Saturday, November 27, 2021

Die Another Day

Movie Name:
Die Another Day
Year of Release: 2002
Director: Lee Tamahori
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, Judi Dench, Rick Yune, John Cleese, Michael Madsen, Will Yun Lee, Kenneth Tsang, Samantha Bond
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 3
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
Director Lee Tamahori made a name for himself with his debut feature, the celebrated "Once Were Warriors" which had its premirere at the Venice Film Festival of 1994. His take on the adventures of James Bond, followed his previous project "Along Came a Spider", the sequel to the very successful "Kiss the Girls", which focused on James Patterson's character, Alex Cross, played in those two films by Morgan Freeman. This time around, James Bond finds himself in hot water when he is captured by the North Korean regime, following a mission where he is unmasked. Upon his release, he is intent on finding out how and whom was behind the sabotage, and that research leads him to Cuba in the pursuit of a charismatic villain by the name of Zao. While there he meets the beautiful Jinx, an NSA agent, who is also on the trail of Zao. They soon realize that Zao is working for a billionaire by the name of Gustav Graves. As Bond engages with Graves, trying to know more about his endeavors and plans, he becomes acquainted with his assistant, Miranda Frost, who is also an MI6 undercover agent. As Bond uncovers Graves plans, he slowly realizes where the treachery lies and how that has been undermining the bureau itself.
"Die Another Day" was Pierce Brosnan's swan song with the James Bond character. While the film was commercially successful, it ended up fairing quite poorly in terms of reviews. And it's easy to understand why: while the James Bond films have always had a somewhat outlandish and over the top aspect to them, they have still attempted to have some ties with procedurals/thriller formulas that are recognizable to audiences. In this case, while some of the formula is present, it's also presented in a manner that is borderline kitsch, which in the case of this film series, is saying something. With the appearance of characters such as Jason Bourne in Doug Liman's "The Bourne Identity", the pressure for James Bond to be more than a caricature has increased, and this film sadly veers more into the territory of James Bond, the Roger Moore years, more so than James Bond, the Sean Connery years (some would say, the silliness versus the edgier years). The film starts well enough, placing Bond through some arduous moments, being questioned in terms of his loyalty and endurance, something that is quickly dropped, once he gets to Cuba. From then on, things escalate rather quickly, from the typical villainous confrontation, to an over the top climactic third act, in what appears to be a fortress of ice (or a giant melting candelabra from Liberace's mansion). It's a film that for all the money that was obviously spent in bringing the action to life, it looks and feels remarkably cheap and with questionable taste level (and from all Pierce Brosnan's Bond films, it ends up feeling surprisingly the most dated). The acting is a bit all over the place, with Pierce Brosnan seemingly on auto-pilot at this point, with Halle Berry trying to bring some authority to her character, but sadly failing to bring some consistency to her actions, while Toby Stephens dials his character's tone to the max, overacting in the process. Judi Dench and John Cleese manage to save face, while Rosamund Pike, then beginning her film career, doesn't have that much to do. The cinematography from David Tattersall is solid, as is the score from the fantastic David Arnold. Quite possibly one of least memorable of recent Bond films.