The Hollywood Reporter has reviewed Die Another Day and rated it positive, but they found minor faults. Like a lot of DAD reviews which are out these days, the Hollywood Reporter doesn’t like the idea of too much CGI, less developed characters and loads of action sequences.
Careful, the review is spoiler intensive! So be sure not to read it if you don’t want to get to know information about Die Another Day’s action!
Die Another Day
Nov. 18, 2002
By Kirk Honeycutt
James Bond turns 20 this month, but that doesn’t mean the lad is growing up. He still goes ga-ga over girls, gadgets and guns. So “Die Another Day,” the 20th installment in the 40-year-old franchise, does the expected, but with the ante raised in every area — stunts, visual effects, exotic locales and expense. This is a sharper, edgier Bond, in which first-time Bond director Lee Tamahori allows a smidgen of character work to creep in, and Pierce Brosnan, in his fourth outing as Agent 007, suggests the playboy spy is really a serious, hard-working guy.
Realizing the franchise is challenged by youth movies like “XXX,” the Bond producers raise the ante so James stays reasonably hip. Madonna sings the title song and even appears in one of the film’s brighter sequences. This also is the first Bond film to rely heavily on digital effects. But the best addition is Halle Berry, who instead of being a Bond Girl du jour, joins forces with 007 as a full-fledged fighting companion, matching him in ruthlessness and technology. All these pluses should drive “Die” past the $361 million worldwide boxoffice benchmark established by 1999’s “The World Is Not Enough.”
The first third of the movie, and its most interesting section, pushes 007 into unfamiliar territory as a prisoner and outcast. The opening titles, the usual kaleidoscopic melange of color and images with alluring women in silhouette, takes place over scenes of Bond being tortured by North Korean captors. When he is released in a prisoner exchange after 18 months in captivity, Bond is shunned by British Secret Service head M (Judi Dench) in the belief he cracked under torture and gave up a British spy.
Labeled useless as a spy and held incommunicado aboard a Yankee ship in Hong Kong Harbor, Bond escapes, making his way first to a hotel luxury suite, then to Cuba in pursuit of an evil Korean killer, Zao (Rick Yune). At a Cuban beach bar, the tone and focus shift to more familiar territory. It is here Bond encounters Berry’s Jinx, a goddess rising from the sea in a tangerine bikini, an homage to Ursula Andress’ Venus-like appearance in “Dr. No,” the film that launched the series in 1962. Romantic sparks fly instantly, so much so that it’s hard to say who picks up whom.
The two break into and destroy a health clinic operating on an offshore island, where DNA transplants can change the identity of bad guys like the agile Zao. Then it’s off to the races with stopovers in London (for state-of-the-art rearmament), Iceland and back to North Korea. The film bifurcates its madman villain: A Col. Moon (Will Yun Lee) harasses Bond in Asia before the spy is confronted by mysterious businessman Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) and a secret doomsday weapon called Icarus. Only later do we realize the two men are connected.
The film’s liveliest sequence, which combines physical comedy with nimble athleticism, has Graves challenge Bond to a duel, a gentlemanly sword fight that escalates into all-out war. That warfare continues in Iceland, where Graves unveils Icarus before guests staying at his gigantic ice hotel on a frozen lake.
At this point, the stunts take over: There is hand-to-hand combat between Bond and a Maori henchman in a lab where laser cutters run amok; a deadly sunbeam sends Bond’s jet-powered ice yacht off a cliff into the sea below, where a falling glacier creates a mega-tsunami; and Zao’s Jaguar chases Bond’s Aston Martin on the frozen lake; then the Jag tails the Aston Martin up the ramps of the hotel through curtains of melting ice water as Bond races to rescue Jinx from drowning.
The problem with Bond at 20 is knowing when to climax. After the ice palace collapses, the movie feels over. Yet everyone heads back to North Korea for Icarus’ demolition of the DMZ and fierce combat between heroes and villains aboard a disintegrating Russian cargo plane. Unfortunately, audiences may be too fatigued to enjoy much of this. Competition among Bond directors and writers to top one another has provoked stupefying overkill.
Even more problematic is the series’ inability to create new heavies. These super-rich dudes with nice-guy facades masking an evil intent are getting old. Stephens struggles to make the new edition work, but Bond villains are beginning to look like the Boys From Brazil. Film newcomer Rosamund Pike as the ice princess in the ice palace displays athleticism and chilly sexuality, but the trite role hampers her.
As with all recent Bond movies, the real superheroes here are the legions of stunt performers and technicians who — along with Peter Lamont’s glittery sets, David Tattersall’s crisp cinematography and Lindy Hemming’s exuberant costumes — put together the thrill ride. That Brosnan and Berry have so little opportunity to develop their characters and relationship with each other is a shame. But the international market probably doesn’t understand the double-entendres anyway.