Now that the usual formalities are out of the way we finally approach the 007th Minute I’ve been waiting for since this project started. Without further ado you now get opinionated, articulate, fine-tuned-to-the-point-of-irony observations by Jacques Stewart.
Your own observations, comments, your personal defence or damnation of the film is welcome here.
I’m forty this year.
The… Mrs Jim (I struggle for an adjective adequate) has asked/told me how I want this marked. My initial answer – “not”, can’t make me, you’re not the boss of me (that’s a lie) – was met with her patented benev-iolence because the children want to “do something”. My wishes and “incidental” are in the same bit of the Venn diagram; whatever emerges has to involve the offspring in its organising (doubtless not in the “paying”) meaning they’re invited too. What utter bottom.
Therefore, a choice of:
- a family holiday away from “it all”, the brood ignoring their presence as a permanent feature of that bracket. Favoured suggestion is a bivouac in mid-Wales (where?) without telephone, television or internet. It has board games, meaning arguments, and books, meaning my sons won’t read them, and opportunities for mud, meaning I bet the boiler bursts. Straw Dogs beckons. I suppose we could pretend it was a temple in South Korea; or
- a New-Age retreat where one can detox the body and soul (it says here) and commune with one’s future through paradigms of guided holistic meditation (it also says here), perceptions of the developing One becoming a springboard into the next stage of life (it does go on a bit) and embracing the sort of inner peace and smug self-satisfaction that usually arises five minutes after a really satisfying vomit (it doesn’t say, but means); or
- sodding that for a load of old halleberries, blowing a stack of (my) cash and inviting everyone who’s ever heard of me around and spending far too long revisiting tired anecdotes of past glories, tales they’ve already heard n million times before, perhaps with a few flourishes to pretend they’re new, in the hope that it comes together as a unified whole but will probably spiral totally beyond control and fizzle out well before its end, leaving all those who witnessed it in denial, upset and dissatisfied.
None are fitly defined by the phrase “a good idea”. The first is boring and I know we’ll end up cannibalising each other. It’ll be “Devon 2005” all over again: tchoh! The second is patently going to involve scented candles and is probably a front for pushing “relaxation herbs”. The third is Die Another Day and not so much a fortieth birthday party as a wake.
Which it is.
They were killing off the “James Bond” we knew/they were bored of making, and inviting us to the world’s most outrageously gem-dripped post-dispatch piss-up. Mix me a mojito, pass round the individual pork pies and let’s reminisce with a moistened eye about how fine it used to be. Self-indulgence excused because we’re still in shock about witnessing it collapse in front of us last time out, overstretched, wheezy and attempting things way beyond its strength and ability, painful exertions it wouldn’t have dared try (or needed to) at half its age.
140 gazillion dollars spent on (at best) questionable artistic decisions, DAD is a costly public euthanasia solution (I would have gone for the pillow and/or canine bolt-gun option) but disappearing up its own AFRICAN CONFLICT DIAMOND-encrusted backside is possibly still cheaper than disappearing into a warehouse on a Swiss industrial estate. Plumping for Indignitas instead, it’s not a celebration, it’s a commemoration. Commiseration, maybe.
The series had keeled over and its damp corpse was being nimbly – if jitteringly – stepped over by The Bourne Improvement. With this sort of rubbish, Eon left the door wide open for it to do so. Barbara Broccoli is on record that September 11th 2001 changed everything, but DAD was filmed after that. I know these things take years to develop but questionable not to reconsider the approach whilst filming; the “Making of” indicates that much outlandish stuff came about as they went along. Whilst it’s noble of Ms Broccoli to react, I suspect it’s the events of June 14th 2002 that really made them wonder, waking to the realisation that it was too late to reverse decisions on the DNA replacement therapy, Bond stopping his heart, the dialogue, the invisible car and the CGI kite-surfing, all that money blown and Matt Damon in an old Mini had just driven right through the whole sorry circus. Why bother? So they didn’t. DAD’s lasting impression is as a series end filler clip show where, surprised that it’s gone on so long, they forgot to commission a script and just have people sit around foreshadowing “best bits” by saying “D’you remember that time when…”, mould passed off as fresh. There was nothing left to chivvy from the bottom of the barrel.
As such, prescient (as well as ghastly) the Madonna person’s “song” may well have proven. She does appear to be ahead of her time, albeit her archaeologically intriguing appearance in this film suggests her time was February 1564. They were going to close the body down. They were going to wake up. They were going to find another way. It was their time to go and there was so much more to know. They were going to avoid the cliché. They were going to deeee-Lay pleasure, at least for another four years. They were going to break the cy-Kel and shake up the sys-Tem. It’s just that they had these things screeched at us one film too early. Consistently premature ejaculations, those lyrics. Sigmund Freud, analyse that. Why casting Daniel Craig took enraged dimbulbs by surprise is, accordingly, a mystery: the producers had made a two-hour film demonstrating all that was wrong in so overblown a manner that no-one in their right mind would clamour for more of the same, and even commissioned a (sort of) song about their intentions. What more clues could people possibly need? When the” tune” is repeated at the end of the grim spectacle, it’s reassurance that they now have all this addled gunk out of their collective sys-Tem, they’re about to undergo (ahem) DNA replacement therapy themselves and they will never again emit anything quite as cacky.
Die Another Day has its enthusiasts, as do caravan holidays, cider and serial killers, but it does appear for many to have become the series’ whipping chap very swiftly, the consensus seeming to be that this is the point at which the Bond films jumped the shark/surfed the tsunami. I have some reservations with that status. It’s not as miserable as its immediate predecessor, nor as arthritic as A View to a Kill and, unlike Licence to Kill, they remembered to give us some pretty pictures to gawp at. You’ll note I’m only venturing to compare it with its own kind, however. As I have come to bury DAD and not praise it, I’m not suggesting that it will, in due course, achieve the wider public “rehabilitation” of OHMSS and (to a lesser, but more special, extent) Moonraker. Perhaps the latter benefits from childhood nostalgia, but it has great charm. This has much noise. It’s not going to happen.
That may have something to do with being the first Bond of the mass-access internet age and therefore the first new one open to the greatest benefit bestowed upon creative ventures by the World Wide Web: unaccountable anonymous abuse typo-shouted by those who would otherwise be experiencing electricity as a seating solution, or trying to lick it. It is a truth universally acknowledged – or at least a truth poorly punctuated – that Die Another Day is an unmitigated scabhole and anyone disagreeing with this is a liberal AIDSworm, with AIDS. It’s a long road back from the onslaught of the received wisdom of the enraged. It may never recover.
Let it never recover: what the hyperbole masks is that it is indeed pretty poor. It might be a reasonably good “James Bond film” within the meaning of that creative prison – more on that in due course – but it’s a fascinatingly terrible, cynical film when compared with anything other than the limited clichés of its series. One wonders whether this was becoming annoying. All that money spent on it, a “name” director and even getting With Special Guest Star Halle Berry in there, and they knew going in that the fruit of their creative endeavours would still only ever be regarded as better or worse than “other Bond films”, films ignored as mechanical product rather than artistically merited and flapping about in their little, little puddle. Such debate as DAD generates is of its merits as a Bond film. It would seem ludicrous to begin to compare its qualities to those of the major films of 2002 such as Hart’s War, Scooby-Doo and Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, whereas the likes of Casino Royale and Skyfall are capable of going toe-to-toe on lists of the Ten Best Films of their given year and not be laughed out of the reckoning. Evaluating DAD as entertainment where the benchmark is any film ever made other than its 19 brethren, it’s a catastrophe: a DUD.
D’you see what I did there? An interesting acronym, “DAD”. Perhaps serendipity, but in reheating their father’s Bondily output (producing bodily output instead), it serves only to remind one how special many of those were – entirely at this film’s expense. Praising their father by trying something as outlandish as You Only Live Twice or Moonraker and – this must be the case, little else explains it – deliberately failing, shows the world that, absolutely, Nobody Could Do It Better Not Even His Own Family; oh gosh, what a “disaster”. Tsk, eh? “Oh dear”. Guess for Bond 21 then we’ll just have do our own thing; unleash Wroughton the blond ape boy! An unusual tactic, one I wouldn’t recommend my own children to adopt, but maybe that’s how billionaires behave. DADdy issues. Oi, Sigmund, got another one for yer over here. It certainly makes some of the weaker Bonds shine in comparison, which will up their value next time the television rights are negotiated. It’s a business, not a donkey charity. It must be hard trying to continually flog a back catalogue millions of people have already seen numerousteen times. A deliriously inane loss-leader pumped with all your most feeble ideas is a ballsy way of renewing interest and sympathy for what has gone before. But still a DUD. It’s certainly not close to most of DAD’s films. Given its end-of-era purposes, how about DEAD? Inserting an E might not be wise: Die Another Day evinces taking far too many already.
If it stands for anything – if it stands at all, last legs collapsing under exhausted, saggy, gunbarrelly bore-O-flab – DEAD is testament to the power of the word no, and how impactful it becomes when it’s not said as a check on very stupid ideas, or as a safe-word release from otherwise consensual torture. Let’s play a little game, more skill than knowledge. Lie back, my lovely darling, and use your judgment to insert “no” at the appropriate juncture, perhaps just when you feel it starting to chafe your brain. I shall grumpire.
The villain has wholesale DNA replacement therapy, which in even the scantest understanding of a totally impossible and silly thing, would mean that he surely (er… somehow) grows an entirely new brain; however, his memory remains completely intact and is capable of holding a bizarre conversation about Donald Campbell.
(…I’m waiting… Well, to give you credit, I went in several levels above the usual start, the gentler, ticklier stages of “I’ve been known to keep my tip up/ Big Bang theory/Cock fight/It’s very hard, isn’t it?/Keep it in” followed by They’ve only got one missile and they nicked that from Tomorrow Never Dies, building up to James Bond stops his heart through the power of flashback and then restarts it immediately and he’s suddenly at top fighting strength rather than a complete vegetable and climaxing with John Cleese is a really, really great idea: yeah? … OK, your call I suppose… moving on, with a heavy sigh…)
The villain, within the space of 14 months, has been absorbed into British society and knighted despite being a non-Russian Billionaire Johnny Foreigner. Assuming that the film is deemed to take place in or around November 2002, the last Honours list would have been the previous June, giving him roughly 9 months in which to have achieved this: no-one appears to notice or suspect anything.
(…surely you’d stop at this stage? Most people flick their wrist gun into the “device” at this point. They claim it’s a wrist “gun” anyway. Playing it cool, eh? Right…)
14 months of scorpion venom torture, face/ice interface scenarios, execrable music and amusing beard growth can be shaved away by a quick go on a Global Product Partner’s latest shavey thingummy, and then never mentioned again lest that suggest the Global Product Partner’s consumer good is actually quite poor.
(…you’re a glutton for punishment. I have done my best to warn you. You’re on your own now. From hereon in, it gets really violent…)
The villain invites Bond to Iceland for no feasible reason whatsoever; he just “does”. Had this invitation not been extended, the notorious second half of DEAD could have been entirely avoided.
(…c’mon, you “no” you want to. Hmm. Seriously? …okaaayyy…)
In Iceland, James Bond gets into a fight with a man called Mr Kil who attempts to “Kil” him with a very pointy hair grip.
(…you’re trying my patience… will you yield – in time? …)
At one point James Bond makes his escape from the villain’s clutches in a rocket car, pursued by the villain’s Death Laser From Space, which is controlled by a big glove.
(…go on, surely anyone with any sense would say “no” at this point?… tell you what, if you say “yes” I’ll interpret that as “no”. It’ll be better for the both of us. Should have said that to Mrs Jim just before I proposed, so take this as the voice of bitter experience… aw, c’mon, you’re not playing fair. OK, if you must, but I really cannot be esponsible for the consequences of your actions; continue at your own risk…)
James Bond escapes certain death by turning into Horace Goes Skiing, surfing a tidal wave and returning to the villain’s big ice palace and destroying bits of it with his INVISIBLE CAR.
(…you’re Lee Tamahori, aren’t you? Nice bra. You’re not? Nice bra, nonetheless. OK, how about one blink for yes, two blinks for no. Was that a second blink or just your usual inbred squint? You really are playing hard to get, aren’t you, you big old flirt? OK then, time for a big one…)
(…God, stop screaming. Sssh! You’ll wake the kids: their cellar door is only so thick. Still, you held out a long time. Not bad. Not bad at all. There was only one level left, but I won’t tell you precisely what it was as it’s too upsetting to be transcribed and, if you have parental filter on your internetter, it’ll never get through. Described in person-friendly terms, it starts with a priddy lay-dee waggling in from the sea in the director’s bikini and ends with her doing squirtyjiggledance with an equivalently-breasted “frisky” ex-hostage of a certain age and uncertain shape whilst – very mysteriously – eating a fig. Everything that happens and everything – everything – that’s said in between those two moments would give Torquemada the runnytums and you’d opt instead for being waterboarded in perpetuity by a psychotic hick whose first overseas cultural trip is to murder shepherds).
That’s not an anti- With Special Guest Star Halle Berry thing; she’s a priddy lay-dee and demonstrates competence in some films what she dood. Evidence though it is of desperation to cast With Special Guest Star Halle Berry and shove her on the posters in an attempt to scoop up more demographics, it’s an error. Society has “developed” and they’ve been letting even women and Americans watch these films for a few years now. The major problem with yet another weak American Bond girl – they’re all a bit “off” – is that there’s no character. Even Stacey Sutton had a dead grandfather to enthral us with, and a degree, although that may have been cut out of a colouring book about cats. We know nothing about Jinx at the start – save that she’s a bit of a corker – and even less by the end other than she is in some way “bad”; not disagreeing but I suspect we’re at cross-purposes. The watertight evidence for this is…
Nope. If one takes the view that Bond films are not about introspective back-story but character proven through actions – how existentialist of you, you clever old button – OK then, what actually does Jinx do? She doesn’t engineer Bond into the clinic – he was going there anyway. She doesn’t get him to Iceland – he was also going there anyway, even if Graves’ impromptu invitation is most odd, and Bond was capable of getting into North Korea without her. They may have come up with a Bond Girl that you could remove wholesale from the “story” without impact, save sparing us some brainburstingly bad dialogue. A school of “thought” has an alternative (ahem) “reading” of Die Another Day as a Jinx film into which Bond has wandered. It’s he who just “turns up” now and again without any plausible explanation other than to look pretty, hit people and say Very Bad Things. There’s probably a two hour “Jinx’s side of the story when not onscreen” film on the Die Another Day Special Edition DVD (if it were that special, it’d have Thunderball on it). Whilst that’s amusing, parallels colliding, the fun only lasts until the reality dawns that you really don’t want to see either of these hollow ciphers of nothingness ever again. She’s a bantersome American agent with a forced sense of humour. Patently DAD’s “homage” to Norman Burton’s Leiter. Including the bikini.
At best, Jinx is a device to trigger Bond’s heroism; the perpetual need for rescue questions her competence and makes you wonder what the other 19 Jinx films were like. Without her, all he does is wearily amble around soundstages. Without With Special Guest Star Halle Berry to haul out of trouble, Bond’s urgency in “gur-Ing Af-TAAA HIM! (wobbles finger, beard, teats) is soupy, not a roaring rampage of revenge but a mild middle-aged meander of miff. He doesn’t even kill cacklewitch Miranda Frost – Jinx’s only contribution, robbing Bond of catharsis – but by then, like the audience, he’s probably forgotten about his incarceration. Stands to reason: he’s had at least three shaves since. It doesn’t need the talent of With Special Guest Star Halle Berry to “play” Jinx. The inside of a loo roll with a smiley face crayoned on it (and in an orange bikini) would have the same impact, not be required to deliver appalling lines and is probably less likely to keep getting itself captured. Whether it would generate Bond’s absurd ejaculato-face (his mandible’s wobbly: is he having a stroke?) depends on how he would use it, I s’pose. Much has been written (inaccurately) about the vacuous female characters in Bond but I can’t think of any less significant to a film. Even the likes of Kissy helped Bond’s “disguise”, Melina’s handy with a crossbow (could do with DADdy Bond’s magic shaver, though) and Octopussy has a smashing dressing gown. Jinx is the nadir of Bond girls, and plays wholesale to the lazy criticism, the producers going eyeball-to-eyeball with the critics and hollering that the lazy, often untrue, stuff they’ve written for years about vapid characters, inane plots and self-reverential indulgence– well it’s all here! It was ALL TRUE! You were right all along! Mu-wah-haha. DAD isn’t made for the fans: it’s made to flatter-to-deceive the critics, softening them up to turn the tables so dramatically next time around. What a tangled web.
In the Bert Broccoli days, they promised – a.k.a. lied – for years about the lead female role in the next Bond emission being “independent and a real Bond equivalent”, or some such. In DUD, to show what a really bad idea that is, they gave us it. Jinx is independent, or at least unconnected to anything other than what we witness her do on screen and when the film ends, so does she. That’s not a million miles away from the waffer-theen James Bond. He exists to keep the adventure going – there has to be a human being there, a bag of radishes wouldn’t look right – but outside of that, is little save a suit, some watches and a gun: cue credits. What the DAD Bond and Jinx do might be interesting; what they are is not. Jinx can fight as well as Bond, kill as well as Bond, quip as appallingly as Bond, when a daring but ridiculous escape is called for she can mutate herself into unconvincing pixels just like Bond, is as unaffected by torture and “events” as Bond, wears expensive clothes and drives a nice car like Bond, and has a spiky relationship with her boss like Bond. (S)he is Bond. And (s)he’s a bore. With two equally malnourished characters, the Broccoli offspring expunge through DAD any residual desire to give us a “female equivalent” of this James Bond– because Jinx is what you get. I’m not asserting that they’ve given up on the idea but the modern idiom of “a female Bond” is Camille’s parallels with the Craig Bond – a secret agent disturbed by the calling, not fond of killing but eminently capable, bitterly wounded by past experience and teetering on the edge of losing it completely. Whatever one thinks of those attributes, at least they exist. DAD’s use of Jinx to reflect beat-for-beat, pun-for-pun, the emptiness of James Bond is quite devastating. That it’s the producers of the Bond films doing it is thrillingly insane. The self-hatred going on in DUD drips off the screen. Either that or it’s the product of massive egos – not wholly deee-Stroyed those, then – asserting that even if you hate the film, you cannot hate it more than we already do. We win! And thank you for your lovely money.
By the time the 007th minute lumbers into view, inflicted upon us is a Bond theme played on Mr Arnold’s kitchen implements and James Bond firing a bullet (slowly) down the barrel of a gun several yards away. I’m not going to pretend to contemplate whether that’s possible: what it shows is the producers being as bored by the gunbarrel as normal people should be, and a desire to muck about with it. C’mon, Team Whine, it’s as plain as day. What did you think was going to happen? They spent $142 million exploding it in your face, and you didn’t notice? OK, basic stuff that’ll help you: deodorant is not a luxury, a jam jar is not a glass, that matter in your navel is not a meal and you’re not allowed to think those things about your sister. We’ll move onto more sophisticated stuff – breathing – when I determine whether it’s in anyone else’s interests to let you know about it.
Meanwhile, in a part of North Cornwall played by Pinewood Studios, Mr Brosnan flaps ashore whilst local residents hose him down and wait for the Coastguard to drag a noble creature back to deeper water, or put it out of our misery and crack him over the head with a shovel. Clear demonstration of a post-9/11 scaling back/unwillingness to fly anywhere that this film appears to be about stopping a Cornish civil war generated by a loony hiding out in the Eden Project. This is a homage to the dankly British alternate reality A View to a Kill: see its 007th minute, if you can stomach awful rubbish. That you persist with Bond films suggests you can.
We’re shown something we haven’t seen in a Bond film – surfing – and something we should never see in a Bond film – surfing. One wonders about it as a stealth mechanism; its characteristic as a “sport” is “showing off”. It’s a homage to A View to a Kill, where Uncle Rog and Tibbett creep around Zorin’s lab through the medium of ribbon gymnastics. The surfing goes on a long time – I think we’re meant to be impressed – so save for Bond coming across a briefcase that can take a block of C4 and a tray of AFRICAN CONFLICT DIAMONDS – a stroke of luck – and an amusing kickbag skit to introduce Colonel Moon (who doesn’t look particularly Cornish, but that reveals my ignorance of Bude’s thriving North Korean quarter a.k.a. the whole of Bude), sod all in abundance happens until Bond arrives at a washed-out, grim, military hellhole (Aldershot) transformed by set design and digital grading into a washed-out, grim, military hellhole (still Aldershot; I think the film wants us to believe it’s Newquay “International” Airport but it just isn’t sufficiently grotty; nice try, though).
We “meet” Zao, the campest creation since May Day. Same purpose, ineffectual high-fashion love-puppet for demented villain. At least he’s Korean, sorry, Cornish, with those lovely cheekbones and tousled hair nurtured by bracing costal walks and nocturnal rough ‘n’ tumble on Bodmin Moor. The other soldiers – fetching bandanas designed by Colonel Moon – don’t look indigenous, although they may have been bussed in from Exeter. Both Mr Kil and Zao introduce themselves in the same manner: I wonder where Mr Kil picked that up? Where you spending your nights, cheekboner boy? Colonel Moon’s definitely going to need a new anger therapist when he finds out. I can see why though: Kil does have a divine collection of hair slides.
Something something something about Western (Scilly Isles) hypocrisy yeah yeah but Whitey Still Wins This One. A bit of a sop to “waking up to the World” and all the Bad Doods out there in Foreignistan who were all suddenly born in 2001 and want to destroy Western culture (the culture that produces Die Another Day… um) but it sounds a bit odd given forty years of a British agent being well aware of the other countries of the world, because he’s murdered people in practically all of them. Along with serial resource-rapist capitalist scumbag Robert King, Oxford chalks up another badhat in Colonel Moon. The admissions policy needs work: the greatest threat to peace and harmony isn’t Quantum or SPECTRE, it’s Keble College. Figures. Floating over the minefield “pun” – shoot him! – we’re told it’s America’s cultural contribution. What, that and Dude Looks Like A Lady? My, they have been busy. Let’s ignore the point that Bond’s capture following Moon’s plunge from a model waterfall, and another wretched pun, shows that not only can a hovercraft float over landmines but so can a truck, and pay more attention to a bit of Colonel Moon’s dialogue being muted out: presumably it gave away “the Cornish” when he referred to Bond as “Mr van Bierk! moi luvver”. He’s not your luvver. Zao, however, rather obviously is.
Let’s see, then, what can be brung unto us by just a 007th minute. Clement Freud, analyse this.
0.06.00 – 0.07.00 Die Another Day
The AFRICAN CONFLICT DIAMONDS handed over, Zao is all manly and gruff when he orders them checked out, quickly. He hasn’t told anyone yet about the sneaky picky he’s taken of Mr van Bierk on his telephone, hee hee hee. He’ll enjoy that later. Nor has he wondered why this van Bierk doesn’t sound remotely southern African – or anything readily identifiable – but then you don’t get many Boers west of the Tamar.
We haven’t had a soul-destroying pun for at least three seconds. “Don’t blow it all at once”. Ah, there you are. As you were, everyone, as you were. We don’t see Zao’s eye-rolling reaction to this quadruple-entendre, but that’s because of the MPAA (a familiar reference for those unsure about the Keble College one, above, although with that level of intellect, you’d get into Keble College, no worries. Probably to teach).
Cheekbone-Tousle-GemBoy seems to be wearing a ferret around his neck. This is a homage to Melina Havelock’s moustache. We’re told by Colonel Moon that he has “special plans” for this consignment of AFRICAN CONFLICT DIAMONDS: he’s going to buy Zao an ice-cream in Padstow. He’s not expecting change.
Zao logs onto Twitter – it’s so fab for hot goss – and Mr Snowden’s only gone and ruined Bond’s day, hasn’t he? The scunner. Pierce looks around, for escape. #brosnanworriedfacenumberone. No. Pierce, you signed the contract so you now have to do and say these appalling things. Sorry.
Zao gives Moon a come-hither look. Hm. They do seem to understand each other very well, these young gentlemen friends. It’s probably all the drinking and football and burrrdds and uniforms and eyeliner and AFRICAN CONFLICT DIAMONDS and other manifestations of butch.
“His name is James Bond, a British assassin”. #brosnanworriedfacenumbertwo. So worried, he might actually be doing a number two (he’s getting on). Still, in that suit, no-one would notice for a bit. He does look raddled, and this is before application of toxic arachnids (Madonna). His hair, a swept-back, slick badgery mane, is a homage to Christopher Lee’s in The Man with the Golden Gun: science fact! It’s definitely the same hair; they probably keep it in the Pinewood ‘fridge along with [redacted: defamatory]’s cocaine and [redacted: even more defamatory]’s crystal meth and [redacted: reaches for thesaurus]’s mum.
Man looks at diamonds closely. #brosnanworriedfacenumberthree. Come on, plot, hurry up or he’ll run out of #brosnanworriedfaces and start singing and then we’re really in the [Aldershot]. Colonel Moon isn’t impressed by what Zao’s just said, bit like that time he insisted it was Moon’s turn to cook dinner, do the bins and take Rumsfeld along the lane for his evening widdle.
They had to cut out Zao’s reaction to Colonel Moon standing there proudly waving his massive shooter around. Ban this sick filth now. Interesting judgment call to retain the terrified, non-blinking soldiers standing around Moon, though. Look on every face of fearing that it’ll be “The Naughty Game” after lights out. Mr Arnold’s music is subtly hinting that there’s summat wrong, moi luvver. This’ll teach you to go inland, you grockle. We don’t loike strangers in these parrrrrts. I’m not sure, but am pretty confident that during the course of the film, Mr Arnold has a bash at every instrument known to man and some he invented himself, such as hitting glue with a carrot, and fondling cress.
Moon shoots off at Bond’s chopper. I suspect I’m missing a subtext somewhere. BOOM! However, pre-BOOM, odd thing happens (yes, it’s a film maw-crammed with odd, but this is). Just as the helicopter explodes behind Bond – you’d notice it happening if you were there – the two soldiers behind him dive for cover and Zao moves to restrain Bond/cop a quick feel and yet Mr Brosnan is stood absolutely dead still. ‘Tis odd. After all, Bond has seen Moon aim his gun. Perhaps he’s getting old and the reflexes aren’t what they were. Certainly, he does nothing to slap Zao’s hand away despite “going for Bond’s gun” (a likely story) down the right-hand side when it’s readily apparent two seconds later that Bond dresses to the left. I suppose it’s nice to have attention from such a strapping lad.
Remembering that he’s being paid to appear (I did initially write “act”, but… no), Mr Brosnan launches into a series of hilarious #brosnanstrugglingfaces that, on a frame-by-frame basis, are the absolute highlight of the film. Seriously – wow your friends, scare your children and reassure yourself that it was never to happen again.
Zao points his gun at Bond’s head but in the next shot, his chunky, loaded shooter is at Bond’s chin. Where’s it going to end up next? Whilst I let you imagine that, you scamp, we reach
And Zao ends up with diamonds in his face, runs about with his shirt off, tries to ram Bond right up the Aston and is crushed to death by a chandelier, none of which helps quell the rumours one bit.
Amazingly, the 007th minute appears in the first half of the film (science fact!) and it seems to be a generally held/shouted view that the first half of Die Another Day is fine and “it all goes wrong” in Iceland and thereafter. The first half of Die Another Day is not fine. That it is not as bad as the second half is not an endorsement, any more than suggesting Pol Pot’s was a nicer form of genocide than Hitler’s. The first, intellect-shrivelling hour of DEAD gives us:
– surfing. Think about that; a simple yet terrifying sentence. James Bond goes surfing. Where did he learn how to do that? Was it when a British public schoolboy in Cornwall itself (no wonder we should all fear it), popping the collar of his Sea Island cotton polo shirt and hanging around Rock talking about how he and Toby have this ‘mazing idea for an internet media node, Torquil’s pa’s got this, ya, space yeah? in Hoxton and it’s going to be, y’know, cool. James Bond. Surfing. No. That it happens twice (sort of) is just taking the piss.
– the incumbent writers’ propensity to tell us things that have happened off-screen – e.g. what a bad old egg Zao is – without showing us any of it (one would have thought they had learned their lesson from TWINE’s persistent chatter about Renard’s beastliness, and then we find out he’s a wee ickle midger, with a droopy eye). Zao comes across as largely harmless and the most menacing thing about him is his refusal to burst out laughing derisively at his boyfriend’s pwonunciation of “dweam machine”, presumably DAD’s homage to David Essex. Perhaps if he cracks a smile some of his bling drops off. Or, because his “DNA replacement therapy” was interrupted, a limb.
– Madonna. Opening her mouth. Like the surfing, twice. Like the surfing, no. Some years ago I think I described her definitive interpretation of the challenging role of “Verity: a horny lesbian” as looking like a particularly whiskery ferret peering through a mophead. I acknowledge now that this comment was unfair as it was more about her look than her performance, so I should set the record straight. She looks like a particularly whiskery ferret peering through a mophead, and she can’t act. Happy to clarify.
– James Bond’s mutant power is stopping his heart and then starting it again and zooming orf. Presumably this is a homage to the mechanical reliability of a 1964 Aston Martin DB5. It’s certainly not a homage to sense. How do we get Bond out of this scrape? No idea. Sod it, let’s just have him die for three seconds, then wake up and have the strength to fight his way out. I know it’s ludicrous but no-one’s going to be giving this much hope, are they? I mean, did you see that bit where Bourne beat up those policemen in the park? We can’t compete with that. It’s Podgers Brosnan, remember?
– the unintelligible dialogue experiment that takes place in “on a Havana rooftop” (midtown Polzeath) between two men hammering away at words and noises and seeing what comes out, sorta free-form latin jazz mixed with something mildly desecratory; Buena Vista Seal Club. “I Wurrnndernt ASK! Youtobe-TRAy your CoUN-tree”. Erm, half past eleven? No idea.
– personal trauma can be shaved away and then never mentioned again. I wonder if this is how he got over Tracy? Albeit Diamonds are Forever suggests that was achieved through comfort eating.
– Cleese. The Holodeck. The Q scene. The introduction of the invisible car. More giddy pleasure is derived from your Labrador contracting the Ebola virus, and then demonstrating this all over the duvet. Similar sort of impact.
– the performances by the “reporters” outside Buckingham Palace. Dreadful. Some leeway given on the basis that Madonna turns up in the very next scene and achieves being even worse, but still: clucking bell. Die Another Day’s homage to the critical myth that too many Bond films have truly awful acting in them. Query whether that’s something to “celebrate”, though.
– Bond meets Jinx. Wow, now there’s a mouthful. Of hot vomit.
– the Dench M telling us that whilst he was “away” (he wasn’t on holiday, you heartless cow: he was in Perranporth Butlin’s), the world changed. Really? What happened? Given the euphemism, a couple of troubling thoughts emerge. One: despite the calamitous Western security failures, the Dench M is still in a job? Perhaps she has the key to the booze cabinet. Not sure the female M was a successful recognition of the feminist revolution: she can only do her job when blitzed out of her brain. The Lee M never needed that, even refusing the booze on one occasion. The Dench would have been necking Sir Donald Munger’s sherry (not a euphemism) from the bottle, claiming “I need it, I can handle it, it makes me work, I’m in control” and then going and doing something daft like reciting poetry or sporting bad scarves. Secondly, are we in very dark territory of suggesting that Bond could have stopped it? Admittedly, they don’t quite go this far, and just as well. James Bond is a fictional character.
Still, the Rubyeon joke is quite good, the torture is amusing (if totally inconsequential), the sword fight is fun and that makes about eight minutes, all told. If I could bring myself to watch the second hour of DEAD at any point (I haven’t for years, I just believe what the internet says about it, it’s a much easier way to review something, as lots of folks found when it came to Quantum of Solace), I doubt the overall aggregate would reach double figures.
One thing to look back on, though, is that it’s an unbelievable eleven years since Die Another Day was unleashed. I recall that my reaction at the time (once over the trembling) was to commence a thread (eaten by forum upgrades, thankfully) that was abuse masquerading as a massively contrived concept; in this case, a Die Another Day A-Z (pronounced, it appears, Zee… America’s cultural contribution…). In method, Bond has moved on, massively. I patently have not. The mistake one made at the time was to fear that this was where the series would go. No. The clues are all there, perhaps with some reconstruction through subsequent events but there’s enough in the film to make the hypothesis stand: they were going to club us over the head with BOND!, let us rest awhile, and then kiss us gently awake from the nightmare to an apple-blossomed dawn. The BOND! stuff is patently all over the screen at various points, the homages coming thick and thicker, but insofar as they were trying to be true to their legacy, I should make an effort and try to be try to my concept as well.
You’ve probably forgotten, I wish I had, that up above, somewhere, I postulated that DUD may actually be a pretty good James Bond film. They tried to do it by homages such as Bond setting off a jetpack underground – he’s still an idiot – or the American authority characters being very stupid and aggressive. Odd to do this when GioldenEye did the same – running through the legacy only a couple of films later couldn’t suggest creative emptiness, could it? Perish the thought. Still in a homage to that (the creative emptiness, not GoldenEye), some of the descriptions below look damnably familiar as I trudge my way through establishing whether this film hits the spots its predecessors’ exemplar 007th minutes demonstrated:
Dr No: peril to British interests (Bond?) in a foreign land (Cornwall). High living (give it some due, DUD does look flashy most of the time). Sophisticated hero – the usual trappings are there. Half a point as it’s not clear what threat there is to the British in all of this, save covering up for giving yet another crook a knighthood.
From Russia with Love: the parallel villainy. Graves tells Bond this explicitly, even if it’s a bit puzzling to claim that he based himself on Bond. Comes across more as the obnoxious trust-fund braying hooray kicking about his beloved Cornwall to me. Perhaps a bit book-Bondy in his “not being very nice”? Still, that’s avoiding the point: this Bond/villain/Bond stuff is also evidently here. Big point.
Goldfinger: plentiful attempted cheekiness in DAD, albeit poor dialogue is the sole method of delivery once you’ve stopped goggling at how With Special Guest Star Halle Berry walks. Perhaps after nineteen previous goes, we could all the jokes coming. Perhaps, by calling one of your characters Mr Kil and another Miranda Frost, you drove them at us with headlights full-beam. A qualified recognition: Die Another Day tries to be funny, but fails to be witty. Half a point.
Thunderball: teeter on the edge of simply becoming wild, but have the grace to know when you’re about to go just that step too far. Bond/Jinx meeting. Bond/Verity dialogue. #brosnancomeface. Arguably too far over the edge? Tipped by the wave-surf, without doubt, but it didn’t need much pushing. It’s not a very subtle film, is it? As the point of the Thunderball 007th minute was that it just goes to point n but stays so very, very closely within the wire this side of the minefield, this one just tramples all over the wire and everything blows up in its bloated face. No points here.
You Only Live Twice: amidst nonsense, reflective moments. They try. They do try. The opportunity was there, with Bond betrayed and abandoned and generally feeling a bit miz. They shaved him, stripping him Samson-like of the strength of finally coming up with something new for him to be. Then they showed us John Cleese and an Aston Martin. One of these you can’t see. It’s the wrong one. Quarter of a point, to reflect the proportion of the film in which anything’s tolerable.
OHMSS: break the fourth wall. G’an, sniff that shoe. Not enough? Kite-surf right through the bastard, that’ll do. One point for doing it, point taken off for how it’s done.
Diamonds are Forever: seek solace in old standards when in a time of crisis. “Is largely what appears on screen”. It’s the end of the pier show, folks, let’s bring ‘em all out on stage for the big finale reprise of your favourites! All the old gang is here! M’s got booze! Q’s got … whatever, don’t care! Moneypenny’s got her man at last! Robinson’s got some lines! Even if it’s not a good idea, they did it. One point.
Live and Let Die: …but you can try to spin the old discs a different way now and again. They all look slightly different than last time! Bond grows a beard and, having read the script, goes into hiding! Oh no, sorry. Half a point: such novelties as there are, are distracting (a Holodeck? Really?) and, for some of the things they tried to change, either they, the audience or their microprocessors were not sufficiently ready. Point.
The Man with the Golden Gun: twisted villains, freaks. Yep, well, whatever one may think of MoonGraves and Zao in terms of impact, logic and motivation, they are quite unusual people. But then people from Cornwall are, so it’s arguably a documentary. One point.
The Spy who Loved Me: spectacle is nothing to be scared of. Unless it’s created in a computer. Still, we do go into Outer Space at one point, and lots of the Iceland material was patently intended to look huge (even if for various reasons, the execution is seriously lacking). Whereas the previous film was located in a series of tubes and tunnels, this goes broad and showy. Feeling generous. A point.
Moonraker: not sure what conclusion I came to with Moonraker’s 007th minute, given that it was a run through a title sequence; for that matter, so was For Your Eyes Only. DUD’s titles are a highlight, though, cleverly done and all fire and ice and scorpions and Mr Brosnan getting smacked about. This promised much: undelivered. For that, you score nil, and you’re lucky to get that.
Octopussy: dodgy special effects can undermine one’s ambition. We all know what this is about. I’m sure Mr Brosnan’s beard is fake. Point.
A View to a Kill: hey, we’re modern and ting. James Bond is da bomb (is that what young people say?) = Madonna. Horrible though it is, it’s there. A point. Point. Like “tip”. Or “prick”.
The Living Daylights: don’t be afraid of roughing your lead up. Got to give him credit, that does appear to be Mr Brosnan playing “North Cornwall applebob” (we can’t afford apples) in the credits sequence. Bit autopiloty after being asked to walk around in moist jimjams (he’s getting old), but definitely a point here. A good sport, particularly in the purposes of a terrible film. Actually, two points just for that.
Licence to Kill: sometimes it can veer into making Bond look inadvertently ridiculous. If I’ve read Eon’s intentions correctly, this appears to be the purpose of the film. Point.
GoldenEye: we’ll have a gay old time. Just as DAD nicks GoldenEye’s “legacy” mood, so it steals its 007th minute too. Don’t you “point” that thing at me, young man.
Tomorrow Never Dies: let’s go totally over the top and make our explosions the biggest explosions of anyone’s explosions. Yeah, stuff “blows up”, extraordinary amounts, really, including an aeroplane that takes about twenty minutes to do so. Point, but it’s not really an achievement, is it?
TWINE: your leading man’s most daring escape is with his personal dignity. Well, almost. Few too many occasions he looks weary (the ostensible reason that “Bond’s recovering from torture and 14 months in Cornwall” not really holding water given the ease with which he does so). “But he should of had a fif’th one”, “write” some. Dunno: after two Greatest Hits releases in seven years (invariably a sign that the juices have dried up), and opportunities to do both action spectacle and “terrifically good dramatic acting about Stockholm Syndrome”, what more could there have been for the Brosnan era to say? What would this mystical “fifth Brosnan” have given us? Advocates suggest there would have been a pattern in moving from a Moonraker to a For Your Eyes Only, presumably being the suggestion of going from daft to deadly serious and thrilling. There are two problems with this. Firstly, Senator, I knew Moonraker. Die Another Day, you’re no Jack Kennedy. Secondly, For Your Eyes Only is inane, lazy and moribund. Why would you want this? “But they should of given him one more”. Why? To get it right? They’d spent about $600 million trying already. Are you saying the four Brosnans aren’t that good, then…? I’m confused.
So, racking up quite a few points on the Bondometer, there. Not that great a surprise, of course, but then little about DUD comes as surprising; what happened next, though…
We’ll never really know the ins and outs of how Pierce Brosnan left/was ejected from the series – the internet has, however, determined its own truth about who treated whom very badly, and upon such watertight truths religions are founded, so with that benchmark it’s not very surprising that arguments about the motives of the makers of specious entertainment won’t get resolved, either. He does look pretty bored in this one. Maybe a stackload of cash would have cheered him up next time around but it’s likely it would have had a valedictory air about it – which Die Another Day had more than enough of, frankly. Just as with Greatest Hits albums, there can be only so many farewell tours to try to flog them. As the pixels danced about the icebergs, surely we knew it was Game Over?
That A-Z thing I mentioned; I gave up at T. I now recall one of the “U”s I had in mind was that Die Another Day was the umami of the Bond series, a hard to define taste, not easy to put one’s finger on, and not for all. I would have been very wrong. Whilst contrivance could have made that label stick to DUD, with its challenging bouquet of the wet fermented stuff sloshing around the bottom of the bin, it would have been a waste given what was about to happen. Mr Brosnan was gone, Bond was to go feral, and everyone else decided they desperately needed to talk about hair.
James Bond will return in the 007th minute of Casino Royale. It is Jacques Stewart’s time to go. But not to Cornwall.