Thursday, November 8, 2012

Die Another Day - Dir. Lee Tamahori (The Bond Project #20)

Die Another Day (2002)
Dir: Lee Tamahori

Bond Turns 20
Jay Maronde

                For the 20th Eon Productions James Bond film, the producers wanted to go all out and make the Best Ever Bond for this grand anniversary. Die Another Day is a fantastic movie, filled with great action, an epic plot and superb casting, but it is so overfilled with James Bond illusions that it almost falls flat on its face. Let me be clear—I think this movie is great and could easily be the best of the Brosnan’s—but the viewer is constantly left with this impending sense of how great James Bond is supposed to seem that it detracts just slightly from what could have been a very awesome action movie. I could easily write all day about these allusions which in truth are quite fantastic, and the references to every single film in the Bond canon are very fun. However, it makes for an overly long slightly convoluted movie, and would make for a crazy long article here, so I will stick to the big highlights.
                First and foremost, to many this is known as the “Halle Barry” Bond movie. And yes Miss Barry, fresh off her Oscar win from Monster's Ball is definitely featured prominently in the film, and she is wonderful. So wonderful in fact that there was some talk of a Halle Berry Bond spin-off, with her reprising her role as NSA agent Jinx and Bond appearing only briefly for a cameo. Luckily for Bond viewers everywhere the producers thought better of that after the Catwoman debacle. No matter what you have to say about Berry, her role is well-written, and she turns in a superb performance. She’s a gorgeous Bond girl, she’s beautiful, and she’s a much better actress than most of the other Bond girls ever cast before her. Be sure not to miss her fantastic entrance in Cuba which features an epic allusion to Dr. No and Ursula Andress’ extremely memorable entrance.
Another fantastic Bond girl in this film is Madonna, who not only acts as Bond’s fencing coach, but also supplies the title song. First off, this title sequence is the first set of Bond titles in the franchise to actually feature into the movie, as during the titles Bond is being beaten and tortured as a result of his capture in North Korea during the pre-titles scene. Madonna’s song fits the movie perfectly and provides great background for a scene which the producers wanted to somehow play down (as who really wants to watch Bond tortured for 14 months). Also her acting in the movie makes her the first ever to do so. Many people did not like the song as they felt it was too modern, but I think it’s a wonderful piece of electronic dance music and was very popular in night clubs around the time of the film’s release.
                Another highlight of this movie, as it always is, is James Bond’s car, and Aston Martin is once again back with a James Bond car for the history books. The Aston Martin V12 Vanquish as the limited production model is known, was the first car ever made just for James Bond, like before the producers asked for a James Bond car, there was no such thing as the Vanquish. In the movie, Q (or R depending on how you feel about John Cleese) explains to Bond that “Aston Martin calls it the Vanquish, but we call it the Vanish” as he highlights the cars invisibility features. That’s right the car, besides all of its other cool James Bond stuff, is fucking invisible. Many people have complained that this was a completely ridiculous feature of the movie, and the haters can hate all they want, but it definitely makes for a fantastic James Bond car. The car features prominently in the scenes at the Ice Hotel, including a stupendous action sequence where Bond eliminates the diamond-faced henchman Zao (himself a throwback to GoldFinger’s OddJob, but played very well by the actor Rick Yune) after one of the best car chase scenes ever. A little known fact is that both the Aston and the Jaguar used in filming had been completely gutted and replaced underneath with the engines/suspensions/and four-wheel drive transmissions of Ford Expeditions to be able to perform well on the frozen lake.
                This movie features numerous really great action sequences including most at the end of the film, which is really just one crazy action sequence that has a fist fight, a sword fight, and a space laser that destroys a flying jumbo plane, all before James Bond escapes from the plane with no parachute.  All and all, Die Another Day is a great, very entertaining and fun entry into the Canon, but the movie makes the mistake of falling into the trap of the James Bond franchise being so in love with itself that it derails a little bit right as it rolls into the station. The constant allusions to the rest of the series bring back too many memories of silly Roger Moore Bond times, and while it’s a great movie to watch I’ve always felt like it ran long just to fit in all the allusions.

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