A high-speed hovercraft chase, through a minefield in the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea, marks the beginning of James Bond (Agent 007) embarking on his latest mission. From Hong Kong, to Cuba to London, Bond circles the world in his quest to unmask a traitor, and prevent a war of catastrophic proportions. On his way, he crosses paths with the beautiful Jinx and Miranda Frost, who become further entwined in his latest adventure. Hot on the trail of deadly megalomaniac, Gustav Graves and his ruthless right-hand man Zao, Bond travels to Iceland into the villain's lair: a palace built entirely of ice. There he experiences, firsthand, the power of a high-tech weapon. Ultimately, this leads to an explosive confrontation back in Korea, where the mission began. (Synopsis from Hollywood.com)
It's difficult to express my sheer disgust with Madonna's title song for Die Another Day without getting profane, so I will suffice to say that it's the most pitiful piece of dreck ever to accompany a Bond film.
The film Die Another Day is perhaps the biggest mixed bag in the Bond series. With the exception of a few out-of-place absurdities (such as Bond stopping his own heart to fake a coronary—too much to swallow, thank you very much, even for Bond; besides, it was done before in the genre parody Our Man Flint), the first half of the film is a reasonably acceptable 007 adventure, with Brosnan playing Bond quite coolly, his appearance in his pajamas at the Hong Kong hotel making for a nice moment of levity after a glaringly harsh opening. Upon his arrival in Cuba, he encounters CIA agent Jinx Jordan (Halle Berry), who proves to be a ruthless and capable rival-cum-partner (though she hardly lives up to the example set by Michele Yeoh as Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies). Bond's reliance on his own resources, rather than a bunch of Q's gadgets, is a refreshing change of pace. Alas, once technology asserts itself in this film, it does so mercilessly, the clincher being the "cloaked" Aston-Martin Vanquish, which just plain goes too far. Some of the high-octane action comes across fairly well, especially the duel of the super cars (Bond's Aston-Martin against Zao's [Rick Yune] Jaguar) across a frozen lake; but spoiling too many of the stunts—especially Bond surfing on a gigantic wave created by a collapsing ice floe—are some of the worst CGI effects ever to hit the big screen. How these made it into an otherwise slick production is quite beyond me. Examples there are plenty, which cheapen the entire film and destroy any possibility of suspending disbelief.
On the CD, Paul Oakenfold's listenable remix of the James Bond Theme follows the title song, setting the tone of the album to techno. David Arnold's score proper opens with a heavy, pounding "Gunbarrel" theme (which is welcome change after the truncated version in the previous two films), followed by "On the Beach," a tense composition laced with snippets of the Bond theme. "Hovercraft Chase" continues the logical build-up of its lead-in, its blaring orchestral strains distorted by highly annoying electronic intrusions. Get rid of the technohiccups, and it's a pretty fair piece, much in the vein of "Show Me the Money" from The World Is Not Enough.
"Some Kind of Hero" is suitably grim and low-key, featuring a smooth, quiet string melody that rises to a Barry-like, brass-dominated climax. It's one of the album's more effective tracks, thankfully sans electronica. "Welcome to Cuba" sounds exactly the way a track titled "Welcome to Cuba" should sound, with a frenetic Latin beat, horns, pianos, guitars, etc. Very enjoyable, and a nice mood-setter on the screen. "Jinx Jordan" is soft, pure suspense—almost inaudible in the film; its benefit is almost subliminal. "Jinx and James," however, actually has an identifiable theme that's almost but not quite pure Barry; it's one of Arnold's nicer homages in that it's not just a pale copy of Barry's style.
Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike) is a fine secondary female character. She combines vulnerability, independence, aloofness, and passion in an intriguing package, and it's rather a pity she doesn't get more screen time. The track "A Touch of Frost" captures the colder side of her character, with just a hint of warmth in the muted piano melody. This is one of my favorite cuts, except that it—like her time onscreen—is too short, running less than two minutes.
"Icarus"—the name of the satellite project devised by Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens)—begins with a grand, majestic flourish, featuring choral backing, but there's otherwise little to it. "Laser Fight" is actually rather eerie, conveying the ominous tone of the scene as Jinx is menaced by the larger cousin of Auric Goldfinger's famous playtoy. This cut is strictly Arnold's own, with electronic percussion and hissing sound effects; it works well enough on its own, but like so many Arnold pieces, it gets lost in the layers of sound effects in the theater.
The tempo increases in "Whiteout," an entertaining piece of action music, mostly free of electronic intrusion, again with a choral backdrop and some Barry-like brass. In fact, as the track reaches its climax, the unmistakeable ending of "Chateau Flight" from Thunderball works its way into the mix, seguéing into the notes of the Bond theme. Alas, in the film, the music is the best part of the scene, for the visual spectacle is utterly destroyed by one of the worst CGI effects in the history of motion pictures.
Electronic distortion (ho hum) returns in "Iced Inc.," another piece that could stand up quite well if the sound mixers left the orchestra alone (never was there an album more in need of an "unplugged" performance). There's a bit of electronica present in "Antonov" (a very long composition at 11:52), but it's far less intrusive than the former cut, and the Russian-sounding flute melody is atmospheric. As the piece builds up, more choir vocals join with the orchestra, but the flow is very erratic; suitable enough for the action onscreen, but oftentimes jarring as a stand-alone. Still, as a long and complex piece, it offers a fair number of satisfying moments. Again, though, the finale of the film—the ultimate destruction of the transport plane carrying Bond, Jinx, Miranda, and Graves—is hopelessly marred by terrible CGI effects and its innate inability to convince one to suspend disbelief (and that's pretty damned severe in the implausible realm of 007). Finally, "Going Down Together" has the traditional swell of romantic strings as things end on a happy note.
It's no surprise that the soundtrack doesn't feature any reprises of the main title theme. There's not much of a theme to reprise, and it's hard to imagine it reworked in any satisfactory way into the score. As a whole, the soundtrack is on par with The World Is Not Enough—or would be, except that TWINE has an excellent main title theme, whereas Madonna's Die Another Day theme is so lousy it lingers through the listening experience like acid reflux after a bottle of the old Infuriator. The CD features a number of extras, such as the Madonna video (and the making of the video; isn't that enough to make you wet your drawers?), the Bond vs. Oakenfold video, a poster gallery, a "Women of Bond" gallery, and MUCH MORE. It's all well and good, I suppose, except that the interactive menu comes up whenever you put the CD in your computer. It's this extra value stuff that's going to sway people from online file sharing, I suppose.
Extra CD Features
I'm gonna wake up, yes and no
I guess, die another day
I guess I'll die another day
I'm gonna break the cycle
I think I'll find another way
For every sin, I'll have to pay
I'm gonna avoid the cliche
I guess, die another day
I think I'll find another way
I guess, die another day