James Bond rewatch: ‘Die Another Day’

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001. The story

After being forced to style himself on the Beach Boys circa the mid-1970s by the North Korean army for a year and a half, James Bond (Pierce Brosnan, in his final outing) pursues billionaire playboy Gustav Graves through a fencing lesson with Madonna, some unfortunate CGI work and a nostalgic tour of his previous adventures.

Having discovered that Graves is actually a supposedly-dead Korean colonel-cum-terrorist planning to reunite the two halves of his country through brute force, 007 saves the day and flies off in a nicked helicopter with an NSA agent named Jinx and a case of diamonds.

002: The villains

Gustav Graves is played with suave detachment by Toby Stephens, while Will Yun Lee is full of petulant impetuosity as Colonel Tan-Sun Moon. Unfortunately, they’re supposed to be the same person and even when the latter dubs the voice of the former, it’s impossible to reconcile the two. With Rick Yune grimacing his way unconvincingly through a faceful of diamonds as Zao, the best of the baddies is therefore…

003. The girls

…Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike), simply because it’s so unlikely at the beginning that she’s a villain and yet so blindingly obvious once the film moves to Iceland. Halle Berry is tolerably gorgeous as Jinx, despite some truly horrific dialogue, and it’s nice to see Miss Moneypenny (Samantha Bond) finally getting it on with 007 in her final appearance of the series to date, even if it it’s only in a digital daydream.

004. Best moments

The scenes with M and Q in the disused London Underground station are the understated highlight of this movie, with Bond showing a rare (for this film) hint of genuine emotion whilst talking to the former and enjoying some amusement at the expense of the latter. ‘I wish I could make you vanish,’ Q snaps grumpily after showing 007 the notoriously ridiculous invisible Aston Martin.

005. Trivia

» The film’s name is taken from A Shropshire Lad by A.E. Housman: ‘Since the man that runs away / lives to die another day …’

» The second Bond film to feature James Bond’s office, last seen in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

» Roger Moore’s daughter Deborah has a cameo as a British Airways flight attendant.

» In a film stuffed with references to previous movies and books, 007 flicks through A Field Guide to Birds of the West Indies by James Bond – the ornithologist whose name inspired Ian Fleming.

» Brosnan was 49 at the time of filming, making him sixteen years older than the actor playing his nemesis, Toby Stephens.

006. Best quotes

» ‘I see you handle your weapon well,’ Verity (played by Madonna) remarks to 007. ‘I have been known to keep my tip up,’ he admits.

» ‘I take it Mr Bond has been explaining his Big Bang theory.’

» ‘There’s always an excuse, isn’t there, Double-oh Zero?’

» ‘What a wonderful day to become a knight.’

» ‘You’re cleverer than you look,’ Bond remarks to the new quartermaster. ‘Better than looking cleverer than you are,’ Q retorts.

007. The verdict

Although it’s not as bad as it seemed back in 2002, Die Another Day’s good parts – the opening sequence, the scenes in Cuba and John Cleese’s irascible cameo as Q – are undermined by the overuse of digital effects and a curious self-satisfaction that pervades the film from its leading character downwards.

Bond is portrayed as aloofly invincible, without a hint of vulnerability, and the same, smug complacency suffuses everything else, as if the fact that it’s a 007 movie means that nobody has to try too hard.

What do you think of Die Another Day? Let us know below…