Die Another Day

Die Another Day (12A)

THE legendary theme tune begins, a figure in a dinner suit walks before the camera, a shot is fired, and blood runs down the screen.

But, wait a second, what was that strange sound filtering through the James Bond theme? Was it, horrors of horrors, some tinkering? Indeed it was, and it’s not the only thing out of place in a movie that tries exceedingly hard to match its predecessors but only succeeds in being out of step with its own myth.

I’ve always been something of a movie purist, so seeing unnecessary changes emerge in this anniversary 007 picture tends to rankle. It comes down to this: when you start messing with a tried and trusted formula, something’s going to go wrong. And indeed something has gone wrong with the Bond franchise; it’s called Die Another Day.

The story takes Bond across the world on the trail of a Korean killer who tortured him in prison via a run-in with Gustav Graves, a multi-millionaire adrenaline junkie whose eccentric reputation is a front for a deadly scheme involving death and destruction from the skies. In between there is Jinx, played by Halle Berry, a gun-toting, bikini-clad sexpot who runs into 007 in Cuba.

Pierce Brosnan has been hailed as the saviour of the 007 series, which fell from favour and disappeared from our movie screens for six years until Brosnan helped resurrect Bond in 1995. He’s made three films of varying quality, but this latest offering is a mess.

With its globetrotting hero, action, high action, epic stunts, beautiful women and a supervillain with an eye of world domination, Die Another Day boasts all the traditional ingredients for another hit.

Yet from its opening titles and sequences, with Bond captured by North Korean forces, tortured and eventually released, the film rapidly goes downhill. It’s as if the producers and director Lee Tamahori have made a list of vital components and are ticking them off as they appear in the picture.

They include the ubiquitous villain, a super weapon, Bond babes, fast cars, occasionally breathtaking stunts, ‘witty’ quips and the gadgets and hardware that have become a trademark.

But it’s so laboured. In truth writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have created a script that could fit any one of today’s action heroes instead of tailoring something to Bond. It has little basis in reality, resembling a sci-fi thriller (Face/Off, anyone?) that the character of Bond has been slipped into. It’s all just a little bit awkward.

The main failing is the film’s over-reliance on what has gone before. There are self-conscious references to legendary Bond moments, and indeed the entire story appears cobbled together from what has gone before: a laser from Goldfinger, a satellite weapon from Diamonds are Forever, breathing gear from Thunderball and Halle Berry’s entrance, rising from the sea in a bikini/knife combination a la Ursula Andress in Dr No.

There is one reference to al Qaida in the picture – a welcome connection to reality that would have better served the film if Bond had travelled down that route.

But 007 lives in a fantasy world of vodka martinis, roulette wheels and Dom Perignon. If he is to survive further the people at Eon Productions have to make some hard decisions. The critical reaction to Die Another Day may give them some clues…

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