Saturday, November 23, 2002

bond lives ... to die another day

Finally, Pierce Brosnan gets to make the character of 007 his own in the 20th Bond flick (celebrating 40 years of the "official" Broccoli enterprise) Die Another Day. The series finally gets off the Ian Fleming literary source and this is perhaps the first movie that has very little to do with the novels and their mythology. The title (like Tomorrow Never Dies) has no grain in the books (The World Is Not Enough was the motto of the Bond family: see the book/movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service). There are the usual double entendres -- some make you smile, and there are some you expect, and some that just make you groan (more on this later). There are a lot of references as the film pays homage to the series, and they're quite easy to spot too (see note at the end). Brosnan makes Bond vulnerable, human and yet doesn't allow the character to lose it's suave, sardonic, flippant edge (something that Lazenby failed to do ... and Dalton was completely submerged in the high sorrow-and-suffering coefficient of his two ventures). The motif of choice is ice -- be it in the film, the previews, the credit graphics and even the in-theatre ambience. The theatre (Regal) had "007" in 'ice' font on all the doors and there were ice blocks outside the complex when we made our way to the parking lot ... Interesting touch. The opening titles are a nice blend of traditional Bond nudes against CGI set against the continuing narrative (something I don't recall having seen before ... I could be wrong). Then there's the bullet coming out to hit you in Maurice Binder's legendary introduction for Bond (I wonder if this is the first film to do that or whether it's something that was added to the Brosnan canon). John Cleese reprises his role as the new Q, and in getting the best line of the film, makes up for the rather poor characterization he faced in TWINE.

The film isn't without it's share of non grata. Madonna's theme song sucks -- as a Bond song. It's a Madonna pop song with oodles of hip-hop/new-wave electronica to assert her compliance with current trends. Which means it sucks on all levels. "I'm gonna avoid the cliché" she sings. Well she sure succeeded -- in a terrible way. The font used for the opening titles was rather ordinary and failed to complement the 'icy' nudes. Madonna's song worked better against the end credits, but by then the damage was done. The CGI in some scenes is painfully obvious -- especially when Bond surfs a tidal wave -- the ice mounds look straight out of Hallmark greeting cards. {david arnold about madonna's theme song}

But we must save the best for last. I smelt something rotten in the film and it was called Halle Berry. Clearly added (along with the grating aging decrepit Madonna) for American attitude and appeal. She lacks spunk, sucks at her lines (making the bad lines sound terrible and destroying all the good ones), misses her cues destroying the timing of the rejoinders written for her. Everyone in the supporting cast (except Madonna, who, to be fair, is there only for a short while, giving her no chance to trump Halle for the Worst Actor award) including the third American token ably done by Michael Madsen rocks (no pun intended). But Halle is as uncomfortable as Kate Hepburn in a van Damme vehicle -- actually, to keep the analogy accurate, make that like Steven Segal in a Shakespeare adaptation. In awarding her the Oscar for Best Actress the Academy seems to have committed the most socially, filmologically, racially offensive act in a long time. And much as I would have loved to write this film off as a clear strong entry in the series, Halle makes it Berry Bad. Rumours of a spinoff Jinx (her character's rather appropriate name in the film) vehicle abound. Expect to see BellSouth and other consumer-friendly utility providers to complete the irony with corporate advertising. She dingles.

The best little dig (note: triviamongers) comes when Bond picks up A Field Guide to the Birds of the West Indies. Ian Fleming named his secret agent after one of the authors of this book.

movies can teach you things you know: Thanks to this film I now know about conflict diamonds ...

other reviews: the new york times, roger ebert.

bonus: To prepare us for a good time we had a preview of a new Chow Yun Fat action flick called ... wait for it ... Bulletproof Monk {official site}. What are they going to think of next? Non-flammable Nun?

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