The Good: Action sequences, Acting, Technical gadgets
The Bad: Obvious plot and character twists, Lack of reality in character
The Basics: In a James Bond movie that could have changed everything, Bond quickly gets back in action and the hopeful viewer gets bored.
Let me first say that when I was twelve, I went through my "James Bond phase." I watched all of the movies that were out until then, I read all sorts of books about James Bond, I immersed myself in Bond the way most people immerse themselves in Star Trek or marine biology. For about a year, I thought Bond was the coolest cat in the neighborhood and I gobbled up all I could about Bond and then I was done. It just couldn't hold me. Somewhere before my thirteenth birthday, I looked back at all of the Bond stuff and said, "Wow, this is the same thing over and over." So, I was not initially drawn to watch Die Another Day.
Why did I then? Certainly not just to have a review to write. Actually, I had heard excellent things about how the beginning of Die Another Day changed Bond's character. It was leaked pretty early on that Bond was tortured in the beginning and Brosnan claimed he was playing an edgier, wounded Bond. And that, I thought, was different and worth watching.
Die Another Day finds James Bond captured by the North Koreans. They do, in fact, torture Bond for about a year (a sequence we witness throughout the opening credits), until he is released in a prisoner exchange. Bond then quickly gets back into the swing of being a British spy, this time working outside the mainstream with an American agent named Jinx to foil yet another criminal mastermind who has designed yet another superweapon which will kill us all, this time some satellite-based super heat death ray.
I was promised something different. Pierce Brosnan, I want my seven bucks back! The truth of the matter is that, much like Star Trek Voyager, here you have a story that sets up an intriguing change, a fundamental shift in the character, and then it is completely written over. That is to say that, despite the many times Bond has been captured throughout the series, he was never tortured as extensively as he was in the beginning of Die Another Day. This should have made him realize that he could be touched. Yet, the movie progresses much the same as any other Bond movie.
There is no edgier, shaken Bond here. And what a disappointment! The movie itself might have been fine, save that in addition to not having a shaken Bond, the film went out of its way to put Bond in circumstances that make it ridiculous for Bond to not be frazzled, shaken, wounded. For perfect example, one of the classic ways Bond is tortured is through use of heat and cold. That is to say he is taken from super hot saunas where he is dehydrating and thrown into the coldest meat freezers. It's a classic form of torture. Having experienced that, it makes no sense that later in the movie when Bond goes from a nice warm car interior (because what kind of idiot drives around the glaciers without the heat on?), into freezing water, into a tropic jungle without any evidence of discomfort physical or emotional. Talk about a prime time for flashbacks.
The sad thing is, this could truly have shaken up the franchise. Instead, it's the same old story. Bond goes on mission, encounters people, one who will ally with him, one who will betray him, finds villain, is captured, makes a daring escape, thwarts criminal (if you're reading this review and thinking that gives away too much of the plot, I apologize, apparently you haven't seen more than two Bond movies), makes a wisecrack, the movie ends. And if nothing else, Die Another Day goes to prove the idea that you can't simply tell the same story over and over again, even with improving the cast, and put out a high caliber product.
Sure, Pierce Brosnan is Bond. This was the first outing I had seen where he was Bond. He was fine as Bond, there was not a hint of Remington Steele in his performance. He was good, but he played the character as solid and trusting and sex-crazed as any of the others who had played Bond.
And you have a pretty high caliber Bond woman in Halle Berry. She's fine, but at the end of the day, she's played essentially like any other Bond woman; dependent on Bond. It's a bit of a disappointment that the proposed Jinx movie won't happen, because it had potential to expand the role beyond that. It could even be salvaged if Jinx and Bond worked together from this point onward, but that's unlikely.
The supporting cast of Judy Dench (M), John Cleese (Q), Toby Stephens (Gustav), Rosamund Pike (Miranda) and Rick Yune (Zao) are all fine in their roles, but they play them like the "Bond Types" they are. There's nothing extraordinary about any of them, which is unfortunate because Dench and Cleese are both great performers.
In the end, Die Another Day is simply another James Bond movie, with no real surprises for anyone who has been a fan. It's an action adventure movie and it does that well. But sometimes, I expect more out of a franchise. I guess this one did well enough at the box office that the franchise will live up to this episode's name.
For other works featuring Judi Dench, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Pride And Prejudice
The Chronicles Of Riddick
A Room With A View
For other film reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2011, 2004 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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