Defending Die Another Day

Die Another Day soundtrack

Much has been said about Eon’s 20th 007 adventure, Die Another Day, and in recent years not much of it has been good. In this article though I’d like to redress the balance and take you on a look back to this celebration of Bond’s 40th anniversary.

Die Another Day saw release in 2002, following a rash of spy movies, such as Goldmember, XXX, The Sum of All Fears, and The Bourne Identity, and save for Goldmember, beat them all at the US box office. XXX in particular was trying to take out 007 as the world’s master spy, even eliminating a man in a tux at the beginning of the movie, and Bond continued to prove that nobody does it better.

Die Another Day grossed $160 million in the US, setting a franchise record at the time and pulled in $431 million worldwide, enhancing Pierce Brosnan’s moniker of being the Billion Dollar Bond if you added up his total gross from all his performances. Adjusting for inflation, Die Another Day comes in at #6 of the 23 current films, just behind Moonraker. So, why the abject loathing?

Die Another Day, in an homage to You Only Live Twice, proudly proclaims that Pierce Brosnan IS James Bond in its final theatrical trailer and it is very apparent in the scene where, having deftly escaped from the clutches of MI6, he confidently swaggers into a luxury hotel attired only in a hospital gown and disheveled from his months of enemy captivity.

He may not be in Brioni, but he BELONGS in that world of high class living and David Arnold’s score accentuates that perfectly. The trick to appreciating Brosnan in Die Another Day is to recognize that it is an homage to all aspects of the franchise, be it literary, films, and games.

This homage does account for the shift in tone throughout the film. We find Bond at the end of the pre-title sequence captured. Bond has many a time been captured, usually followed by the villain “monologuing” about his plot for world domination, but in a departure for the film series, Agent 007 is imprisoned and tortured for months on end.

I was a little taken aback when the subtitle illuminated the scene, stating it was 14 months later. Never before had the cinematic Bond had to endure something that seemed so Flemingesque, reminding me of his torture at the hands of Le Chifre in the novel Casino Royale.

Brosnan had long expressed his desire to push the characterization forward and Die Another Day gives him the opportunity. As in The World Is Not Enough, we see a Bond who can be injured, both physically and emotionally. This is not quite the near superhuman Brosnan of Tomorrow Never Dies.  Whilst I enjoy seeing Bond overcome all obstacles, it’s nice to see him work and suffer for it at times.

The Easter Eggs and homages to past adventures gave hard-core fans an appreciation that perhaps a casual moviegoer may have overlooked. Prior to the movie’s release, my best friend and I sat down over the course of several months and watched the prior nineteen together.

Having only seen primarily the Brosnan movies, this enabled him to catch little nods like the musical opening of Dr. No hidden in sick bay, or Q’s callback to his predecessor’s line “I never joke about my work.”  A shout out to Birds Of The West Indies honours Bond’s literary origins, whilst a VR sequence pays tribute to 007’s foray into gaming, in a way acknowledging how successful Goldeneye 64 was.

David Arnold was firing on all cylinders with his score. He continued his mixture of blaring horns, drums, and other electronic noises in a fusion all his own. He still makes several melodic tributes to his forerunner, John Barry, and I eat every one of them up!

Madonna’s song has great lyrics, but I didn’t care for her voice being synthesized. Having said that, it did hit number one on several charts around the world. I can understand the divisiveness of it, but when played over the main titles, there is a certain magic there. Bond is being tortured for over a year , but the song tells us it’s not his time to go. Breaking with tradition, the main title sequence continues the story in breathtaking montage, replete with the requisite writhing women. I’ve always wondered what it would’ve been like had “I Will Return” been brought to completion by Arnold and Don Black. What we do get of that melody in the film makes me feel we missed out on something special.

After twenty films, the producers even managed to find new set pieces not yet attempted in the series. The hovercraft chase is one of my favorites, again bolstered by Arnold’s music. Then, the stakes get furthered when Bond’s Aston Martin finds a rival of its own, in Zao’s gadget laden Jaguar. Physics be damned, when the ejector seat is utilized to right Bond’s Vanquish, the audience let out a cheer.

Zao was also a great callback to the more distinctive henchmen of the series, like Jaws and Oddjob. Moon/Graves also had the megalomania required for the job and Miranda Frost was an excellent example of femme fatale as, ahem, ice queen.

All in all Die Another Day is a wonderful celebration of ALL aspects of James Bond. However, there is one thing that I cannot, that I will not, defend; the parasailing sequence. There’s no defense for that.

Javier E. Trujillo is a communications medic and lifelong fan of all things Bond. He can be reached on Twitter at @JaviTru.

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11 Responses to “Defending Die Another Day”

  • Jim

    I think the issue was Pierce Brosnan,
    Those Bond films did very well indeed,
    the noticable issue from a viewers standpoint,
    is the what I call, mirror issue, Pierce Brosnan
    always looks and acts like he is acting in a Bond film, from saying the line, “Bond, James Bond,” and always seems to be posing into the camera like looking into a mirror. You cannot get into the plot at all. Only mho here.
    Daniel Craig brings to the screen the brutality of the ond character, as the books spell out, a legal killer for England as part of MI6.
    The films are now like the books as originally intended, and he does a stellar job, as he is a serious actor and well trained, and not type cast either, win, win all around. An honest performance to the audience.

  • David Jarratt

    All credit for attempting to defend the indefensible… Aside from the obvious issues with the film (ludicrous plot, lamentable special effects, no discernable excitement, the fact that it’s a right old lash-up where the start and the end bear no relationship to each other) I think the ‘homages’ to Bond past kind of sum up what was wrong with the Brosnan era. They were so desperate to make him into another Sean Connery that he fails to put his own stamp on the character. All of the other Bonds bought a unique feel to the role and their films; to me, Brosnan’s films always feel like generic 90s action flicks sprinkled with painfully contrived Bond-isms and DAD is simply the worst example of this. It feels like he is playing Connery rather than Bond and that the producers spent too much time making clumsy references to the past, hoping that if they included enough bond ephemera it automatically make a bond film, instead of making a good film that would stand on its own. Nicely written article though.

  • David Leigh

    It’s pretty harsh to say it is indefensible. You don’t like it, Javi does.

    To be fair to the film, apart from the PTS (which I hate) the first half is okay, it’s the second half that things go badly wrong.

  • Troy S.

    Just watched this the other night. Huge lesson on how to live the bond life when we hear this exchange:
    M: You had your cyanide… James Bond: Threw it away years ago.
    Point here is Bond deciding years ago to never give up. A lesson so many of us need to think about more often.
    Oh, and Miranda Frost…

  • Raul

    Kudos, Javier, on your extremely well written article. Of course, I agree 110 percent. DAD was way better than any of the latest Daniel Craig fiascos.

  • Grrrr

    The highlight for me of the film DIE ANOTHER DAY is the great fencing duel sequence between Bond and Graves, which goes from one room to anther, from one type of sword to another. It’s the most exciting I can remember since the classic Stewart Granger/Mel Ferrer duel at the climax of SCARAMOUCHE (1952).

  • David Jarratt

    Apologies if my comment came accross as harsh, David, that wasn’t my intention. It was supposed to light hearted as befits the subject matter. as I said I thought it an excellent artcile, I just didn’t completely agree with the conclusions.

  • richard hewitt-dutton

    I think Die Another Day, was a hugely great film and it was a bit techno driven, in the way the story was handled and the mixture of the James Bond films were in there, so a lot of references were made including Rossa Kleb’s shoes as one example.

    I don’t really think much of Madonna’s title song, but over time it grew on me. The score by David Arnold again, brilliant, a masterpiece. The only downside to the film is the beginning of the film and I remember in an old 007 Magazine, it said that North Korea didn’t like the way they were perceived in the film.

  • Greg Brake

    I am a huge fan of the Bond series and as expected, there has to be some bad Bond films in the mix. Moonraker, A View To A Kill and sorry to say Die Another Day. It seems that when the actor gets too many films under their belt, the belt just doesn’t fit right anymore and the film suffers. Dave Arnold also fell short as to actually use the same music from The World Is Not Enough in Die Another Day. No, not the Bond theme either but the music where Bond and Jinx are sharing a shag moment towards the end. The Bond films have suffered from the Bourne Identity virus and to actually follow that format indicated that the original series was not as safe anymore for the producers. To end, I still enjoy the Bond films and there will never be a series like it in our lifetime. Bond Will Return!

  • James

    This article is spot on and has given me a new appreciation for the movie. If you take out the kite surfing scene, it works. With the kite surfing, I have to admit I do struggle.

  • Tony Nworah

    I remember the excitement me and my wife felt when we saw Brosnan on CNN boasting how DAD was going to be different. Added to the excitement was Halle Berry, a black woman and fresh Oscar winner, appearing as the first black heroine(Grace Jones does not really fit into that mould). Guys, I’m Nigerian and a hard core Bond fan so you can understand our excitement that at last we were going to see a black woman play the heroine. So I desperately wanted DAD to be a solid movie.
    Alas, after the first intriguing 15 minutes of Bond ‘ s capture, the film descended into the same old formula of world domination, gadgets, cartoonish henchmen. With the exception of TND, I can’t remember disliking a Bond film so much. Berry’s overacting made me wonder how she won the Oscar in the first place. Maybe its just that I so badly wanted the film to be a success at all levels and was looking for too much. Anyway, Javier you still wrote an excellent article.its just that apart from the eye candy of Frost, I can’t see any other redeeming quality the film had to offer.

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