Sunday, 26 August 2012

Die Another Day (2002)

So, it’s happened. There are Skyfall posters in my local multiplex; which can only mean one thing: Blogalongabond will soon be over. :-(  But not to worry, there are two cool films and an unknown quantity before we finish. However, I must first clear the hurdle of Die Another Day. I think of all the 007 films, this was the one I was really not looking forward to seeing; I do not have great memories of the film, despite the fact that afterwards my girlfriend and I told our friends we were engaged! Overall I remembered it as a real mess of a film.

But against all the odds, I enjoyed it more than I expected. If it were sitting an Ordinary Wizarding Level exam, it would have passed by Exceeding Expectations. Excellent action (as usual with the later Bonds), another excellent score from David Arnold, a very different take on Bond in the first half of the film, and quite a novel way of hiding the main villain from 007. Of course we should start at the beginning, and immediately we see something wrong; a CG bullet being shot out through the iconic gun barrel! I’m sorry; was this released in gimmick-D vision? (see also 007 kicking a fencing foil at the camera later on!). What follows is spectacular, and though perhaps not as enjoyable as the pre-credit sequences of TWINE or TND, never-the-less pretty fantastic. The surfing looks great, and the music over it is very funky, and then we’re into a hovercraft chase. I love how dirty the whole sequence looks, as well as Bonds grit and brutality. Though how did Bond know that there was a waterfall on the other side of that gate?

I think that the credits are some of the best in the whole series; the torture going on in the background as part of the story rather than just having plot-associated images works really well. Of course there are some of these images as well and I think the ice/sunburst graphics are really smart; and then when the scorpion tails pop up along with the music it all comes together nicely. It’s just a shame the song sucks so hard; part of the torture I guess!

The first half of the film is certainly edgier and more intriguing than a lot in the series; what mental state is 007 really in? Does M really think he’s useless now? Is Jinx actually the first woman he’s picked up for random casual sex rather than someone involved in the investigation? Or is it just more blatant here? Who the hell is Graves? And how cool does 007 look with a big beard?

                                              Brozza fairly rocks the Jeff Lebowski look.

Everything is going well, until Bond and Graves have their fencing match. Despite it being choreographed by the legendary Bob Anderson, I find the whole sequence silly, and for me it marks the turning point in the film. From now on we just see the usual Bond tropes; gadgets, pointless henchmen (“I’m Mr Kill!” That’s lovely dear, now let me kill you with some lasers which are here for no reason), and illogical sequences. Then when Bond para-surfs (real thing?) through some Ice-Age quality digital icebergs, accompanied by some inexcusably poor super-imposition (not seen since Roger Moore went skiing), the film loses all credibility.

Speaking of gadgets, it’s nice to see a few old favourites hidden away in Q's man-cave; the crocodile from Octopussy, a Rosa Kleb style shoe, little Nellie and the jetpack from Thunderball. Mercifully John Cleese doesn’t reprise his Mr Bean from TWINE, and is starting to turn into a half decent Q “Better than looking cleverer than you are!”. I’m almost a bit disappointed he doesn’t make the transition to the Daniel Craig era, but not quite.

Shifting to some of the other peripheral characters, I think they’re all pretty good. Toby Stephens’ Gustav Graves is brilliantly arrogant and sneering, and due to some questionable gene therapy science, I’d completely forgotten that he was actually Colonel Moon from the film’s opening. I also thought that Rosamund Pike was appropriately frosty as Miranda Frost; she was suitably inconspicuous until we realised where her allegiance really was. Then she turns up wearing her pyjamas to fight Jinx at the end! Ah Jinx. Stunning as she is, with clear references to Ursula Andress with her appearance in the film, she’s not that great a character. OK, so she makes her way into the gene therapy clinic in Cuba, kills the Doctor, and blows the place up; but more often than not she is just a damsel in distress who needs rescuing by Bond.

                                                                  It's only a model!

Anything more to say? I don’t think so. Promising opening gambit, which ultimately falls flat and gets stuck in a mire of silly directorial choices and some shocking special effects. There are a few nice quick camera moves (scooting over the ice to the Aston Martin as it approaches Clark Kent’s Fortress of Solitude); but for every nice touch there’s a pointless slo-mo bit of Jinx being threatened by lasers. By no means as awful as I remember, yet certainly Brosnan’s worst 007 outing. Perhaps this is why Brozza doesn’t get to Die Another Day, and Broccoli & Wilson look to my hometown for the new super-spy.

Order of Preference so far: