The 20th "official" 007 outing released in the 40th anniversary year of the series, Die Another Day
is big, loud, spectacular, slick, predictable and as partially satisfying as most Bond movies have been for the last 30 years. Pierce Brosnan gives his best Bond performance to date, forced to suffer torture by scorpion venom administered by a North Korean dominatrix during the Madonna-warbled credits song. He traipses from Cuba to London to Iceland while feuding with a smug insomniac millionaire (Toby Stephens), who admits that he's an evil parody of Bond's own personality. There are many nods to the past: Halle Berry recreates Ursula Andress's entrance from Dr No
, the gadget-packed car (which can become invisible) is a Goldfinger
-style Aston Martin (albeit a brand-new model), the baddie's line in smuggled "conflict gems" and super-weapons derives from Diamonds Are Forever
and the jet-pack from Thunderball
can be seen in Q's lab.
It's the longest of the franchise to date (two-and-a-quarter hours) and the first to augment stunts and physical effects with major CGI, though the best fight is traditional: a polite club fencing match between Brosnan and Stephens that gets out of hand and turns into a destructive hack-and-slash fest with multiple edged weapons. Berry may be the first Bond girl with an Oscar on her shelf, but she's still stuck with a bad hairdo as well as having to endure 007's worst chat-up lines. Amazingly, most of the old things here do still work, though it's a shame that director Lee Tamahori (Once Were Warriors) wasn't given a better script to play with.
On the DVD: Die Another Day arrives on disc in a transfer that makes some of the CGI look less dodgy than it did in cinemas. The first disc includes two separate commentaries: an interesting, enthusiastic technical one with Tamahori and producer Michael Wilson, and a blander drone from Brosnan with input from "bad girl" actress Rosamund Pike. On Disc Two the main extra is "Inside Die Another Day", a 75-minute making-of with the usual 007 DVD extra mix of boosterism and solid background how-the-hell-they-did-it info. The "Region 2 exclusive" turns out to be another making-of, a video diary effort that takes a more interesting, wry approach to the mix of enterprise and chaos that is the Bond production machine. --Kim Newman