Die Another Day is the best James Bond movie

Originally written for TheCultureCrossing.com here.

007, one character at the centre of a franchise spanning over 60 years. Yet throughout all the rich tapestry that is the James Bond universe, Die Another Day is the one film constantly regarded as the worst. Join me on this review of espionage, witty one-liners and parasailing here at TheCultureCrossing.com, as I explain why Die Another Day is, in fact, the greatest James bond film ever made.

Die Another Day set a franchise record by grossing $431 million worldwide. Combine Pierce Brosnan’s other grossing’s as the character and he became the first ‘Billion Dollar Bond’. Whilst the numbers don’t lie, the reviews have sometimes been slightly less than complimentary. James Berardinelli of Reelviews.net said, “Die Another Day is an exercise in loud explosions and excruciatingly bad special effects.” Whilst Larry Carroll of CountingDown.com praised the film for having “magnificently balanced the film so that it keeps true to the Bond legend’.

The films, 6.1/10 rating on IMDB and 57% on Rotten Tomatoes suggests that whilst, this is the lowest ranking Bond film, the majority are still in favour of this cheesy slice of Spy cinema.

The Last Great Bond Film

Die Another Day is a homage to You Only Live Twice, Ian Fleming’s eleventh James Bond novel. Yet almost two decades after Brosnan’s final venture as 007, his tenure as the character is often criticised for having not aged well. This is in part to the juxtaposing revamp of the franchise with Casino Royale in 2006. Rebranded as a more realistic, gritty Bond. This reimagining abandoned all the pomp and theatrics that Bond had built up over 40 years at that point.

Gone were the bombastic Bond-isms that were rife in Die Another Day. No invisible car, no sun laser, no Madonna… well it wasn’t all bad. Whilst a reintroduction to a modern Bond was necessary for the new millennium, it has immortalised Die Another Day as the last great Bond film. A tonged in cheek, wink and a nod to the characters iconic past, with a modern touch.

No Time to Sigh…

If your main issue with Die Another Day is its plot holes or overall ridiculousness, you’re trying too hard. To give credit director Lee Tamahori, this film gives you no time to question anything.

From Bond escaping exile, travelling to a luxury hotel, escaping a murderous masseuse and uncovering Chinese Spies with an ashtray… all this action takes around five minutes.

The frantic nature of Die Another Day doesn’t give you time to stew in the insanity. It’s a steady diet of one serving of bizarre characters, a handful of narrative twists before throwing it all in the trash and moving on to something else equally exciting. Boredom is not an option here.

Jinx, the Ultimate Bond Girl?

Whether its Barbara Bach in The Spy Who Loved Me or Michelle Yeoh in Tomorrow Never Dies, the bond girl is a staple of the Bond canon. Each character was redefined, but perhaps never quite as much as Halle Berry’s Jinx.

The first heroic African-American Bond girl, and possibly the first that could ever be considered a genuine equal to Bond. So much so that there were genuine plans for a Jinx spin-off movie, however, plans for Daniel Craig’s reboot soon put the nail in that coffin.

Even the obligatory James Bond sex scene takes a different tone. Out is the problematic cohesion where the international man of mystery strings some lies together with some martini-fueled double-entendres. In, is the strong Jinx. Taking charge and established as the new breed of female Spy with enormous sexual prowess.

Is her dialogue corny? Yes. Are there some undeniable iconic moments? Yes. For every ‘yo momma’ line, the is a moment of badassery to compensate. Weather Berry was drawing us into moments of suspense by drowning in the ice place or established herself in the zeitgeist in her iconic knife-carrying bikini, Jinx was a huge step forward for a franchise with deep roots in misogyny.

Is the Plot Actually Great?

You might be thinking, this is an easy “ha, no”. But think about it for a second. James Bond has always been a British, post-colonial fever dream. Where this white man can go to these far, exotic lands and do as he pleases with whom he pleases, all with a seance of national pride as he does whatever he does, on behalf of the Queen … to save the world.

Whilst that is obviously no different here, we do have a deeper narrative at play with the villain of Tan-Sun Moon. He states “I studied at Oxford and Harvard. Majored in Western Hypocrisy.” Whilst we could just chalk this up as another cheap Bond line, the theme of Westernization plays not only on the surface of Die Another Day but within James Bond.

Tan-Sun Moon literally becomes a white British man and whilst this is an absurd narrative device, the thematic point is the same. Tan-Sun Moon’s objective is to conquer the western world, yet he must assimilate and become what he hates in order to try and take Bond down. There is a poetic irony at play here not to mention the god-like Gustav Graves who utilizes the power of the sun to try to kill his enemies.

Die Another Day is consistent with its insanity and it harnesses its plot to let you know that these aren’t just villains… it’s Graves the sinister solar-powered demi-god. It’s not just one South Korean murder after Bond, its Tan-Sun Moon the race-shifting reminder of Britain’s colonial history.

Bonds Hidden History

Die Another Day marked the 40th anniversary of the franchise. To mark the occasion there are scatted references throughout as only this cheeky, self-aware film could. The iconic shot of Jinx walking out of the sea in a bikini with the white belt and a diving knife is a. reference to Dr No (1962).

Graves’ engineer holds the Icarus control and petting it like a cat, another iconic image in tribute to From Russia with Love (1963). While Bond fences in a duel with Graves, the villain says, “Well, diamonds are for everyone.” A nod to Diamonds Are Forever (1971).

Madonna’s character is introduced as a few bars of “Nobody Does it Better” is played, the official song of The is “A Field Guide to Birds of the West Indies”, written by James Bond. Ian Fleming, the creator of Bond, famously named Bond after the author as he believed it was the dullest name possible.

Even Q glances at the fourth wall when he hands Bond his new watch. “This is your twentieth, I believe” a direct remark to note that Die Another Day is the twentieth official James Bond film.

Yes, Madonna Is In it

Whilst people like to compare Madonna’s efforts to the iconic theme song of Paul McCartney & Wings – Live and Let Die or Shirly Bassey’s Goldfinger, you could argue that Madonna’s synthesised electro-pop theme song for Die Another Day was the perfect fit.

An artist famous for reinvention, with a new take on the orchestral Bond sound, seems fitting for a film where the main character is regenerated too. Plus, even if you hated the song at least the video was impressive. Shot as almost its own mini-film to accompany the Bond film, Madonna’s character Verity is seen held captive, duelling with herself and fighting her way free with yet more nods to Bonds rich history.

Her cameo was everything it needed to be, brief. A quick one-liner about “cockfights” and done. She slides through her scene as any celebrity cameo should and reaffirms the film’s sense of post – ‘Cool Britannia’ self-awareness.

The Final Act of Fantasy Before the Era of Realism

Die Another Day was released months after The Borne Identity (2002) began ushering in a new wave of Spy cinema. Much like Casino Royal (2006) the appetite for darker, slightly more believable heroes and situations was needed for a post 9/11 audience.

Whilst this is the first film of the franchise released after September 11th 2001, Die Another Day is a film with its head in the sand, looking for one last-ditch effort to give you escapism instead of another grim look into the mirror.

This is clear throughout the film. The longer you watch Die Another Day, the longer you fall down the rabbit hole of Bond; a film try to both adapt with the time, yet pay respect to its history and it all becomes one fantastical implosion.

Whether its overly ambitious CGI or the confident female heroine of Jinx, this Bond represents a changing of the guard. It’s impossible to tell if Die Another Day is a meta take on Bond or if it’s just one big blowout playing all the hits and then some.

That’s why I’m claiming on TheCultureCrossing.com that this is the ultimate Bond film. It encapsulates the whole franchise in 133 minutes and remains a cult classic. Bond is always ridiculous… but it’s far from boring.

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