Die Another Day was in the unfortunate situation of opening a few months after a spy film that changed the genre, The Bourne Identity.
The film marked its 20th anniversary last month. I was a bit swamped at the time with the final weeks of watching awards screeners before turning in my ballot. Because of timing, I’ve opted to review it along with the rest of the Pierece Brosnan movies.
It really doesn’t matter how Lee Tamahori directed the film or what Neal Purvis and Robert Wade did with their script because Die Another Day was screwed from the moment that The Bourne Identity opened in theaters. Where this film embraced campiness, the Matt Damon-starring thriller was grittier and in a way, it would inspire the new direction for the James Bond franchise. It’s really unfair that Pierce Brosnan ended up being on the short end of the stick. He was screwed by NBC renewing Remington Steele and then lawsuits delayed production on GoldenEye. Almost a decade after playing Bond, Eon would go in another direction after the release of this film. Unfortunately, this also meant cancelling the Jinx spinoff starring Halle Berry. Part of the cancellation also had to do with the poor performance of female-led action films at the time.
There is a pair of Bond girls–women, really–in this film. Giacinta “Jinx” Johnson (Halle Berry) and Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike). There’s a few things going on during the film’s run time. One, Bond is searching for a mole in British intelligence, later learned to be the aforementioned Frost. Two, bond is looking for a British billionaire with connections to a North Korean operative, Colonel Tan-Sun Moon (Will Yun Lee), that Bond assumingly killed. Of course, Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) ends up being the alter-ego for Col. Moon. Graves has his own plan for domination, which Bond and Jinx are thankfully able to stop before it’s too late.
The 20th Bond film came in the same year that the James Bond franchise marked the 40th anniversary of Dr. No‘s release in theaters. The Spy Who Loved Me (15), The Living Daylights (25), Die Another Day (40), and Skyfall (50) remain the only Bond films to get a release during a milestone anniversary year. Die Another Day includes references to every single film as props are visible in Q’s (John Cleese) London Underground warehouse. It results in a wonderful way to pay tribute to the previous films. Meanwhile, Roger Moore’s daughter, Deborah Moore, cameos as an airline hostess.
Musically speaking, composer David Arnold recycles a few themes from The World is Not Enough. Once again, he plays with electronic elements for the film’s score. Madonna sings the title song and also makes a cameo in the film. Personally, I have no problem with her theme song as it’s a catchy tune.
As the franchise begins to run out of material to use from Ian Fleming’s novels, the filmmakers start recycling materials from previous novels or films, for better or worse. Meanwhile, there’s just too much in the film that relies on CGI. There are stunts in Iceland that filmmakers somehow pull off. Meanwhile, they’re lucky enough to film outside of Buckingham Palace. Funny enough, this film would earn more than its predecessor at the box office–hello, ticket inflation!
There’s not much else to say here as the film really descends into campiness once we get to the ice palace. It’s slightly better than The World is Not Enough but it’s really for the best that Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson would hard reboot the franchise with Casino Royale. As much as I enjoyed watching Pierce Brosnan portray James Bond on screen, Daniel Craig manages to outdo him. Craig’s films are stronger although one can argue that Quantum of Solace is the weakest of the bunch due to the WGA strike. James Bond lives to…die another day.
DIRECTOR: Lee Tamahori
SCREENWRITER: Neal Purvis & Robert Wade
CAST: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, John Cleese, and Judi Dench
MGM/UA released Die Another Day in theaters on November 22, 1999. Grade: 2.5/5
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