2002 marked the 40th Anniversary of James Bond films, and EON Productions wanted to pay homage to the franchise with the release of the twentieth Bond film, Die Another Day. The film featured Pierce Brosnan as James Bond 007 once again and, in honor of the longstanding film series, included several references to each of the preceding Bond movies.
Die Another Day premiered at the Royal Albert Hall in London on November 18, 2002. Despite a lot of criticism, the film performed well at the box office, becoming the highest grossing Bond film to date. The movie opens with Bond infiltrating a North Korean military installation where Colonel Tan-Sun Moon is illegally trading African conflict diamonds for weapons. Bond’s cover is blown when Moon’s assistant Zao receives a call revealing that he’s a British spy. Moon escapes in a hovercraft, and Bond gives chase. The hovercraft goes over a waterfall, evidently killing Moon. Bond is then captured by the North Korean military.
If there’s one word that comes to mind as a descriptor for this movie, it’s disappointment. The story starts off well—Bond is captured by an enemy government, tortured, seemingly left to die when a prisoner exchange is arranged in order to get him out of the prison because he’s suspected of hemorrhaging information. When he’s brought back, he’s disavowed, stripped of his 00 status, and kept prisoner by his own government. Naturally he escapes and attempts to find out who betrayed him to Zao, instantly becoming a rogue agent.
Unfortunately, after that setup, the film quickly goes downhill. From the stilted dialogue to the vapid character of Jinx (the studio actually considered a spinoff featuring her. . . God help us if it were to actually materialize) to the superfluous use of CGI, Die Another Day was rife with late-nineties popcorn flick clichés.
There are too many problems with this movie to list in a review, so I’ll stop here. While Bond’s 25th Anniversary gift was an enjoyable jaunt in The Living Daylights, his 40th Anniversary gift was a mangled mess that was more concerned with nods and winks to the fans than actually telling a good story.
What’s frustrating about this film (and the Bond films of the 1990s) is that Pierce Brosnan could have been an excellent Bond. He had all the right elements as an actor—the look, the charm, the seriousness, the bravado. He just got stuck with some fairly mediocre screenplays. Don’t get me wrong; Brosnan’s series had its high moments. He burst onto the scene with GoldenEye, arguably one of the best films in the franchise. Sadly, Tomorrow Never Dies was a bit of dull, and The World Is Not Enough, while a good Bond film, failed to capture the magic found in GoldenEye.
After Die Another Day, the Bond franchise was in desperate need of some course correction.