Ah yes, Die Another Day. Pierce Brosnan’s swan song and a really good film… for about half of its runtime. Then it suddenly nosedives and becomes nearly unbearable. I think it’s still the most clear-cut “half good, half bad” film I’ve ever seen, making it like two different writers / directors took turns without consulting each other over tone. Well, does the good outweigh the bad? Let’s act like Sigmund Freud and “An-an-an-analyse this!”.
James Bond is captured by North Korean agents and must serve a grueling prison sentence. He’s finally released and is convinced that someone in his own agency betrayed him. Then lots of crazy shit happens.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Bond is shown the rest of the film and finally gives in to the torture.
Let’s start with the start, shall we? James Bond infiltrates a North Korean military base where lots of illegal trading is going on with weapons and blood diamonds by Colonel Tan-Sun Moon, and after his assistant Zao finally thought to check if the person claiming to be the seller they talked to was actually him, Bond ends up in a dramatic hovercraft chase. Yeah, hovercraft chase, but it’s the kind of silly Bond thing that’s fun to watch, hell, even Bond grabbing onto a bell rope at the end and saying “saved by the bell” was the right kind of cheesy. Anyway, Bond is captured and spends fourteen months being tortured for information in a prison camp, the impact of which is completely lost as scenes of Bond being tortured are backed with the godawful Madonna song as the opening credits roll…
Zao is captured later, but traded back to the North Koreans in exchange for Bond, which leads to a great scene where M admonishes him to not taking his cyanide like a good agent and then leaves. Bond is obviously having none of it and escapes the medical facility he’s in to track down Zao himself, which he does, to Cuba no less. Ignoring some really… really poor acting from Bond girl Halle Berry, Bond gets in a good quick fight with Zao as he’s trying to use some weird face morphing LED mask technology, then things shift back to London (with a really awkward use of classic song “London’s Calling” by The Clash) for the final good bit of the film…
You see a new lead villain is introduced to us as arrogant billionaire Gustav Graves, and Bond soon sees a connection between Graves and the blood diamonds that were involved in both Zao’s release and his original capture (which was apparently due to an insider in the government, forgot to mention that bit). Ignoring deer-in-headlights “acting” by Madonna, Bond and Gustav have a great sword fight across a large manor house where the Foley artist went bonkers with the sheathing and metal striking sounds, but hell, it was still exciting to watch.
And… well, that’s about it. There is a good car chase in the… ice palace… and Pierce Brosnan never lets the script stop him from having a blast, but it doesn’t help the rest of the film much.
Gustav Graves uses his electro-powers.
The bad? Well, the second half of the film! … and the Opening montage music. Oh and Halle Berry’s Jinx Johnson and her awful attempts and one-liners and sounding cool, but I’ve mentioned both of those already (though the opening credits deserves extra pointing out).
The rest of the story takes place in Iceland, at Gustav’s large ice palace, where he reveals he has a giant laser beam satellite that unlike GoldenEye is actually a laser that can heat up crops… or focus inwards and melt giant holes in the floor. Bond does things like drive around in his invisible car (yes, invisible car) and surfing a huge (and badly CG rendered) wave after his rocket drag racer fell off a cliff that was then cleaved by a giant space laser. *sigh*, I mean, it’s just not right. I’m not saying all Bond has to be super serious, but this is too sci-fi and too comic book-y. Hell, Gustav soon puts on a suit of evil villain armour that comes with a cape and electro-gauntlets for his final showdown with Bond on a plane.
Miranda Frost has had enough of Jinx’s poor acting… while wearing only a bra for a top, for some reason…
Oh Gustav, by the way, is actually Colonel Tan-Sun Moon after having gone through the same face-changing LED mask treatment Zao was undergoing. So in 14 months he recovered from falling off of a waterfall in a hovercraft, completely changed his face and accent, pretended to find diamonds in Iceland there were actually his own and became a knighted, famous entrepreneur. Not bad going! As he is defeated despite his electro-powers we also have the awful Jinx duel Miranda Frost, formerly of the British secret service but actually the person who betrayed Bond and sided with Moon. Frost, for the record, decided to have her duel while wearing what looks like a slightly larger-than-normal bra, and only a bra (from the waist up, obviously!) for some reason. She dies as Jinx makes another horrible joke badly delivered, possibly “Your Mamma!”, which she did actually use at some point.
Then that’s that! We get a brief scene of Moneypenny using a virtual reality headset Q (once again played by an un-arsed John Cleese, sadly…) made to finally snog Bond, which would be funny if it wasn’t so out of the blue and … weird. I’m sure there’s more I’ve forgotten (or repressed), like there is a henchman called “Mr. Kil” which is on-the-nose even for Bond, and the opening scene of Bond and two other agents surfing to get behind enemy lines (I’m pretty sure there must be a more reliable and stealthy way to sneak onto a beach, but whatever)
As you can see, one half has the right kind of silly action and drama (with one or two bits of bad), the other just goes completely off the deep-end and becomes a wreck.
Mr. Kil and Zao get ready to turn on a bunch of crazy red lasers in a really shit scene I completely forgot about until I nabbed this screenshot.
Die Another Day is a tale of two halves, one is mostly good, the other is nearly always awful. This is how Pierce Brosnan’s Bond goes out, which is a damn shame. I’d still say Diamonds Are Forever is the worst, and Octopussy and Man With The Golden Gun land under this, but Die Another Day isn’t worth going out of your way to watch, that’s for sure!