Die Another Day ★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Oh, Die Another Day. I just don't quite know what to do with you, and you're almost twelve whole years old. I think most Bond fans agree that the film starts off genuinely promising; where we get into debates is just when and where the movie goes off the rails.

I felt then, and now, that having 007 in a North Korean prison at the time of 9/11 was a great storytelling decision. It sidestepped the question of why the fictitious spy wasn't on that very real case. And it gave Bond something new to deal with, though he seems to shirk whatever effect 18 months of torture did to him the moment he gets some new threads and a haircut.

The transitory sequence in Hong Kong is fine, but man, I love everything about Cuba, from David Arnold's boisterous "Welcome to Cuba" music to that old Ford convertible that Bond borrows. Even when he's "roughing it", Bond has more style than the rest of us. It's nice to see him do some actual detective legwork, as he does in Cuba.

No, it's still a good - hell, maybe even great - Bond movie up through all of that, though the gene replacement therapy gimmick is too spy-fi for my taste. Back to London; we meet Gustav Graves and then he and Bond have what is for my money one of the most terrific sword fights in cinema. Brosnan and Toby Stephens (and their doubles) really went for it, and there's a visceral energy to their body language that I rarely see in movie duels. Typically, the actors have rehearsed the choreography so much that they're effectively dancing their way through the scenes. Not so here, where there's a sense at every swing that someone could very well get hurt.

And then "M" welcomes Bond back into the fold and things go south in a hurry. The VR training device is "meh", but it's the introduction of the Aston Martin "Vanish" that signals the full transformation from movie to video game. From this point onward, we're stuck watching someone else play the game, with lazy cut scenes interspersed. (Incidentally, the "Vanish" is introduced 65 minutes into the film.) The "Vanish" vs. Zao's Jag chase scene is alright, but the armament on the two vehicles is ridiculous. (Though I do still love Bond using the ejector seat to flip his car right side up.)

Editing gimmicks like ramping are distracting, and the CGI is...well, it's just bad. There's no other way to say it. It looked bad in 2002 and it looks bad in 2014. By the time the film gets to Bond and Jinx infiltrating North Korea, I was starting to check out of the movie. I could attribute this to being up all night with all four Brosnan Bond outings in a row, but the truth is I start to check out around that point any time I watch this one (yes, I've voluntarily watched it more than once).

Because its first hour is as strong as it is, I can never quite bring myself to outright condemn Die Another Day, and in fact after this "Brosna-thon", I think I actually favor it over The World Is Not Enough.

Die Another Day Re-Ranked on My Flickchart (#485/1652)

Die Another Day > Grumpier Old Men --> #485
Die Another Day > The Brave One --> #413
Die Another Day < Groundhog Day --> #413
Die Another Day < Jaws --> #413
Die Another Day > All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) --> #361
Die Another Day < The Lady Vanishes (1938) --> #361
Die Another Day > The Cat Concerto --> #348
Die Another Day < Frozen --> #348
Die Another Day > Smokey and the Bandit --> #339

Die Another Day was re-ranked on my Flickchart to #339/1652