The 40th Anniversary Bond: Die Another Day, with spoilers (#SFWApro)

DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002) is the 20th Bond film, the 40th anniversary Bond film (Dr. No came out in 1962) and Pierce Brosnan’s swan song as Bond. It’s a better farewell than Connery, Moore or Dalton received.
The Opening: Bond infiltrates North Korea posing as an arms dealer to take out rogue munitions dealer Col. Moon. Moon’s aide Zao (Rick Yune) exposes Bond’s identity. Bond kills Moon and escapes … but unlike the usual teaser, he gets caught. Behind the credits (with Madonna singing the title song), we see him spend 14 months under heavy torture. Finally he’s released, in a prisoner swap for Zao (who has some of the diamonds Bond was supposedly buying weapons with accidentally embedded in his face) who pulled off an assassination.
The Story: Bond discovers the Americans think he cracked and gave away their agent inside North Korea. M (Judi Dench again) suspects they might be right and being the hard-case she is, keeps Bond in a hospital/prison (she’s so much more interesting than Bernard Lee’s crotchety clubman). Bond’s convinced a traitor in MI6 ratted him out so he busts loose to find him/her. The quest takes him to Cuba, where he meets the sexy Jinx (Halle Berry), who turns out to have her own secret mission. Then it’s off to Iceland where millionaire Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) is launching a solar satellite.
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Needless to say in Bond films people who launch satellites are never up to any good. It turns out Graves is Moon with heavy genetic treatments to give him a new face. Now he plans to use his floating solar weapon to crush South Korea, then Japan (Japan-Korea antagonism goes back a long way) and that’s just for starters.
Why It Works: License to Kill had a revenge-centered plot, and it was dreadful; here, it works. I think that’s because this film makes it a Bond revenge plot. He’s not just targeting someone who killed his friend, he’s targeting an enemy of his country and rooting out a traitor in the ranks. Midway through the movie, M brings him back into the fold because she’s satisfied they’re on the same page.
Happy Anniversary! In the director’s commentary, Lee Tamahori says because it was the 40th anniversary, they crammed as many references in as possible. A visit to Q’s (John Cleese) lab shows us Rosa Krebs’ shoe (from From Russia With Love), the jetpack from Thunderball and other familiar gadgets. Jinx walks out of the sea in a scene deliberately intended to mimic Ursula Andress in Dr. No. Zao’s diamond-studded face is meant to fit him with the classic freakshow henchmen of past films. At one point Bond picks up a copy of Birds of the West Indies—a real book written by ornithologist James Bond, which is where Fleming got the name. And even the Q scene doesn’t go over the top with it.
The Woman in the Picture: The Bond films add yet another formidable woman in Jinx, an NSA agent (back before the agency became so controversial) who clearly has fun shooting, kicking butt and blowing things up (it’s something I haven’t seen in the Craig films, alas). She continues the Spy Who Loved Me trend of being more interesting than the villain, even though Graves/Moon is openly positioned as Bond’s evil counterpart (he admits at one point to modeling his Graves persona’s manner and style on Bond).
High Treason: Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike) is unique at this point in the series: She’s the only British traitor in either the books or the films. Previous traitors have invariably been foreigners: Drax in the novel Moonraker, Trevelyan in Goldeneye. Of course, as my friend Ross says, she also cheats at sports, so that proves she’s a bad ‘un.
Nutty Politics: The film adopts the Octopussy tactic of having the villains clearly identified as renegades, not representative of their government. When Graves’ plan for conquest kicks in, Bond learns his allies in the military have staged a coup so they can’t be stopped. This has the effect of presenting North Korea’s government as one that really wants peace, it’s just hardliners like Moon who want to conquer the south.
Despite the politics, this was a good farewell for Brosnan. I wouldn’t have minded another movie or two from him, but no question Craig was a worthy successor.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “The 40th Anniversary Bond: Die Another Day, with spoilers (#SFWApro)

  1. Pingback: James Bond goes full circle: Skyfall (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: James Bond, James Bond and White House intrigue: movies and TV (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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