Die Another Day

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner19/11/2002

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 132 mins

Let’s be honest, we go to Bond movies to see the following things: Bond kicking arse, spectacular stunts, drop-dead gorgeous women, hi-tech gadgetry that verges on the ridiculous, atrocious double entendres, an Evil Genius bent on World Domination and deadly henchmen (frequently with weird accessories, such as razor-brimmed hats, metal teeth or a claw).

Thankfully, Die Another Day delivers on all the above and, amazingly, still manages to breathe a little life into the formula. In other words, those of you that thought Vin ‘xXx’ Diesel would see off 007, well, think again.

Plot-wise, there is a definite attempt to make it edgier than previous Bond movies, at least in the first 30 minutes. For a start, he gets captured at the end of the sub-standard pre-credits sequence and gets brutally beaten and tortured during the credits. In fact, given that it accompanies scenes of brutal torture, Madonna's awful title song now seems rather appropriate.

When the Naked Credits Ladies have stopped dancing, we're told that he's been held in captivity for 14 months (!) and he has a straggly beard and long hair for the next 10 minutes or so.

Liable To Blow Too Much Up

There's also the suggestion that he's a bit of a liability these days, and perhaps even something of a screw-up, in that no one seems to trust him to complete a mission without blowing stuff up.

At any rate, the upshot is that although initially it appears he’s out of a job, it isn’t long before his particular skill at blowing stuff up is once again in demand and from then on it’s business as usual as he investigates Toby Stephen’s Evil Genius (sneering for England) and manages to bed both Halle Berry (as ‘Jinx’) and Rosamund Pike (as ‘Miranda Frost’, which, let’s face it, is a pretty crappy name for a Bond girl) while he’s at it. Though not at the same time, obviously, because that would just be wrong.

The filmmakers have obviously studied the ‘classic’ Bond films very carefully – the Ice Palace, for example, is a stunning set, worthy of the volcano HQ in You Only Live Twice. Similarly, Evil Henchman Zao’s diamond-studded face (Bond’s fault – nice touch) puts him in the league of Richard Kiel’s Jaws or that bloke with a claw for a hand.

Self-Referential High Jinx…

In fact, there are several references to previous Bond films, largely as part of the 40th anniversary "celebrations". There are obvious ones like the Union Jack parachute, Jinx emerging from the water in slow-motion (Hellooooo DVD release) and the Goldfinger laser-table (although they definitely miss a trick by not repeating the classic dialogue).

There are also some great throwaway gags (the Thunderball jet-pack), plus a lot of incredibly obscure ones that only true Bond Geeks will get (e.g. the book of Ornithology, which is supposedly where Fleming took Bond’s name from).

As for the acting, Brosnan is excellent. He seems much more comfortable in the role and isn’t afraid to play around with the image a little. As a result, he seems somehow…well…nastier. Which, oddly enough, works really well.

Berry makes an excellent Bond heroine and brings a touch of class to her role, although it’s disappointing that she ends up needing to be rescued quite so often. Still, if the rumours are to be believed, she may be getting her own franchise, which can only be a good thing.

The supporting cast are good too, particularly Judi Dench, whose ‘M’ clearly has a somewhat complex relationship with Bond. Cleese (as ‘Q’) is much better than previously, too, reigning in the Cleese-isms for once and getting in some good gags. Samantha Bond (as Moneypenny) is really only there for continuity’s sake, although there are two ill-advised virtual reality scenes that were presumably shoehorned in to give her something to do.

Oh, and Madonna’s cameo is embarrassingly bad, but you could probably have guessed that.

Car Chases, Quips, Swords, Frickin Laser Beams

The set pieces are excellent too, with the car-chase across the ice being the standout sequence. The sword-fight may not be the most exciting sword-fight ever filmed, but it’s still pretty good and besides, you can never have enough sword-fights in films…

As for the screenplay, the trademark quips have been toned down, which was probably a good idea, though there are one or two scenes that really needed them (e.g. the laser-table scene). The double-entendres are still very much in evidence though, with Berry’s character getting in some of her own. (“I take it Mr Bond has been explaining his Big Bang theory” “I think I got the thrust of it…”)

In short, Die Another Day delivers pretty much everything you could comfortably expect from a Bond movie (with the exception of a decent theme song) – as such, it’s ideal Saturday night entertainment and the best Bond film since Goldeneye. Recommended.

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Content updated: 22/02/2020 01:53

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