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Die Another Day (2002)
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Toby Stephens, Halle Berry, Rosamund Pike, Rick Yune, Judi Dench

Written By: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade Directed By: Lee Tamahori

The Short Version

Eon celebrates James Bond’s 40th anniversary on film by effectively killing the series.

Die Another Day is not a standalone film; it’s a series of references to other films.

It’s also very poorly done in almost every respect.

Even Pierce Brosnan doesn’t look to be having any fun.

Die Another Day is the worst movie in the James Bond franchise, period.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


It’s not real cheese.  It’s reconstituted crap in a can.

Pairs Well With...

MAD DOG 20/20.

There’s nothing more appropriate for the 20th entry in Eon’s 007 series.

“Time to draw the line.”

The James Bond franchise is one of the most beloved and certainly the most prolific series in feature motion picture history. 

For the occasion of its 40th anniversary on the big screen, Eon Productions, the stewards of Ian Fleming’s legacy, effectively murdered it.

Die Another Day is nothing less than an abomination; I hesitate even to call it a real movie.  It is instead a wretchedly put together mashup of references to other movies – along with the occasional book – that never manages to come into its own as anything but landfill.  One can easily imagine that the alleged script for this catastrophe was the winning entry in a “really crappy James Bond fanfic” contest.

I understand the desire to do something special to mark the occasion of James Bond’s 40th silver screen anniversary.  Truly, I do.  A few references here and there would have been clever and appreciated.  Unfortunately, screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade – whose later outstanding work might be thought of as penance for this – lay it on with a trowel.  The references and the in-jokes get pride of place while anything resembling an original or even a worthwhile story gets buried beneath the recycling heap, made worse by a director – Lee Tamahori – who expects the audience to take it all way too seriously.  Die Another Day isn’t a James Bond flick with tributes tossed in along the way; this is an overblown spoof script that got twisted into a stupid, soulless mess that just isn’t any fun at all.

All right; it’s more fun than Batman & Robin, but we all know that isn’t saying much.

What’s so bad about it, aside from the frankenplotting?  Here are some lowlights.

The Opening Scene.  James Bond surfs into North Korea for a top secret mission.  Yes, he’s had some over the top infiltrations before (world’s longest bungee jump, anyone?), but this one crosses the line of needless stupidity (there’s no way this makes sense even with disbelief stretched beyond its limits, and there isn’t even a token attempt to justify it), made even worse by wretched CGI that looks like the interns were given a crack at it.  Not a good way to start.

Pierce Brosnan as 007.  He’s still Bond, and he’s not phoning it in… but maybe phoning it in would have been better, because the best way to describe his performance through the course of most of the film is “contemptuous.”  The fun he was obviously having during Goldeneye is gone.  For Die Another Day, it’s no longer a dream role come to life: it’s just a job, and a thankless one at that.  And if Bond isn’t having fun, how’s the audience supposed to have fun?  Come to think of it, Judi Dench looks almost embarrassed to be in this clunker, too, though she also at least tries to make a go of it.

The Villain.  The bad guy sure isn’t going to help matters, and this one’s squarely the fault of the script.  Rogue North Korean military officer decides to take matters into his own hands and comes up with his own plan to defeat the decadent West, never mind the détente.  So far, no problem; change out “Russian” for “North Korean” and we’ve seen this before.  (Shocker.)  But the moment he fakes his own death and goes to private medical clinic to get his DNA changed out so he can become a white guy who then pretends that ill-gotten conflict diamonds came from an empty mine so that he can be the toast of British society in less than a year and then use his orbital superlaser to… ow, enough already!  My brain wanted to crawl out of my ears at the DNA exchange clinic.  There’s “over the top,” and there’s “jumping the shark.”  Mr. Shark, meet the Great White Streetwalker, because you have been epically jumped.

Halle Berry as Jinx.  There was so much hype over the casting of Halle Berry as Jinx, but her work here definitely proves that Academy Awards don’t mean everything.  She takes a badly scripted character (“You did her?” ) and makes things worse with an absolutely obnoxious performance.  I can’t even call it acting; it’s straight up attitude to the point of entitlement, and it grates the nerves to sit through.  And no, it wasn’t a case of looking at the script and calling it a joke; she wanted a spin off series centered on Jinx, to the point where she reportedly said she’d do it for free.  Fortunately, that never happened, because one round with her in this role is more than enough.  Easily one of the worst Bond girls ever.

R’s Lab.  As if the constant in-your-face references to past James Bond films wasn’t getting obnoxious enough, R’s Lab (or are we calling him Q now?) is the last straw.  Never mind the fun labs of old; this one’s a junk heap of old 007 gadgets that are truly made to look like discarded junk.  It’s insulting to see so rich a legacy treated like that.  And then, of course, there is the “Vanish” – the invisible Bond car behind which Mr. Cleese does a Silly Walk.  Yeah.  An invisible car.  There’s funny goofiness (see The Spy Who Loved Me) and there’s stupid; this is stupid.

That Song.  What was anyone thinking when this horrible theme song was green lit?  That’s not Bond music; it’s random club crap.  (“Sigmund Freud: analyze this”?  WTF?)  And the Madonna cameo during the film itself is just too much.  (It was almost worse; the idea to have her introduce 007 as “Bond, James Bond” was nixed at the last minute.)  At least David Arnold does his best to salvage things with a decent score, but that Madonna opening… ugh…

I’m Melting.  The Ice Palace, like the Palace de Las Dunas from Quantum of Solace, is one of those things that probably looked like a great idea on paper, but which is a disaster on film.  Never mind that such a thing can’t actually exist in Iceland (it’s too warm there); it’s just so cheesily done, especially during the indoor car chase sequence, that any possibilities of fun are tossed right out the window.  And hey, let’s not forget the aforementioned “DNA Exchange Clinic”… oh, wait, maybe we should…  Come to think of it, there’s a lot about Die Another Day that I’d rather forget…

And the final insult?  Despite being acknowledged by nearly everyone I’ve ever heard from – including its very few apologists – as a coffin nail from which the James Bond franchise as it had been since 1962 could never recover, Die Another Day was a massive financial success.  Just goes to show that box office doesn’t mean everything, folks.

Fortunately, Eon Productions looked past the cash and saw the same writing on the wall that most other people did, and realized the fatal blow that they had dealt to their beloved franchise.  Knowing better than to beat a dead horse, they did the only reasonable thing: quit while they were behind, and took the opportunity to hit the reboot switch with the very next movie.  It would, indeed, be the greatest turnaround in Hollywood history.

Guess 007 gets to die another day after all.  But damn, that was close.

Bottom line, Die Another Day is an absolute abomination, and easily stands as the worst film in the entire James Bond franchise.  Its one saving grace?  For 007 fans, it can be the catalyst for one hell of a drinking game.  (You’re going to want to have booze on hand anyway, so why not?)

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, January, 2014

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


- copyright 2000-2016, Ziggy Berkeley and Cinema on the Rocks, all rights reserved.

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