Die Another Day (2002)

Die Another Day (2002), directed by Lee Tamahori.

First Bond of the new millennium and the last of four with Pierce Brosnan. It did great business, got mixed reviews, and has gotten a lot of retrospective criticism as one of the worst in the series. (Me? I don't know. I didn't dislike Roger Moore but there were a lot of weak plots during those years. And don't forget Connery's Diamonds Are Forever (1971)).

It starts out with a traditional action extravaganza, hovercraft blasting through a minefield. It's North Korea's turn to host the super-villain.

The electronically distorted sour note for at least half the audience (the oldsters) is Madonna's theme song, strangely reminiscent of a rusty file on a bare skull. Which is too bad because it interferes with an uncommonly grim episode: 007 a prisoner and tortured for 14 months. With scorpion venom! And then in a bad place where MI6 no longer trusts him.

We're back in a familiar groove when he appears at the Hong Kong Yacht Club and travels to Cuba to meet and screw his American counterpart, a very fit Halle Berry as Jinx, NSA. He was never that close to Felix Leiter, CIA.

The wheels start coming off back in London with the invisible car stupidity and virtual reality training. And yet: the muscular sword-fight is a good action sequence, escalating from foils to sabers to broadswords.

Then to Iceland where we endure an ice palace, ice racing, orbital death ray with hand-held control, a terrible genetic version of the old "face-off" ploy, and action stunts beyond Superman's powers. I don't usually ding a film for poor special effects (use your imagination, folks) but they spared a lot of expense here.

I think it recovers in the last act back in Korea where we have two simultaneous hand-to-hand fights to the death while the aircraft flies through that huge orbital death-ray. Overblown and a lot going on but undeniably exciting.

David Arnold score, the third of his five for Bond.

Next: the Daniel Craig reboot.

Available on Blu-ray. Commentary tracks: