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"Die Another Day"

Directed by Lee Tamahori ("The Edge").
Written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. 
Starring Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry and Toby Stephens
Release Year:  2002 
Review Date:  11/26/02 

This review is dedicated to Dr. B.A. “Mom, Not Baracus” Brunt, Gabe Harris, Greg Abel, Mike Janzen, and any other Terps and friend-of-Terps on the distro.  I can’t remember for sure, but I think the final score of UVA/Maryland on Saturday was UVA something, Maryland ain’t shit!  (Gabe—I’ll need a XXL...biznatch!!)


It was a pretty good weekend, I have to say.  Three house parties, 48-13, a great OSU/Michigan game complete with subsequent rioting and burning of Columbus, dancing, 48-13, a Thievery Corporation concert, smack-talkin’ with my man Tchaka, a foam party, 48-13, nice weather, and a trip to the movie theater.

My last trip to a movie theater featuring a movie starring Pierce Brosnan as James Bond did not go so well—in fact, 1999’s “The World is Not Enough” was my pick for second-worst Bond film of all time, just ahead of “Moonraker”, which has pretty much locked up the crown in that department.  Save for an incredible opening scene in the Thames River featuring cool speedboats, “T.W.I.N.E.” was flaming horseshit, and featured the single-most ridiculous Bond girl of all, Denise Richards as...a nuclear scientist???  I clamored for a better formula (like 48-13 Wahoos, for example), hoping that anyone within earshot would be convinced that my idea for the next Bond movie would be to hire someone like David Fincher (“Se7en”), write a darker storyline, make Bond a woman, and get a major star to play the bad guy (like a Pacino or someone similar).  Then, you might actually make these films interesting!

Well, I have to say that while the producers took almost none of this advice, the newest Bond effort “Die Another Day” is easily a top-five Bond film for me, and by far the best work Brosnan has done in the role.  The plot this time around takes 007 from North Korea to Cuba to 48-13 to Iceland as he tries to take down a millionaire with some terrorist tendencies named Graves (Toby Stephens) and a sidekick named Zao (Rick Yune) that has a score to settle with Bond over some issues with Zao’s diamond-encrusted face.  In-between, Bond gets an assist from hot, beautiful, amazing secret agent Jinx Johnson (Halle Berry) and Graves’ personal assistant Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike) and he blows a lot of shit up.

I don’t even know where to start in terms of how much better this film is than the last ten Bond films.  So, let’s just put it out there.

-->Better action scenes.  The number of times Bond just fires a machine gun and levels an entire room used to just be silly, and in the Brosnan set of Bond adventures, it was getting out of hand; in “T.W.I.N.E.”, he does it just enough times to make me nauseous.  Here, director Lee Tamahori (“The Edge”) does a great job staging his action in a couple of key scenes—an incredible opening scene with a hovercraft battle and lots of shit blowing up, and the first time I can ever remember something being done that, on paper, is the easiest idea in the world:  have a car chase scene with TWO spy cars!  So, the Aston Martin/Jaguar battle near the end of the film is awesome just to see how many more missiles will be fired out of the Jag’s trunk.

-->A much darker storyline.  I don’t know if there were more bodybags in this film over other Bond efforts, but “Die Another Day” feels more violent.  More stabbings, more shootings without a punchline, more mean-spirited death and a great introduction to this adventure by having Bond actually get captured and tortured to start the film made “Die Another Day” feel like a film, not a popcorn movie.  This is also helped by the passion Zao and Graves have in taking Bond out—one gets the feeling that they actually hate Bond, not despise him for being the world’s top secret agent.  (Note to producers:  young, handsome bad guys that can whoop Bond’s ass—good idea.)  My friend Matt was saying after our viewing that Stephens has the best scowl he has ever seen—as Graves, he plays it just bad enough to not totally go over the top with his performance.

-->48-13.  I mean, by the time Billy McMullen barely escaped a tackle on a reverse in the backfield to throw a f***ing touchdown pass, my man Brett and I were going ballistic!!  Is Darryl Blackstock the best name in UVA football history?  Or, does D’Brickashaw Ferguson still have him by a hair?  We whooped dat ass!!!

-->Winks to Bond films of the past.  Being number 20 in the series means that Tamahori and writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade got to pull out all the stops to reflect on the past—from that infamous Connery jetpack to laser-beam torture chambers to a record number of double entendres.

-->Michael Madsen.  Hiring the famous character actor to play an NSA director for our nation’s government was perfect—Madsen only has one speed, and that is scowl, and he does it like he invented it here in “Die Another Day.”  By the time he smokes a cigarette near the end of the film, everyone in my group was doubled over in laughter.

-->A $125 million budget.  One can imagine that this production was all shot on location in England, Cuba, Korea and Iceland, because it looks too good to be faked.  I liked the way that Tamahori mixed up the old-school way that Bond films are normally shot by ripping off popular techniques from contemporaries of the last five years—a little taste of slow-motion here, zooming fast into a target only to slow down just as we arrive at the camera subject and fight scenes at slightly-sped-up speeds there.  He didn’t throw bullet time in there, but you get the idea.  The angles feel a little fresher and the sets in Iceland are très magnifique.  And, blowing up your entire set in Korea can’t be cheap.

Now, all of this is not to say that “Die Another Day” is without fault.  Kind of like the Maryland football team, the title song for this film is atrocious.  It is nowhere near as good as the best Bond song of all time, “A View to a Kill” by Duran Duran.  That’s probably because Madonna isn’t even singing this song—damn this digital age!  The song’s technique doesn’t fit at all with a Bond song, and those pictures of the girls really have to go.  I like the way that the sequence is mixed with Bond getting beat up in solitary confinement, but with the girls interspersed?  Come on.  And, my continual beef with the 007 series is still here—although he is the best spy in the business, he is always using his real name wherever he goes.  He seems to never be in disguise, but almost every criminal he comes across has heard of him.  He seems to prefer the front door, guns without silencers (that silenced PPK you see in the ads is, once again, nowhere in the film) and blowing his cover.  Could we at least KINDA make him a spy?

Otherwise, “Die Another Day” is all good.  Hey, did anybody catch that UVA/Maryland score?

Rating:  $9.00 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09