After being tortured in a North Korean prison for a year and a half, James is exchanged for a North Korean soldier. Bond goes rogue in order to recapture the soldier he was exchanged for, in order to make sure he pays for his crimes.
Bond, James Bond:
This is Brosnan’s last film, and you can certainly understand why that is the case. I don’t think that he is entirely to blame on this, as there is just not a lot there in the script, but this is an incredibly uninspired performance. He seems bored, which is kind of a downer, because if he was having even a trace amount of fun, it would add another level of stupid fun to this garbage can of a movie, but instead our lead is sleepwalking as the silliest things in the world are happening around him. The lack of care really comes through on his accent, because Brosnan’s native Irish creeps through with a surprising amount of frequency, to the point where I wish he had just committed to randomly being entirely Irish in this movie, because at least that would lead to less whiplash of going back and forth between British and Irish accents.
Also, for the third consecutive film, Brosnan’s Bond lingers over the corpse of a woman he recently slept with, and it’s at its worst here. At least with Paris and Elektra, either through dialogue (Paris) or actual screen time (Elektra), we understand that these two people have spent a sufficient amount of time together that it would almost make sense for him to want to say goodbye (not linger, but say goodbye). Here, he slept with Emma once, and almost immediately afterwards, he learns that she is a double agent, so when he drops down and lingers over Frost’s corpse, it feels all the more uncomfortable, which is really saying something.
Madonna does the title song on this movie and it is a crime against humanity, and it feels appropriate that it is played over footage of Bond being tortured. It is melodically dead, and her vocals are just so digital-sounding, that even a song with good lyrics would sound bad. So I guess it’s good news that these lyrics are garbage. The refrain of the song is literally saying “I guess I’ll die another day.” She guesses, implying that she isn’t sure that she’ll survive this day, and could still possibly die this day. Not only that, but just the idea of “die another day” basically just suggests “I will outlive this present 24-hour period, maybe tomorrow though, I’ll be a corpse.” When you throw in a break in the song that includes Madonna inexplicably saying “Sigmund Freud. Analyze this. Analyze this,” it’s not difficult to see why this is the worst song in the story franchised.
We have one villain in this film, technically played by two separate actors. When we first meet our villain, he is North Korean Colonel Tan-Sun Moon (that’s right. Sun Moon. That’s a real thing), played by Will Yun Lee. During the cold open, we are led to believe that he falls to his death at the end of a hovercraft chase through a minefield. However, we later learn that British entrepreneur Gustav Graves (played by Toby Stephens) is actually a surviving Moon, who has gone through gene and DNA replacement therapy to become a white man, which, honestly, is a plot point that feels right at home in this absurd movie. Yun Lee actually does fairly well with the little bit of screen time that he has, while Stephens is badly over-acting. I know it was just two movies ago that I was praising our lead villain for over-acting, but there Jonathan Pryce seems aware of the fact that he is over-the-top, and is playing it perfectly. You get the feeling that Stephens thinks he is knocking this role out of the park, as he sneers his way through each of his scenes. It’s a bad performance, and it isn’t even fun bad. By the end of this movie, he is wearing a suit that allows him to electrocute things like he’s Sheev Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith. His death is probably the most satisfying part about him, as his parachute sucks him out of a depressurized cockpit, sending him into a plane engine, which then explodes.
Halle Berry followed-up her Academy Award-winning performance in Monster’s Ball with her performance as Jinx Johnson. She’s pretty awful. She seems to be delivering lines with the goal of finishing the line so they can finish the scene, instead of delivering lines with any kind of passion or real dramatic intent. The fact that this film probably has the quickest transition from “introduction to female lead” to “the female lead and James have sex” makes it all the worst. After this franchise had four consecutive really strong female leads, for the Brosnan years to end the streak with Christmas Jones and Jinx Johnson is utterly disappointing. Also, fun fact, the producers were using this movie to set up a spin-off franchise with Jinx and her NSA boss, played by Michael Madsen (who is sleeping through this movie), but then their introductory movie ended up being Die Another Day, so that unsurprisingly never happened.
The other major female character is Rosamund Pike, making her film debut as Miranda Frost, over a decade before her Academy Award-nominated performance in Gone Girl. She’s honestly great in this, one of two actually respectable performances in this movie. We meet her as Graves’ public relations specialist, learn that she is actually an undercover MI6 agent, only to find out that she is truly working with Graves, who helped her win a Gold Medal in fencing during the Olympics. She plays each side of Frost well, from annoyed fellow agent who is aggravated with Bond’s need to have sex (her “Oh God, you’re even worse than your file said,” is exquisite) and her reveal as a villain is pretty well delivered. I’m glad her appearance didn’t have any negative impact on her career, because she is an actress I’m always excited to see in a movie, to the point that even in this garbage, I thought “Ooo, Rosamund Pike is here.” She did not disappoint.
Rick Yune plays Zao, Moon/Graves’ primary henchperson, and he actually comes out looking pretty good in this movie. It’s not a particularly captivating performance, but sometimes, that isn’t what we need from a henchperson. A distinctive look and being a an actual physical threat to Bond goes a long way, and from the diamonds permanently embedded in his face, and the fact he goes toe to toe with Bond in a fist fight and a car chase really lets him come out relatively unscathed. Other than the diamonds in his face. And that he gets impaled by a chandelier. Other than that.
This movie has a character named Mr. Kil. He does nothing noteworthy other than have a laser go into the back of his head and then out his mouth. Also his name is Mr. Kil.
Judi Dench seems to be in an entirely different movie as M, and I mean that as a huge compliment to her. She plays her character with the dignity that the head of MI6 deserves, and she isn’t really given any terrible puns to deliver. Her scene with James where she expresses disappointment that he didn’t kill himself instead of getting captured, followed by a concern that maybe he did expose British secrets to the Koreans is a wonderfully delivered the scene, to the point that it made me briefly forget that Brosnan is alongside her, pointing to himself when he says “me” and dramatically pointing to her when he says “you,” just in case you didn’t know who he was talking about in that scene. Dench deserved better and I’m glad we still get her in this franchise, despite the fact that next fill is basically a reboot.
This is John Cleese’s first and only film as Bond’s Quartermaster. He’s still giving the performance you would expect from John Cleese, and his hatred towards Bond makes so little sense, considering, we had only ever really seen him interact with Bond in one other scene. I love Cleese, I think he’s a tremendous comedic talent, especially in his Monty Python days, but the filmmakers were clearly aware of his background and never let him be Q. They just let him be John Cleese.
I feel so bad for Samantha Bond in this movie. Her entire role as Moneypenny in these movies is a desire to have sex with Bond, and to have the reveal that her final scene in the franchise is her using virtual reality glasses in order to finally have that physical contact with James is just so cruel to the character, and to Bond’s performance. Moneypenny deserved better, Samantha Bond deserved better.
This movie has an invisible car, which Q introduces by saying that “Aston Martin calls it the Vanquish, we call it the Vanish.” It uses small cameras and screens to basically allow it to camouflage with whatever its surroundings are, which is absurd. Just the entire idea of this. It still makes sounds, it still leaves tracks, so the invisibility of it makes absolutely zero sense. It’s just cool gadget for cool gadgets’ sake, and it makes zero sense. Also, the most dramatic use of it is so silly, because someone driving to t-bone the car watches it become invisible and then freaks out and keeps driving, instead of trying to stop in any way. It’s all so needless, which, again, fits this movie pretty perfectly.
This movie is so stupid, I almost don’t even want to talk about the story, but that’s where some of the most beautifully weird stuff happens. So the main goal of our villain is to allow North Korea to invade South Korea, uniting the countries by force. Seems pretty straight forward. Here is what this guy does in order to do this. Gets gene replacement in order to change his race. Builds a giant mirror satellite, Icarus, that has the power to create a laser with the power of a second sun, so that he can destroy the minefield border between the Koreas. He calls something sun related Icarus, as in the Greek myth of a man who got wax wings and literally flew too close to the sun, causing him to die. It is all so silly and stupid, and the fact James mostly just stumbles on all this because he wants to kill the guy he got exchanged for seems so strange.
Miscellaneous Spy Business:
-As you saw in the Madonna song, the film’s gun barrel sequence (a mainstay since Dr. No) includes a literal bullet coming from Bond’s gun and going into the gun barrel. Welcome to the movie, here’s a silly but iconic thing being made somehow sillier.
-This movie starts with people surfing into North Korea. This is how you know you are in for a quality picture.
-James stops himself from falling off a cliff by grabbing onto a bell. He says “Saved by the bell.” That is literally a thing that happened, you are correct.
-Bond stops his heart in order to get doctor’s over to him so he can hit them and then escape. That’s not a real thing.
-There are so many scenes in this movie that are nothing but two people punning/innuendoing to each other. The first conversation between Jinx and Bond is them just not subtly telling each other that they are going to have sex. It’s absurd.
-This movie introduces Bond’s return to London by playing “London Calling.” Please look up the lyrics to a song before you think “yeah this is a good song to introduce a city in a positive way.”
-This is the 40th anniversary of the franchise, and the 20th film, and boy do they make reference to the franchise as a whole because of it. We meet Jinx as she dramatically exits an ocean in a bikini. Graves parachutes from a plane with a Union Jack parachute. Graves says “Diamonds are for everyone” which is basically just the title of another wonderfully stupid film. Jinx almost gets lasered while attached to a table.
-Madonna is a fencing instructor named Verity. No punchline needed, because that’s funny enough.
-A fencing match becomes a full on sword fight and they are just destroying the room they are in and everyone is like “mm, yes, quite right, quite right.”
-This movie has a palace completely made out of ice. Even the furniture is ice. That doesn’t seem comfortable.
-This movie has such random use of slow motion, because cinematic decisions were clearly being made for a script that included a man named Mr. Kil.
-This movie includes windsurfing on a tidal wave. The CGI looks like what you would expect from an early movie in this franchise, not the 20th of 24. It made a silly stunt somehow even worse.
-In Toy Story 2, Woody and Jessie need to escape a departing plane through the wheel compartment. In this movie, James and Jinx need to chase a departing plane in order to sneak into the wheel compartment. Why is a movie with sentient toys making more sense than a James Bond movie?
-When introducing the full power of Icarus to his father, Graves says “Watch the rising of your son” and I think that was the moment I died.
-In one burning compartment of a plane, two women have a sword fight. In another unpressurized compartment of a plane, two men punch and electrocute each other. Die Another Day, everybody.
-This movie ends with more gross sex lines, as, offscreen we hear Jinx ask Bond “Don’t pull it out. I’m not finished with it yet.” We end up finding out that she’s referring to diamonds in her belly button, but, just like, why are you doing this to me?
Okay, so this movie sounds bad, and that’s because it is bad. It is deeply, deeply stupid. But it is so stupid, I kind of love it. I will remember more about this movie than I do The World is Not Enough and maybe more than Tomorrow Never Dies. Look at how much I found noteworthy in the above section. There is so much about this movie that is stupid and weird that I can see myself wanting to watch it in order to experience it all again. I think Roger Moore’s “so stupid, it’s wonderful” are still better, just because Roger Moore appears to be enjoying himself, whereas Brosnan is bad in this, but it’s still fun and stupid. I’ll give this a 004.5 out of 0010, but my ratings are garbage, and I did enjoy watching this more than I’ve enjoyed other films.
TJ At The Movies Will Return With: Casino Royale
References Die Another Day Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Die_Another_Day "Die Another Day" Lyrics https://genius.com/Madonna-die-another-day-annotated Photo Credits Cover Photo https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/3d/Die_another_Day_-_UK_cinema_poster.jpg Brosnan http://cdn-static.denofgeek.com/sites/denofgeek/files/styles/main_wide/public/2/25//die-another-day-dinner-suit-1024x631.jpg?itok=2zLKa3gv "Die Another Day" Credits https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9J-UU6W012s Graves https://houseofgeekery.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/tumblr_m09zynjcu01qhlqi6o1_400.jpg Jinx http://digitalspyuk.cdnds.net/17/12/980x490/landscape-1490184875-halle-berry-jinx-die-another-day-lasers.jpg Frost https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/M/MV5BMjAwMTc0NzIyN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNTE4MTg2._V1_.jpg Zao http://cdn-static.denofgeek.com/sites/denofgeek/files/2/33//zao_rick_yune_die_another_day.png