Die Another Day (2002)
Die Another Day (2002)

Genre: Action and Spy Running Time: 2 hrs. 13 min.

Release Date: November 22nd, 2002 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Lee Tamahori Actors: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Rosamund Pike, Toby Stephens, Rick Yune, Judi Dench, John Cleese, Michael Madsen, Will Yun Lee, Lawrence Makoare, Samantha Bond

 


 

A

bullet actually fires back down the famous gun barrel graphic (what are the odds of that happening?) to introduce the latest installment (the 20th!) in the long-running set of films about the most famous, filmic British secret agent. It begins with a supremely thrilling hovercraft chase through North Korean minefields, boasting exasperating firepower, flamethrowers, and land mines, culminating in a waterfall climax. It cements the collection of Brosnan pieces as the group with the most spectacular opening sequences, though the following theme song by Madonna is badly mismatched for an action thriller. Sadly, the introductory scene is far better than anything else in the picture; it desperately deserves a grander movie to herald. For the first time in the series, the credits graphics tell a part of the story, in which Bond is eventually captured and tortured for 14 months.

Originating his infiltration mission in Pukch’ong, North Korea, MI6 Agent James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is the bagman for a diamond trade for hi-tech weaponry in a demilitarized zone fortress, governed by young radical Colonel Tan-Sun Moon (Will Yun Lee). His father General Moon (Kenneth Tsang) orders Bond’s lengthy containment when 007 kills Tan-Sun. After more than a year in captivity, he’s traded for Zao (Rick Yune), one of the colonel’s conspirators; it’s yet another setup by an inside man, whose identity Bond is determined to discover, even if his superior M (Judi Dench) revokes his license to kill and demands that he’s relegated to a detention center and evaluation facility in Hong Kong.

Using his Chinese Intelligence contact Chang, Bond requests to get back into North Korea. But Chang instead sends him to Havana, where Zao (having survived the booby-trapped diamond briefcase, he now brandishes a face scarred with jewel fragments) was last seen. In Cuba, Bond follows latest acquaintance and lover Jinx Johnson (Halle Berry) to a DNA alteration clinic where Zao is in the middle of having his physical features modified to escape his governmental wanted status. Meanwhile, young billionaire Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) is linked to the African conflict diamonds Bond lifts from Zao’s necklace as he flees the hospital. Pursuing the clue, the secret agent journeys to Iceland, where Graves’ Icarus Project (involving a satellite that can focus solar energy) is to be unveiled. Unbeknownst to Bond, Graves’ assistant Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike), a cryptology expert, is also an undercover MI6 agent, assigned with keeping the operation under control – despite the newly reinstated 007 spontaneously mixing things up at every turn.

As an homage to “Dr. No,” new Bond girl Jinx is first seen wearing a bikini resembling the piece so memorably utilized by Ursula Andress. Berry also gets the distinction of being the first woman to be in a scene having sex with Bond – before this film, the frequent activity was only shown before or after the actual deed. She keeps turning up unexpectedly, which is far less charming than when Bond does so. Here, he must compete for screen time as the predominant spy and saboteur. Berry also exhibits unconvincing recitals of dialogue and generally pitiful acting – something surely attributable, to a large degree, to the lamentable script.

Other negative additions include identity-swapping gimmicks like those in the “Mission: Impossible” movies, absurd conversations, and entirely too much futuristic modernization (something Bond has never needed, despite fears that his character is antiquated). A virtual reality training room, an invisible car, a high-voltage glove weapon, bright red lasers, a pathetically designed ice palace, the villain’s souped-up Jaguar to match Bond’s Aston Martin Vanquish (apparently there’s a North Korean quartermaster equivalent to Q), a nonsensically crafted “Robocop” suit, and a rejuvenating “dream machine” are but a few more of the preposterous ideas that frequent “Die Another Day.” In its efforts to be fresh, it’s also ludicrously – and unnecessarily – adorned with sci-fi tech.

The editing and music are also updated, adding techno beats, operatic voices, slow-motion, and “The Fast and the Furious” styled camerawork that is horribly out of place. In the end, it tries too hard to outdo its predecessors and other competing actioners of the era, with many of the sequences bordering on laugh-out-loud ridiculous (fueled by extremely silly computer graphics, some of which appear to be from a cheesy TV movie). There are a few good bits, such as an out-of-control fencing match and Bond making his own doorways via exploding gas tanks, but it’s not enough to forget the numerous aforementioned faults. And those blots are so very, very degrading.

– Mike Massie

  • 1/10