Die Another Day
Directed by Lee Tamahori
Running length: 120 minutes
Picture a middle school cafeteria. After negotiating unilateral trade agreements concerning apples, jell-o, and sandwiches, a group of 13-year olds begins to discuss the new James Bond movie, opening that night. “I bet there are lasers,” one says, a little boy with pudding on his face. “No, sunbeam lasers!” quips another, “and an invisible car! No, wait, hovercrafts!” A pretty girl with long blond hair pipes up, “I bet there’s a beautiful frost princess who fights with swords better than any man, and lives in an ice palace and gives her heart to no one.” Boys within earshot aren’t too receptive to this idea. Pudding-face expresses it best, “No, moron, James Bond likes girls who fight with guns. There’s probably one of those, and also a villain who shoots lightning from his hands.” Many hasten to remind him that he’s thinking of Star Wars. Pudding-face is sad, and mutters to himself, “Screw you guys, it would have been cool.”
Fortunately for these kids, all of their musings come true in Die Another Day. Unfortunately for us, they could have written the whole script. Attempting to appeal to a target audience ever younger than aging action movie protagonist Pierce Brosnan (50 years old when the movie came out), the latest Bond adventure delves a bit too deeply into childishness and leaves the audience confused more than it is amazed. For an example of the way director Lee Tamahori thinks, take a look at the bond girl du jour, Halle Berry. Tamahori was looking for a leading hottie who could also act, and apparently Berry’s work in Swordfish was just the virtuoso performance he was seeking. Yes, I know she won an oscar, but unfortunately, that piece of hardware isn't onscreen delivering lines. She is. It is worth noting that The World Is Not Enough director Michael Apted claimed that Denise Richards was chosen for her acting as well. Look people, “acting” is not the same as “breasts,” okay? Get it straight. Rosamund Pike (who also played Fanny in the recent adaptation of two Nancy Mitford’s novels entitled Love in a Cold Climate) as Miranda Frost is very good, but her character is so painfully one-dimensional, not to mention obvious, that her appeal is dulled.
In his latest adventure, James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is sent to blow up weapons smugglers in North Korea, which sounds exactly like the type of shenanigans that British Intelligence would be up to. James isn’t quite as spectacular as he thinks he is, and despite a good bit of killing people, pissing others off, and generally being a nuisance, he is captured. Imprisoned and tortured by being forced to listen to Madonna, James believes himself to have kept his mouth shut, but British and American intelligence believes him to have given up information. No one can resist being forced to watch Madonna music videos for long, they surmise. They make a prisoner trade to get Bond back, but it is decided that he is useless now. It’s the end of the road for 007.
Then the plot begins, which is almost good enough to be used in a video game. Bond escapes (what, you think he’d go down that easy?) and convinces Chinese intelligence that they want to help him. Once they’ve provided him with some money, a passport, and probably a couple of boxes of condoms, he travels to Cuba to kill the man who was exchanged for him in order somehow redeem himself.
While in Cuba, he meets Jinx (Halle Berry, who delivers lines almost as jarringly (and looks almost as good) as Denise Richards did). After a covert attack on a secret hospital, which is easier to infiltrate than a dorm you don’t live in, Bond finds that his new friend isn’t all she seems to be. He also manages to let the man he came to kill escape, but not after pissing him off more. Oh yeah, he gets another clue also. Gotta drive that plot forward at all costs.
Eventually Bond sneaks into a few things, breaks some other things, kills a few people, has sex with a few other people, and what with one thing or another, British Intelligence wins in the end. The problem is that by that time, you just don’t care anymore. The music video direction confuses more than it stylizes, and scene after scene leaves the thinking audience member wondering, “How did that happen? What’s going on? Why would they ever do that, ever?”>
Will the Bond franchise ever end? Probably not, but it would be nice if they could find some writers who can think of some new puns. The script is full of the types of lines that would be hilarious to only the youngest of audiences, and the same goes for the ability of the plot twists to surprise. Is it too late for the 007 flicks to become progressively more sophisticated, like the Harry Potter books have? Perhaps. This doesn’t mean that they should progress in the opposite direction, continuously seeking the teen market with lowest-common-denominator marketing to people who couldn’t actually find the lowest common denominator of two numbers.
Suspension of disbelief has never been more difficult. Fun the film might be at times, but it’s far from slick or sharp. Die Another Day might be a good option for mindless action, but those moviegoers with brains able to think twice might consider doing so before spending their rental money on the latest popcorn Bond.