"Of all the arts, movies are the most powerful aid to empathy, and good ones make us better people."
-- Roger Ebert, The Great Movies

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Die Another Day

  • Title:  Die Another Day
  • Director:  Lee Tamahori
  • Date:  2002
  • Studio:  MGM
  • Genre:  Action
  • Cast:  Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Dame Judi Dench, John Cleese, Samantha Bond, Colin Salmon
  • Format:  Widescreen, Color
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC
Pierce Brosnan's final foray as James Bond is hardly his best, and I remember disliking the movie when I saw it in the theater.  The only reason I ended-up with a copy of "Die Another Day" was I bought it at a "two fer" sale, and I was more interested in the other movie.  And when I watched the DVD for the first time this past summer, after watching all of Brosnan's other Bond films -- it does disappoint.

However, watching this movie tonight, standing alone without watching the other Brosnan Bond films before, I was surprised at how much I actually enjoyed it.  It really is the typical action-packed Bond film.  This film is unique in that it starts with Bond at his lowest point -- not only does a mission go wrong, but he's captured, imprisoned and "the secretary disavows all knowledge of  his existence", -- sorry, I couldn't resist that.  But seriously, Bond is tortured and kept alone, in prison, for 14 months.  He is led out to a firing squad, then traded for another political prisoner.  Upon his return to the UK he discovers he's now a burned spy.  But, knowing he was set-up, Bond sets out to clear his name and finish his botched mission.

This quest send him to Cuba, and Iceland, before returning to North Korea, where he was captured before.  The plot involves Blood Diamonds (which throughout the film are referred to as "Conflict Diamonds" -- the politically correct wording still irritates me.  Call 'em what they are, "Blood Diamonds", please.)  An huge satellite capable of reflecting the Sun's rays to Earth, basically creating a second Sun, and when focused, a very nasty pinpoint laser.  Oh, and gene-replacement therapy, which somehow gives people new identities and new looks, as well as having a nasty side-effect of permanent insomnia.

If this sounds complex -- it is.  The film might have been better if  it was simplified (note:  not dumbed down, just less of a mess) a bit, maybe cutting out the entire North Korean plot, and keeping the bad guy what he is -- a deluded wealthy megalomaniac, faking a new diamond mine to launder blood diamonds, while developing an terrible super-weapon.  Ah, well.

The other thing I noticed this time around, and I honestly don't know how I missed it previously, because I've seen most of  the James Bond films, and all the classic ones -- are all the references to other Bond films.  There's the beautiful Bond girl walking out of  the ocean in a bikini (Dr No?) only this time it's Halle Berry.  There's Bond using a small re-breather tube (.Thunderball).  There's somebody nearby being cut in half  by a laser ("No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die."  Goldfinger), and in Q's lab -- there's the knife-shoe from Goldfinger, and the human jet-pack (Moonraker?  One of  the Roger Moore films, anyway).  They don't come off as homages, but more as a series which is stealing from itself.

However, I will say this -- the cast all did a great job.  Brosnan is gorgeous as always, and his acting is perfect -- I love the twinge of angst underlying his characterization of  Bond.  Halle Berry is actually quite good as the American agent (tho' that theme's also not new to Bond; nor is the idea of  pairing Bond with a young female agent from another country).  Judi Dench,  John Cleese, and Samantha Bond are wonderful in their re-occuring  roles as M, Q, and Moneypenny.  And no way is Brosnan getting too old to play Bond -- he's just distinguished.  And still gorgeous.  Though I must admit , I twitched a bit at him bedding the character of  Miranda Frost, who really did look young enough to be his daughter.

Overall, a standard James Bond film.  Not quite as much fun or "high popcorn value" as usual because Bond's tortured at the beginning of  the film, and even suffers flashbacks to it (tho' all the torture scenes are in the opening sequence and credits, except the flashbacks), but still worth collecting as it is Brosnan's last Bond film.

Recommendation:  It's OK, good for the collection of  the Bond complete-ist, and I've seen worse Bond.
Rating:  3 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

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