Friday, 14 October 2011

Die Another Day

Pierce Brosnan may have wanted us to believe that he was the heir to Sean Connery’s Bond. However, Die Another Day showed us he was in fact much closer to Roger Moore’s portrayal than he may care to admit.

Die Another Day is like one of the latter Moore Bond entries, full of implausible gadgets and a relentless stream of sexual innuendo.

Brosnan was 49 when this film came out. And whilst he was undoubtedly wearing the years well his behaviour was beginning to resemble that of an inappropriately flirtatious uncle at a wedding.

The other major problem with Die Another Day are the action set pieces. They’re as good as what you’ve come to expect from a Bond, however, Brosnan sails suavely them all. And when he’s in trouble there’s always a handy gadget [invisible car? Puh-lease!] to come to his aid. It all feels just a little bit too easy.

These points were brought into sharper focus by the release of The Bourne Identity a few months before Die Another Day. Bourne offered a darker, more serious hero, who was reliant on improvisation and himself.

Brosnan and the Bond producers had discussed doing a further film after Die Another Day. But the disappointing box office and critical reception nixed that, and the franchise went into mothballs.

These criticism aside the opening sequence of Die Another Day is of significant interest to exploding helicopter fans. Bond impersonates a arms dealer in order to assassinate a North Korean Colonel.

Bond flies into the Colonel’s base in a transport helicopter planning to blow the Colonel up with a bomb hidden in the briefcase of diamonds he’s trading for the weapons.

However, Bond’s true identity is discovered before he can leave. The Colonel decides to show Bond that’s he rumbled his assassination attempt. He takes a tank buster gun from one of his men supposedly to demonstrate it for Bond’s benefit. Instead he uses it to fire some depleted uranium shells at Bond’s helicopter blowing it to smithereens. Bond it seems it going to need to walk home.

Artistic merit

The opening sequences to Bond films are always spectacular affairs and it’s good to see an exploding helicopter feature prominently in one.

The fireball is a nice dirty, dark red, orange and shot from a number of different angles. However, director Lee Tamahori irritatingly deprives us of the full exploding helicopter experience by cutting to reaction shots from Bond and the Colonel's staff.

Exploding helicopter innovation

The explosion takes place just five minutes into the film. I’m struggling at the moment to think of a helicopter explosion which happens earlier.

Whilst we’ve seen helicopters taken out by grenade launchers before, this is possibly the first known destruction of a helicopter with a depleted uranium shell.


There’s other pleasing helicopter sequences in the film. During the film’s finale Bond and Jinx (Halle Berry) escape the fatally damaged transport plane they’re aboard.

They fall out the back of the airplane in a helicopter which Bond desperately tries to start whilst plummeting to the ground. In classic nick-of-time style, Bond is able to start the rotor blades in time, and prevent the chopper becoming a helicopter pancake.

It’s utterly preposterous but guiltily enjoyable.


Little demonstrates better that the fact the Bond franchise had lost its way than the scene where Bond’s return to the UK is sound tracked by London Calling by The Clash.

This dunderheaded lack of imagination is evident throughout. Did any thought whatsoever go into naming one of the henchmen “Mr Kill”?

Interesting fact

No lesser figure than Roger Moore thought Die Another Day was rubbish, citing the CGI and the invisible car as lows for the series.


  1. Alright, alright. No more Mr. Know It All About Bond after this, I promise. As much as I loathe Die Another Day, I have to defend it just a smidgen and say that this movie did not have a poor showing at the box office. It earned something well over $400 million internationally, which made it the highest grossing Bond until Casino Royale came out.

    There's no accounting for taste when it comes to the movie-going public.

  2. True it was the highest grossing, but it only made 3 times it's cost back. Previous Bond films had apparently made at least 5 times - if not more - back on their cost. I remember reading that this 'declining' box office return was one of the reasons the franchise went on hold for a bit after this film.

  3. Absolute dreck. Not cheesy enough to be old school not intelligent enough to be New Bond.

    Thank god the producers were greedy enough to think 3 times their outgoing was insufficient recompense.

    Lets hope we have exhausted all the exploding helicopter possibilities of the Bond franchise so we are not forced to watch any more.

  4. Did you ever hear the story that Tarentino went to the Bond people to make Casino Royale, well before they were considering the David Craig version, and the Bond people told him no, because they were afraid if Tarentino directed it, it would be a film of a quality that the later Bond films couldn't measure up to. They probably had this movie on their mind when they told him that.

  5. I don't think that's the official reason they pooh-poohed the idea. I believe EON was concerned Tarantino would cost too much and that he'd insert too many 'Tarantino-isms' into the movie. In essence, he would make a Tarantino flick instead of a Bond flick. He also wanted Brosnan and nobody else as 007. I believe they may have been neighbors at one point (well, 'neighbor' is stretching it a bit when you live in mansions with acres of property, but I digress) and became buddies. Tarantino thought he could get the 'ultimate' Bond flick out of Brosnan and I could see why he would think that. If the scripts and direction were up to par in his era, I think Broz would be regarded as a great Bond. He's a pretty good actor when he's got some decent material to work with (the Thomas Crown remake or The Matador for instance).

    QT still has his heart set on doing a spy film at some point in the future though. Latest scuttlebutt says he was interested in obtaining the film rights to 'A Spy by Nature' by Charles Cumming.

  6. Well, what do you expect from a Bond movie that has Madonna in the cas

  7. I just re-read your great review again. Regarding the invisible car scenes, I read somewhere that Roger Moore said it was the silliest thing he'd ever seen, and added, "and I should know because I was the Bond who went to a space station on a space shuttle!"

    BTW, have you seen Kong: Skull Island yet? I believe that there are at least 2 helicopter explosions.

    1. Indeed, and Roge also piloted a gondola-hovercraft, so if he thinks it's the silliest thing then we definitely have to trust. Yes, I've seen the new Kong. I think there might actually be three, but I'll need a rewatch. That scene was helicopter carnage so it was tough to keep track. Hopefully, we'll have a review in the next few months too.