Was It Really That Bad: Die Another Day

The poster for Die Another Day

The 007 franchise encourages many interesting discussions, but one thing nearly everyone agrees on is that Die Another Day is the official series’ worst entry. However, sometimes time can make a difference. So, 20 years on let’s analyse if Die Another Day is as bad as its detractors say.

“I Know All About You 007”

After being captured in North Korea because of a high-profile traitor and inadvertently killing Colonel Tan-Sun Moon (Will Yun Lee) James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is released but has his 007 status revoked. Undeterred Bond decides to find out who betrayed him. To do this he begins chasing Colonel Moon’s henchman, Zao (Rick Yune) with help from NSA agent “Jinx” (Halle Berry). Eventually, they discover Zao is linked to British millionaire Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens). Who has been developing a satellite to harness the Sun’s power. What secrets is Graves hiding and how will he use that satellite?

007 - James Bond - Die Another Day
Why is Madonna here? // Credit: Eon Productions

“Such Hospitality”

Some gems are scattered throughout Bond’s 20th outing. Pierce Brosnan is still effortlessly cool as Bond. His unflappable exterior gives the impression of someone hardened by betrayals and near-death experiences. And while he doesn’t get any standout dramatic moments Brosnan’s charisma still makes him fun to watch.

There are also some great performances among the supporting cast. Halle Berry’s Jinx often receives unfair derision, but her cheery attitude and chemistry with Brosnan make her a welcome addition in my book. John Cleese is a hilarious curmudgeonly Q. Judi Dench is always fantastic. But the MVPs are Will Yun Lee and Kenneth Tsang (General Moon). Lee has a commanding presence thanks to his confidence and how he acquits himself with the opening scene’s fight choreography. Meanwhile, Tsang’s world-weary demeanour gives General Moon real depth. His reunion with his son is the film’s emotional highlight with Tsang’s performance naturally capturing a range of reserved emotions.

And the film has some great action sequences. The opening hovercraft fight is over the top but well-staged and thrilling to watch. Bond and Graves’ sword fight has great choreography and the car chase on the ice is a fantastic vehicular stunt segment.

James Bond approves of this defence // Credit: Eon Productions

“You’ve Always Found It Difficult To Accept Me”

Unfortunately, these positives pale next to the pictures’ pervasive problems. Undoubtedly, the biggest issue is the narrative. The story is simple, but the plotting is dull and confusing. A lot of key information gets glossed over in boring dialogue exchanges. And because the audience barely knows the main villains in the early scenes we cannot invest in the danger of the situation. Not helping are the whiplash-inducing tonal shifts. With torture and conflict diamonds sitting alongside cringe-worthy sexual innuendos and cheesy sci-fi gadgets.

Of course, there are some production aspects that make the film hard to watch. These include the awful techno soundtrack which is grating to listen to. We also have gimmicky and overdone editing tricks that feel entirely out of place. Additionally, the awful CGI and green screen work will instantly break any modern viewer’s immersion.

Finally, Die Another Day’s villains are complete duds. Zao is an ok heavy, but he doesn’t leave much of an impression personality-wise. Rosamund Pike is wasted as Miranda Frost who is too blandly written for her betrayal to mean anything. And Toby Stephens is awful as Gustav Graves. He has no gravitas, menace, or entertainment value, he is just annoying. The worst offence though is that Graves is later revealed to be Colonel Moon having gone through gene therapy. Meaning we were robbed of Will Yun Lee’s good performance in the part. Along with the despicable issue of Hollywood whitewashing, it all adds up to leave a bad taste in the viewers’ mouths.

007 - James Bond - Die Another Day
Bond surrenders to how bad Die Another Day is // Credit: Eon Productions

Was It Really That Bad? Yes

Despite Brosnan’s good Bond performance, a few standouts amongst the supporting cast and some admittedly exciting action Die Another Day is a trainwreck. The story is confusing and jarringly inconsistent tonally. The lead villain team is entirely underwhelming. With Toby Stephens’ Gustav Graves, possibly being the worst Bond villain ever. Various production elements have also aged horribly. Particularly the CGI and the gimmicky editing techniques. And the infuriatingly racist whitewashing of the main villain means Die Another Day deserves its status as the series’ nadir.

Also Read: Who Will Be The Next James Bond?

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Posted by
Josh Greally

Writer and filmmaker. I have a masters in directing film and television and have written film reviews for several smaller sites in the past. Films are my life, but I also enjoy writing, reading, listening to music and debating.