Sunday, June 20, 2010

"Die Another Day" Mixes Bond Tradition with Loud Action

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 35 (of 2002) by Leroy Douresseaux


Die Another Day (2002)
Running time: 133 minutes (2 hours, 9 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for action violence and sexuality
DIRECTOR: Lee Tamahori
WRITERS: Neal Purvis and Robert Wade
PRODUCERS: Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Tattersall (director of photography)
EDITORS: Andrew MacRitchie and Christian Wagner
SONG: “Die Another Day” by Madonna-music/lyrics and Mirwais Ahmadza├»-music
Golden Globe nominee

ACTION/ADVENTURE/THRILLER

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, Rick Yune, Judi Dench, John Cleese, Michael Madsen, Will Yun Lee, Kenneth Tsang, Samantha Bond, and Madonna (no screen credit)

Die Another Day, Pierce Brosnan’s fourth outing as James Bond, Agent 007, is the twentieth film version of Ian Fleming’s classic secret agent/super spy, and many think that the venerable character is showing his age and signs of wear. The issue is merely one of competition. Over the years stunt coordination and computer technology advanced so much that Bond’s low-fi action looked dated next to bigger and louder explosions of other action heroes, secret agents, and troubleshooters.

By the late Eighties, pumped up action thrillers had run Bond out of town; The Living Daylights and License to Kill were not hits and Bond needed a makeover. Post James Cameron’s True Lies, Brosnan became Bond and his first outing, Goldeneye, exploded out of the gate. It wasn’t very good, being more action movie cum video game than secret agent/spy thriller. Maybe the concept is dated and the character a bit long in the tooth, but the producers can still find away to make an exciting action hit.

Die Another Day is high-octane action movie, and it is better than The World is Not Enough and almost as good as Tomorrow Never Dies, the third and second Brosnan Bond films respectively.

The first half is closer in tone to the old Bond. North Korea captures and tortures Bond for 14 months. After his captors work a deal to free him, his masters at M6 cut him loose because they believe the North Koreans broke him during interrogation. Separated from his future tech arsenal and his agency, Bond has to rely on his wits, his smarts, and his experience. The viewer gets to see just how good Bond is and how dangerous a rogue he can be even without an agency to back him. Brosnan was always convincing as Bond. He could be the suave lover and charming chameleon that he needs to be in order to get into places and into people’s heads. Brosnan could also instantly become the ruthless killing machine that is the mark of an agent with a double “O” license.

Bond also meets a mysterious American, Jinx, played to full sexual tilt by Academy Award winner Halle Berry (Monster’s Ball). Together they pursue the pompous Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens), a wealthy jetsetter with the usual world beating schemes. Graves is actually a very good and charming villain, and he has a dangerous sidekick, Zao (Rick Yune).

Much of the second half of the film is borderline, pure sci-fi, but in the hands of Lee Tamahori (Along Came a Spider), the action is intense and has the wall-to-wall ferocity of anime (Japanese animated films) and mania of a comic book. The script by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, the screenwriters of The World is Not Enough, is well written and does a good job straddling two film genres – espionage and action. Though the movie runs a bit long, the thrills of the second half are well choreographed and relentless.

Die Another Day has some excellent small parts: John Cleese, in his best outing as Q, Judi Dench as the dour M, and Michael Madsen, always a welcome sight as a tough guy, who should have had a bigger part.

The movie is part secret agent thriller and part loud cartoon. I would like to see more of the former, but, on the whole, it is a very entertaining film and a near perfect film for people who just love loud action movies.

7 of 10
B+

NOTES:
2003 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Original Song - Motion Picture” (Madonna-music/lyrics and Mirwais Ahmadza├»-music for the song "Die Another Day")
2003 Black Reel Awards: 1 nomination: “Theatrical - Best Supporting Actress” (Halle Berry)

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