By Marc S. Sanders
Once the 2nd half of Die Another Day arrived, Pierce Brosnan’s interim as James Bond was all but wrapped up. This was gonna be his last film after this misfire, and the craftspeople at EON Productions knew something had to change.
What happened here? Director Lee Tamahori was on the right path from the get go with some real world parallels and surprising elements for the long lasting franchise. Then, the film goes sci fi gonzo with some kind of robotic armor for the villain, a space satellite that harnesses the power of the sun, a palace literally held together by ice, an invisible car, DNA switcheroos, and James Bond kite surfing to avoid a solar laser beam.
This movie got ridiculous really, really fast.
Early on, 007 covertly surfs his way onto the coast of North Korea to intercept an arms trade in exchange for diamonds. He’s captured and held for the following 14 months. When the British make a trade for Bond with a North Korean prisoner with a bad case of facial diamond acne, Bond is no longer trusted by M (Judi Dench) and he must become resourceful on his own in stopping whoever betrayed him before his capture. He also needs to figure out what a wealthy industrialist named Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) is conjuring up in Iceland, with a literal ice palace hosted to Bond as well as a slew of investors and dignitaries.
Die Another Day began with a grounded intent. However, the stunts and gadgets that are introduced later in the film fly way off the rails, even for a James Bond film. Bond has always completed his mission by ridiculous measure. However, when your hero and villain are on an out-of-control airplane that is being torn apart by a solar beam from space, ala hammy CGI, well, reader how does 007 even survive that?
Another ridiculous plot element involves DNA transfers. So Gustav Graves, a man who claims he never sleeps, may not be who he claims to be. Graves is the villain here and Stephens plays him like a spoiled brat. I didn’t like him and the best Bond films are primarily weighted by the bad guy. For some reason he has to wear this bionic suit of some kind to control the satellite. A keyboard and mouse weren’t as efficient, I guess. It’s also capable of electrocuting Bond; lots of zig zaggy tesla/lightning bolts surround Bond and so on. You really don’t have to see it to believe it.
The Bond girl is Halle Berry and she’s pretty good as an American agent who goes by the name of Jinx. Yes, there’s time made for the two agents to have some flirtations together, but like Michelle Yeoh before her, Berry gets in on the action.
Man oh man! WOW!!!! Die Another Day started so good and then it fell apart. While I don’t think it is the worst of the series, it borders towards the bottom of the list. It’s a shame really. If only it stayed a little more grounded, maybe it wouldn’t have died on any day.