Die Another Day (2002)

Rating: C+

Dir: Lee Tamahori
Star: Pierce Brosnan, Toby Stephens, Halle Berry, Rosamund Pike

Bond movies operate on a plane unlike any other, and so deserve to be judged differently. Regular films get points for originality; 007 gets them for delivering entirely what you’d expect. So, in that spirit, let’s see how the elements of this one stack up.

  • Megalomaniacal villain, possessing ludicrously ostentatious headquarters in wildly inconvenient location. Check. Gustav Graves has a diamond mine in Iceland, right next to a palace made entirely out of ice; Bond spends the night in a bed shaped like a swan. Graves has an orbiting satellite equipped to deal death from above…hang on, haven’t we heard that before? Ah, yes: only three movies ago, in Goldeneye

  • Women who protest indifference to Bond, then leap into bed with him at the first opportunity. Check. Jinx (Halle Berry) is first seen coming out of the water in a direct theft from Dr. No, but it’s all downhill from there; despite supposedly being an NSA agent (and pedantic quibbles about the actual role of that agency aside), she spends most of her time being rescued by Bond, e.g. from a laser…hang on, haven’t we heard that before? Ah, yes: Goldfinger, which also provides the “007 uses a precious commodity as the stake in a sporting bet” moment. Much more interesting and multi-faceted is Miranda Storm (Pike), an Olympic fencer whose loyalties are never certain.

  • Gee-whizz gadgetry of doubtful plausibility but undeniable coolness. Check, with reservations. While the encounter between R (John Cleese – who never will be Q to me, sorry) and 007 is one of the film’s highlights, the products feel more like a car commercial than anything else. The ring that can shatter bulletproof glass is clever, and necessary not once but twice.

  • Stunts and action of jaw-dropping audacity Sorry, no. The audacity on view is largely limited to wondering how such lame CGI ever made it into a major motion picture – Bond’s para-surfing and the climactic disintegrating plane being particularly woeful. The physical action, however, is still solid, in particular a pair of sword fights which made us yearn for more.

As much of the above may hint, there is rather too much here recycled from earlier Bond movies – you may call it “a loving tribute”, I call it a lack of ideas. Dragging in the extreme sports stuff is really not necessary, and should be left to the lame ripoffs, whose names we shall not mention, while the mooted Jinx spin-off leaves me stone cold. But thanks largely to the unfettered freedom given Brosnan’s charisma, it’s still more entertaining than The World is not Enough, and indeed, most action pics of the year.