DIRECTOR: Lee Tamahori

CAST: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, Rick Yune, Judi Dench, John Cleese, Michael Madsen, Samantha Bond, Colin Salmon, Will Yun Lee, Kenneth Tsang, Michael Gorevoy, Lawrence Makoare, Madonna, Ho Yi, Rachel Grant, Emilio Echevarría, Vincent Wong, Joaquin Martinez, Deborah Moore, Mark Dymond, Oliver Skeete

RUNNING TIME: 133 mins

CERTIFICATE: 12

BASICALLY…: James Bond (Brosnan) must investigate the connection between a North Korean terrorist (Yune) and a diamond mogul (Stephens), before they can develop an international space weapon…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

With No Time To Die being pushed back all the way to November April, the world needs its fix of Ian Fleming’s ace secret agent to tide them over until then. That’s why, every week until it finally comes out, we’re going to be taking a look at each previous movie in the series to see if, and how, they hold up today.

This week, we’re taking a look at one that really doesn’t hold up, and then some. Intended to celebrate both the series 40th anniversary and its overall 20th film, Die Another Day instead feels like someone going through a painful mid-life crisis who makes a complete fool of themselves by trying to look as cool and hip as the younger generation, but retaining none of the dignity that once made them so great in the first place.

The plot is one of the more nonsensical of the series, which is really saying something given some of the stuff we’ve seen previously; during a mission in North Korea, James Bond (Pierce Brosnan, in his fourth and final outing) has his cover blown by a mole and is subject to imprisonment and torture (worst of all, though, he has to listen to Madonna’s godawful title track during all of it). When he is released just over a year later, Bond discovers a connection between North Korean terrorist Zao (Rick Yune) and influential businessman Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens), teaming up with Halle Berry as NSA agent Jinx to stop the two of them from using a new space weapon to bring unparalleled destruction.

This was the first James Bond movie I saw in a cinema, and I remember my ten-year-old self enjoying the constant explosions and the over-the-top action sequences, but as an adult not even nostalgia can disguise how that really was who this film was aiming for the most: impressionable young children who won’t question logic or even basic physics as long as something was blowing up on the screen. This movie feels like it was made to pander exclusively to a younger generation who didn’t think that James Bond was cool anymore, and you can feel in everything from the direction to the musical score to the cinematography to especially the editing (made up of lots of slow-motion shots, and sudden fast-paced tracking shots like it’s come right out of a trailer for this kind of movie) that it is throwing everything at the screen in order to appear as hip as, say, Vin Diesel’s xXx which came out that same year – in fact, this film’s director Lee Tamahori would go on to direct that movie’s Ice Cube-starring sequel. It’s a shameful and rather cynical type of pandering that drags down the series’ integrity with it, because it barely feels like a James Bond film, let along a more grounded one that the other Brosnan films were aiming for, and instead is more like a less-than-average early-2000s action flick with obnoxious dialogue, hammy acting (particularly by Toby Stephens as the film’s sneering bad guy), and some truly atrocious visual effects that completely suck you out of the movie. There’s also, of course, that invisible car everybody likes to mock, but honestly it’s probably the most realistic thing in the entire movie.

It’s bad enough that the overall tone is a lot more pandering to a younger crowd than usual, as though the producers decided to make up for the lack of Roger Moore-era tongue-in-cheek humour from the last films by making this a non-stop homage to that lesser element of the series, but the fact that this script treats its audience like idiots half the time is where the line is crossed. When you realise the true identity of the main villain, and the elaborate as well as implausible way they have hidden who they are, suddenly Moonraker feels like the more down-to-earth sci-fi film; their plan, too, makes absolutely zero sense when you realise they’re putting themselves into an unwinnable scenario, not to mention how this person has managed to become so influential that he’s even receiving a knighthood from the Queen all within the space of 14 months is such a baffling lapse of judgement that you wonder why MI6 didn’t investigate this person any sooner. Bond himself isn’t immune from the stupidity of the script, as he constantly fails to predict things that he as a spy should be able to prepare for by this point, and Brosnan manages to coast by on his charisma alone but even he seems to realise he’s in a script that’s far beneath his otherwise decent run as James Bond.

It’s incredibly sad to see Brosnan depart the series with this lower-than-low entry, which is now a solid contender for the worst film in the entire series. As stupid as entries like The Man With The Golden Gun and A View To A Kill became, they at least felt like James Bond movies; this is a cynical ploy to appeal to younger audiences as a means to stay alive during the then-new wave of action movies, which even then feels pointless because films like xXx and Torque would eventually fade into near-obscurity while the Bond series would keep plodding along without having to resort to low measures again. This was by far the most embarrassing film to watch during this retrospective, because it reminded me of how much I originally bought into it as a child who, back then, was blind to the lack of logic because stuff went boom. Even children deserve to be shown a more adult, respectful and intelligent Bond film than this – which makes me glad that the next one is those things and more…

SO, TO SUM UP…

Die Another Day is a series-low for its cynical attempt to pander to a younger generation with constant explosions, irritating editing tricks and some truly dreadful CGI, but an incredibly stupid script that sacrifices any dignity this series once had is where the line is considered crossed.

JAMES BOND WILL RETURN NEXT WEEK IN: CASINO ROYALE