeit of in-jokes, enough to appease the saddest Bond obsessive (that would be me then); there is a touching sequence in the new Q’s laboratory where many gadgets from previous films (including the infamous ‘Octopussy’ crocodile submarine) are displayed almost as proud trophies. Bond even gets to recycle one of them, employing a ‘Thunderball’ style emergency re-breather for an underwater rescue. Stylishly, this point is not emphasised by the film, it exists as a splendid throwaway reference. Less admirable is a laboured pun on a previous title – ‘Diamonds Are For Ever-yone’ Gustav Graves smugly (and clumsily) asserts. Indeed ‘Die Another Day’ owes that film a debt, as it does ‘Licence to Kill’ and the book of ‘Moonraker’, but it avoids coming across as a simple rehash, in fact it has many original ideas of its own. The structure is deliberately pared down after the messy and off-puttingly convoluted ‘The World is Not Enough’; the plot is anything but believable and suspension of disbelief is pushed to the very limit, but at least there is a plot, and suspension of disbelief is what the Bond films should be all about.

As with so many unashamed pop films, enjoyment of ‘Die Another Day’ depends on the frame of mind of the viewer. This is not a great or even a good film, but it is fun – a very loud, very stupid two-hour slice of nonsense. Know this and bear it mind, go in thinking of Sean Connery in ‘Dr No’ or anticipating greatness and you’ll probably hate every minute of it. Expect the worse and you will probably enjoy this movie a lot (though I can’t guarantee that you won’t feel guilty about it afterwards).


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By Stephen Lavington




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