Thursday, 11 October 2012



The doubleohsevenathon trundles onwards in prep for the new one, and I've now reached the last entry of the Pierce Brosnan tenure. None of his four Bond films are among the best of the series: they all have their moments, sure, but to be honest I'll take almost any of Roger Moore's in preference: even For Your Eyes Only (minus the pre-credits foolishness and the atrocious comedy coda involving Margaret Thatcher) and, at a pinch, The Spy Who Loved Me which I still find to be Rog's worst. Goldeneye had got Brosnan off to a fair start (though Eric Serra's noodly score kills it stone dead), and Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough were okay as action movies but had very little in the way of Bondian charm or sophistication about them.

Remember when Bond plots sort of made some kind of sense? Oh, happy days....but not any more. Now, Die Another Day (a meaningless title) starts with a weapons deal in North Korea for illegal African conflict diamonds and a hovercraft chase over a minefield, which leads to a betrayed Bond being captured, imprisoned and tortured. Fourteen months later the West exchange him for terrorist Zao in the belief that Bond is giving away MI6 secrets; he escapes and persuades Chinese Intelligence to find Zao (er, didn't you just pass him on the bridge in North Korea?). That leads him to Cuba where he meets up with Jinx (Halle Berry); between them they infiltrate and destroy a gene therapy clinic where Zao is having a DNA transplant to give him a completely new identity; he gets away but Bond finds some of those diamonds supposedly from Iceland but chemically identical to the African ones. This leads him to Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens with a permanent Edward Fox sneer) and his publicist Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike) who is really an MI6 agent but who is really REALLY a double agent and Graves is really the Korean Colonel who was thought dead back before the credits but survived and had the Cuban gene therapy thing, and has now created a ginormous space mirror to focus the sun onto the Earth ostensibly so he can grow crops for the hungry, but really so he can destroy the DMZ between North and South Korea and allow the North Koreans to march across the minefield....

Or some such gibberish. The movie starts off in the usual fashion with a noisy and chaotic action sequence in which everything noisily blows up and everyone's chaotically firing guns at each other, with David Arnold's noisy and chaotic score blasting along in the background. But then it goes all wrong with an absolute war crime of a title song, with the vocoder autotune cranked up to maximum and making Madonna sound like a drowning dalek. John Cleese wasn't a brilliant bit of casting as Q last time around, and he isn't this time either - and that's before he's wheeled on the invisible car: a desperately stupid idea that no-one round the table had the balls to say was a desperately stupid idea. Worse even than that is the infamous kite-surfing sequence in which Bond cannibalises a crashed ice-car thing and parachutes above a tsunami of freshly melted glacier - a CGI abomination that looks like a videogame sequence (because that's essentially what it is) and drags you out of the already tenuous reality of the film. If you're not going to put up at least some pretence that it's supposed to be vaguely real, why even bother with actors? Why not do the subsequent car chase on Grand Theft Auto or just animate it like a Wallace And Gromit?

Moments amuse, but only fleetingly. I like Rosamund Pike, Toby Stephens gives excellent sneer, and the big swordfight in the middle is energetic and enjoyably destructive. But overall it's got far too much in the way of CGI going on and when you know that most of what you're watching is just numbers on a hard drive it's hard to get excited about it. More seriously, I don't think it feels like a Bond film. For all the character names and references (this was the 40th Anniversary release so the film is littered with old props and lines of dialogue in homage to its predecessors) it doesn't have the easy charm or wit of even the second-best of the Connery and Moore eras: more noise, bigger explosions, endless machine-gun fire, more whizzy special effects, but that's not what Bond should really be about. And, despite the sound and fury, it's dull. In the end the bad, misjudged and just plain idiotic far outweigh the few things they got right.



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