Halfway through DIE ANOTHER DAY, I turned to my companion sitting beside me in the Director’s Hall of The Bridge Theater and asked him, in all seriousness, “Is it possible we are watching the BEST James Bond movie EVER?”
Better than FRWL? Better than Goldfinger? Better than OHMSS? Better than TSWLM?
Is it possible for #20 to be #1?
I held my breath for the rest of the movie as scene after scene worked a Bond magic I haven’t felt in years. I got a little nervous when I felt the narrative getting overwhelmed by the action in Iceland, and yes, it went a bit OTT with the much maligned CGI stunt (but it wasn’t that bad, relax). Then that amazing climax kicked in and I’m breathless again. Then the Moneypenny beat at the end hits like an unexpected grand slam home run and when DIE ANOTHER DAY is over I’m sitting in my seat absolutely stunned. I decide then and there it was, indeed, the BEST James Bond movie I had ever seen!!
After the movie as I, and 55 other formally attired Bond fans, recovered from the experience over pints of Guinness and fish and chips at an English pub, I decided maybe DAD wasn’t the “best” Bond film of them all—but it was damn close! And it’s very possible when I see it again (which I MUST do ASAP) I’ll come out saying it is indeed #1.
Yes, I liked this movie that much!
Okay, breathe, breathe… For those of you interested, I’m going to briefly bullet point my thoughts and reactions to the major sections and elements of the movie. Here we go.
Pre-titles: A surprise here. Despite was what others have been saying, I thought the pre-titles was nothing special. I feared a re-hash of the TND pre-titles, and it was. I also didn’t care for that washed-out overly saturated look the DP gave the whole sequence. Bond movies are not supposed to look that way. Stop trying so hard, I thought. But then there was something about Bond hanging on the bell after the hovercraft goes over the waterfall that made me sit up and say, hmmm, nice Bond moment there. Then…
Titles: Amazing, breathtaking, inventive, interesting, incredible! Even the Madonna song with that annoying audio drop out couldn’t ruin it. Here I realized DAD was boldly experimenting with the formula without betraying it. This was Bond, but not the same old Bond and it worked beautifully. Oh, Scorpion Girl…I love you, you little savage cutie-pie.
Bearded Bond/Hong Kong stuff: This was so bold, so unexpected, so unBond, and so overtly dramatic, I should have hated it. But I didn’t. I loved it. Loved it! Bond goes into cardiac arrest and dies on the table? I was stunned. The audience was stunned. The movie had us all by the throats. We’re not just watching a great Bond movie here—we’re watching a great movie, period. Amazing. And then Bond walks into the Hong Kong hotel in his ragged condition but still with full Bond aplomb and, hey, this movie is working!
Cuba: Okay, for everyone who says Dalton was the book Bond…no, you’re wrong. Pierce is the book Bond here, Pierce is Connery’s Bond here, Pierce IS James Bond here! This is the best part of the film, in my opinion. Classic Bond. I love, LOVE, that Bond and Jinx hit the sheets right off the bat. Of course this is how it should be. I realized I’ve gotten very tired with the Bond-has-sex-with-the-main-girl only-at-the-end formula. I think it works much better that Bond and the main girl START their relationship with pure, animal lust, then arc to respect one another. It’s Bond and Tracy. Sex first…love later. Nice.
London calling: All the London stuff is fabulous. I loved the Blades swordfight, classic Bond and villain duel turned up to the maximum. (Re Madonna’s cameo–can someone say, “Vaseline on the lens.” How vain. Madonna has become Barbara Walters.) I wish I didn’t know about the VR training sequence because that would have blown me out of my socks (curse the internet!). John Cleese IS Q. ‘Nuff said. And the invisible Vanquish…yes, yes! It’s about time we got more than rockets behind headlights. (Shame we didn’t see Bond’s flat in all this.)
Iceland: Don’t get me wrong, I love the location, the ice palace, the Icarus demonstration, the dragster, Miranda, etc…but I did feel the wall-to-wall action in this part of the film started overwhelming what up until then had been a very clean narrative. Jinx is captured and saved twice in the same location? Overkill. Seemed like a hard choice should have been made here and a major set-piece should have been sacrificed to lighten the load on the storyline (and the audience). In my opinion, the big glacier surfing stunt could have been lost, cool as it was. My objection to this scene wasn’t with the cheesy CGI, it’s with the fact that it was SO big it played like a sequence ending climax and took away from the ice ballet car chase that followed. The audience was exhausted. But the ice ballet was so well done that it still worked beautifully and Bond saving Jinx brought the narrative back to emotional clarity. Still, I got a bit lost amid all the action in Iceland, but this is my ONLY complaint.
Climactic battle: Awesome, incredible, one of the most exciting Bond climaxes ever filmed! I love the Icarus satellite burning it’s way through Korea as the plane disintegrates. Loved that Miranda took the time during all this chaos to change into that sexy fencing outfit for her battle with Jinx. Miranda’s death was a bit shocking, but effective. And Graves died the way a Bond villain should die—big! The audience cheered.
Then there was the final Moneypenny scene that had the audience almost on their feet with cheers and laughs and, yes, DAD in my mind at that moment was the BEST JAMES BOND MOVIE EVER!
Now to address a few of the elements of controversy I had heard before going in.
DAD goes OTT with the sci-fi element: What? How? I think DAD did what all the “spectacular” Bond films do and that’s bring it right to the line without crossing it. Nothing in DAD is impossible—it’s improbable, yes, but it’s not impossible and that’s the Cubby Broccoli edict. No probs. I welcome the return the BIG fun Bond film, and DAD is certainly that.
Halle Berry/Jinx: Great body…bad haircut. Despite the hype, I found Jinx to be just another Bond Girl. I preferred Rosamund Pike.
Too much CGI: Nah, it was fine. Even the much-maligned glacier surfing stunt didn’t bother me. Hey, I didn’t let the Tarzan yell ruin Octopussy, I’m not going to let one bad special effect ruin DAD. I’m there to have fun, and I did. So should you.
Congrats Eon, MGM, and everyone involved with DIE ANOTHER DAY. Even if—when I come down from my high—I decide it’s not the best James Bond movie of them all, it’s still the best Bond movie in over a decade and one that reinvigorates the series and that’s an amazing accomplishment.