Published Dec 03, 2012After The World is not Enough did its damnedest to capture the populist zeitgeist and youth market with various cross-promotions and MTV tie-in's, parading around Denise Richards for young men everywhere to see, the Bond franchise had reached a near low in crass commercialism and sheer superficiality. That is until Lee Tamahori was handed the reigns of the twentieth 007 installment, Die Another Day, injecting excess CGI into the mix along with an endless stream of product placement, illogical action and a bikini-wearing Halle Berry—to add some masturbatory zeal.
Featuring a title song by Madonna, this bit of trash spectacle starts out with an imprisoned Bond after a mission in North Korea—wherein his cover is blown during a conflict diamonds trade—fails, leaving him subject to torture and eventual barter with North Korean terrorist Zao (Rick Yune). And, like any Bond film, the trade of black market goods isn't the only nefarious plot going on, which 007 finds out when tracking the recently released terrorist to Cuba, where he discovered an experimental medical clinic and a sexy American agent named Jinx (Berry).
From here, invisible cars pop up, as do ice palaces, fencing matches and a ridiculous plot involving the development of an ersatz moveable sun. None of it gels with much coherence, but there is a litany of non-stop action involving hovercrafts, surfboards and freezing water aplenty. Unfortunately, a large portion of this action looks like a cartoon, since Tamahori dropped much of the fantastic stunt work and action the franchise had maintained for forty years in favour of Escape from LA CGI. And worse, his constant stylizations—speeding up the footage inexplicably and rejecting aesthetic trajectory in favour of desultory flash—make it all look like a particularly grating hip hop music video.
Also boasting the first mid-coital sex scene in the Bond series, Die Another Day marked a turning point in culture, where the introspective '90s were left behind for the flashy excess and reality television garishness of the Millennium. Fortunately, it was also the last Bond entry with Brosnan, opening the door for the return to roots, darker reimagining of the series in the form of Casino Royale.
Die Another Day screens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox as part of the Shaken, Not Stirred: Bond on Film retrospective at 9:15pm on Thursday, December 6th. (MGM)