Saturday, September 29, 2012

007 James Bond Marathon: Die Another Day

Based on Ian Fleming’s stories, Die Another Day is the story of James Bond trying to find a betrayer within the British government who had him imprisoned for a year in North Korea as he gets help from an American agent. Directed by Lee Tamahori and screenplay by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, the film has Bond take on new foes as well as team up an agent who is considered an equal of his as Pierce Brosnan plays Bond for the fourth and final time. Also starring Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rick Yune, Rosamund Pike, Michael Madsen, John Cleese, Samantha Bond, and Judi Dench as M. Die Another Day is a film that has some fine moments but is hampered by its hackneyed script and nonsensical action sequences.

After a mission in North Korea goes wrong that left the rogue Colonel Moon (Will Yun Lee) dead, Bond is imprisoned where he’s tortured for 14 months until he’s released by Moon’s father General Moon (Kenneth Tsang) as a prisoner exchange for Colonel Moon’s henchman Zao (Rick Yune). After being suspended for supposedly leaking information to the North Koreans, Bond escapes his hospital stay to go to Hong Kong where he meets Chinese agent Mr. Chang (Ho Yi) who tells Bond about Zao killing a few Chinese agents as Bond travels to Cuba. After getting some information from a cigar manufacturer in Raoul (Emilio Echevarria), Bond meets up with an American agent named Jinx (Halle Berry) as the two make separate missions to a secret island where Bond finds Zao who was trying to have surgery. Things go wrong until Bond finds some diamonds that belongs to a billionaire named Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens).

Bond decides to meet Graves at a country club in order to find out more about the diamonds as Graves invites Bond to a ceremony he’s having in Iceland. After regaining his 00 status from M who also wants to know more about Graves, Bond is sent to Iceland where Bond learns that Graves’ assistant Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike) is a MI6 operative also investigating Graves. Jinx also arrives at Iceland to continue her mission as she and Bond make a discovery about not just Graves but who is he in league with. Also learning about the satellite that Graves created which is really a weapon, Bond decides to report this to M where he learns about the person that betrayed him to the North Koreans. With some help from Jinx, the two travel to South Korea to stop Graves from unleashing his weapon in order to start a war.

While the premise of the film has Bond taking on a billionaire who could be in cahoots with a North Korean terrorist in order to start a war is an interesting one. It starts off great in which Bond tries to infiltrate a meeting where he meets this rogue colonel and his friend that is involved with diamond smuggling where suddenly things go wrong as Bond is betrayed and sabotaged. Then the story starts to devolve into a premise where Bond has to share his time with another agent as they work together to find a terrorist and this billionaire where the results aren’t very good.

Part of the problem with film’s screenplay is that Gustav Graves as a villain isn’t very interesting at all. Sure, there is a twist about him that is revealed in the film’s second half that explains his motivations but it is handled with such silliness that he is just a villain who likes to have stupid gadgets around him to defeat his villains. The Zao character is a bit more interesting as a henchman but ends up becoming a second-banana to Graves by the film’s second half. It’s not just some of the characterization and situations that doesn’t work but also some of the dialogue where it’s not as humorous as it used to be while some of it feels forced in its delivery.

Lee Tamahori’s direction does have some engaging moments in terms of the way he builds suspense as well as the film’s opening prologue scene that establishes a lot of what is to come. Yet, Tamahori seems to be taken by the idea of creating a film that goes into a lot of locations like Iceland, Spain, and Britain as well as setting it in places all over the world. Since he couldn’t go everywhere, he has to utilize CGI backgrounds to create shots of Hong Kong and some places where it doesn’t very realistic. It’s not just that some of the set pieces and visual-effects driven moments don’t work at all.

Some of the film’s action sequences get into very silly moments where it’s not just the use of CGI that hampers these moments. Tamahori’s emphasis to give into the conventions of action-style editing and shooting styles ends up creating a film that is incomprehensive to watch at times. Notably with the twists that are later unveiled in some of the dramatic moments where Tamahori makes some editing decisions that really kills the impact that it should’ve had. Despite a few decent moments in the film, Tamahori ends up creating a film that is just a flat-out mess.

Cinematographer David Tattersall does nice work with the cinematography for some scenes in the exteriors including some lighting schemes in Graves‘ secret base scene. Editors Christian Wagner and Andrew MacRitchie do some OK work with the editing in the film‘s suspenseful and light-hearted moments but ends up playing to the rapid-cutting style of most action films where not much makes sense in the fights and action scenes. Production designer Peter Lamont, with set decorator Simon Wakefield and supervising art director Neil Lamont, does some fine work with some of the set pieces such as the MI6 offices but the ice-made hotel that Graves lives in easily the worst set piece of all of the Bond films.

Costume designer Lindy Hemming does very good work with the costumes in the dresses that Miranda Frost and Jinx wears to the tuxedos that Bond wears Special effects supervisor Chris Corbould and visual effects supervisor Mara Bryan do some decent work with some of the special effects but the CGI work is truly poor and shoddy. Sound editor Martin Evans does some terrific work with the sound to capture the atmosphere of the action scenes as well as the party at Graves‘ ice palace. The film’s music by David Arnold is wonderful for some of the orchestral music that is played for some of the film’s action scenes though the electronic stuff isn’t very good. The title song by Madonna is truly one of the worst Bond theme song ever thanks to some bad production and the use of a vocoder that makes Madonna sound like Cartman.

The film’s ensemble cast is pretty good for the people that is hired as it features some notable small roles from Emilio Echevarria as Bond’s Cuban contact Raul, Ho Yi as Bond’s Hong Kong contact Mr. Chang, Michael Madsen as Jinx’s superior Damian Falco, Will Yun Lee as the rogue Colonel Lee, and Kenneth Tsang as Lee’s father. The worst small role comes in the form of Madonna as a fencing instructor named Verity where Madonna puts on a shitty British accent that makes her sound like a jackass. Bond regulars such as Colin Salmon as MI6 official Charles Robinson and Samantha Bond as Miss Moneypenny are very good while John Cleese is quite funny as Q. Rick Yune is terrific as the henchman Zao who tries to kill Bond while sporting a disfigured face while Judi Dench has some fine moments in her role as M.

Rosamund Pike is excellent as the MI6 agent Miranda Frost who is a skilled swordswoman as well as someone who isn’t keen on Bond’s charms. Toby Stephens is terrible as Gustav Graves due to the fact that Graves is a pretty lame villain who has to rely on an electric suit and swagger to get things done. Halle Berry is quite good as the agent Jinx as she is a woman who can kick ass and get things done as Berry does have chemistry with Pierce Brosnan. It’s just that she’s not given enough material to make her into someone really compelling as well as the fact that Jinx gets some pretty lame one-liners. Finally, there’s Pierce Brosnan in his final outing as James Bond where Brosnan maintains his sense of charm and wit to the role as well as a sense of grit but the script’s shortcomings really bog the character down as it doesn’t give Brosnan enough room to make Bond more engaging to watch.

Of the films in the James Bond series, Die Another Day is truly the weakest film of the entire franchise. Due to awful decisions from the part of director Lee Tamahori, misguided use of visual effects, a very weak villain, a lackluster script, and ridiculous action scenes that involves an invisible car. It’s a film that just puts James Bond into situations that are way too silly. While there are some moments that keeps the film from being a total disaster, it’s not enough to make it a worthwhile moment. In the end, Die Another Day is a terrible film from Lee Tamahori.

James Bond Files: The EON Films: Dr. No - From Russia with Love - Goldfinger - Thunderball - You Only Live Twice - On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Diamonds are Forever - Live and Let Die - The Man with the Golden Gun - The Spy Who Loved Me - Moonraker - For Your Eyes Only - Octopussy - A View to a Kill - The Living Daylights - Licence to Kill - GoldenEye - Tomorrow Never Dies - The World is Not Enough - Casino Royale (2006 film) - Quantum of Solace - Skyfall - SPECTRE - No Time to Die

Non-EON Films: Casino Royale (Climax! TV Episode) - Casino Royale (1967 film) - Never Say Never Again

Bond Documentaries: Bond Girls Are Forever - True Bond - Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007

© thevoid99 2012

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