It feels like the end of an era. After twenty-two instalments of trying to persuade my wife to like James Bond, we’ve reached the last Pierce Brosnan film, the end of the original movie chronology and the final 007 picture Mel hasn’t seen before.
Surfs up, dude. Three black-clad figures are riding some sweet waves towards shore.
“Are these baddies?” asks Mel. “They look like ninjas.”
It’s secret agent James Bond with two allies.
“Look what the cat dragged in.”
I ask Mel if she would like to try surfing.
“Yeah… But I wouldn’t want to get my hair wet.”
Bond hijacks a helicopter and takes the the place of a South African diamond smuggler. He plants some C4 in a briefcase of diamonds.
Mel says, “What a waste of diamonds.”
Bond cares not for material things, I tell her. For is it not easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?
“What are you talking about? He’s got Omega watches and Aston Martins.”
Yeah, but he doesn’t care when they get blown up.
I show Mel a book I recently bought off eBay called Bible Studies: James Bond – Threats, Thrills, Guns, Girls (Scripture Union, 2003). I thought it would help provide a good jumping-off point for our discussions.
Bond has landed in a North Korean compound where Colonel Moon is waiting to trade conflict diamonds for weapons. He summons his hovercrafts into the compound.
“They look like giant slugs,” says Mel.
But Moon’s second-in-command Zao has sent someone a snap of 007, and gets a reply from a mysterious contact in the West revealing that he is an MI6 agent with a licence to kill.
“They’ve got his number now,” says Mel.
Bond saves himself from the firing squad by detonating the C4 in the case of diamonds. Zao gets some of the gems embedded in his face. Bond then chases Moon across the minefield in the hovercrafts, ultimately sending the rogue Korean over a waterfall, while he hangs onto a bell at the last moment.
Mel says, “That’s like a really cool water park ride.”
“Saved by the bell,” quips Bond.
Mel tuts. “Bell-end more like.”
Captured by the North Koreans, Bond is imprisoned and his torture begins as the theme song kicks in.
“This is a bit more funky.”
I ask Mel is she knows who is singing.
Yes. I ask if she likes Madonna?
“No. She’s so over-rated.”
That’s a shame. I tell her that I quite like the way the credits are used to tell a story, and show what is happening to Bond.
“What story? It’s just women’s breasts.”
Well, that’s just a nod to tradition. You see him get tortured as well.
“Are the women what he’s thinking about while it happens?”
Yeah, he’s retreating to his happy place.
The bit that I never understand is why he hasn’t simply seduced the lady that is torturing him.
“Because he’s horrible,” Mel replies.
Yeah, but he’s James Bond. Irresistible to all women. This makes no sense to me at all. Even Bible Studies: James Bond – Threats, Thrills, Guns, Girls says, “‘The name is Bond, James Bond,’ is often a line that signifies the introduction of a new romantic interest in the life of 007. A couple of innuendos later, yet another woman is lying in his arms. Bond women are always beautiful, intelligent, sexy and seducible. In the rarefied existence that James Bond leads, the minimal conversation often leads directly to the bedroom where pleasure and relief are the only objectives.” Clearly this Korean soldier lady didn’t get the memo.
I ask Mel if she thinks Pierce Brosnan is the best-looking Bond?
“Yeah. Apart from Daniel Craig.”
It looks like Bond is facing the firing squad once again.
“He looks like shit.”
But Bond is being traded for another prisoner, and is released back to the West.
Mel says, “It is interesting to see something a bit different to normal.”
The prisoner being traded is Zao, the man who had diamonds embedded in his face by the explosion earlier.
“They would pay to look like that in Essex.”
“His ringtone is Rihanna, Shine Bright Like a Diamond.”
Bond is sedated immediately after gaining his freedom, and wakes up aboard a Royal Navy ship.
Mel, says, “It’s funny you’ve got that Bible studies book. He looks like Jesus now.”
M pays her best agent a visit in his hospital bed prison.
“She’ll tell him to get a shower and haircut. I don’t think he would have that muscle definition after being in prison for fourteen months.”
M is not happy with her best agent. “You’re no use to anyone now,” she tells him.
“That’s harsh,” says Mel. “Workplace disability discrimination.”
Bond has a flashback to his imprisonment.
“Fourteen months,” says Mel. “I’m sad that he had to spend Christmas in there.”
I ask Mel what she thinks Bond normally does at Christmas.
“Probably on a Caribbean island with some hotty. Not all the stress of cooking Delia’s turkey and timing all the trimmings.”
This reminds of an old Tesco Christmas advert that starred Roger Moore. I look it up on the internet and show Mel:
On the screen Bond slows his heartbeat through sheer force of will, like Derren Brown, simulating a cardiac arrest. As medical staff rush to his assistance, Bond comes back to life.
He is risen! I declare, trying to keep the Christ analogy going.
“I’m checking out,” Bond tells a nurse as he leaves his hospital bed.
“Cocky as ever,” notes Mel.
I’m just reassured that he’s still got it. That North Korean torturer lady was an aberration. This nurse still would, even with the beard.
Bond swims to Hong Kong Harbour, and strolls into Yacht Club, requesting his usual suite and a lobster to eat. His exchange with Mr Chang is quoted in Bible Studies: James Bond – Threats, Thrills, Guns, Girls and starts off a discussion about violence.
The book poses these questions, which in turn I put to Mrs. M:
- Is violence in films ever justified?
“Yes. If it’s against James Bond.”
- What would you say to someone who relishes the violence in James Bond?
“It’s not that violent.”
- Why is revenge a natural human response?
“Because people are so annoying.”
- Do you have any violent actions or attitudes you need to repent of? Or people you could apologise to?
“I’m not apologising to anyone.”
- Is self-defence ever appropriate? When and why?
“Yes, of course it is. What a stupid book.”
- Could Bond’s actions ever be justified in the real world?
Meanwhile, 007 has taken over the presidential suite and had a haircut and a shave. A knock on the door reveals Peaceful Fountains of Desire, a masseuse who comes with ‘compliments of the management.’
Mel says, “He’d better not sleep with her or I’ll be pissed off. She’s been provided by the hotel like a service.”
Bond realises that he’s being set up, and the hotel’s Mr Chang is behind a one-way mirror. He’s apparently being filming Bond shaving and getting changed. He works for Chinese Intelligence and provides Bond with a passport and tickets to Cuba.
“You’d think he’d have a wee kip first wouldn’t you?” asks Mel.
In Cuba Bond is drinking a mojito when Halle Berry’s Jinx emerges from the sea in a bikini.
“It’s an updated version of that old Bond girl. She’s got a very different figure to the other one. The idea of what is considered beautiful has changed,” notes Mel.
Bond claims to be an ornithologist.
“Now there’s a mouthful,” retorts Jinx suggestively, while glancing at Bond’s crotch.
Mel says, “Urgghh. I don’t like her any more.”
Bond’s acting more like a horny-thologist, and they soon end up in bed together.
During coitus Jinx produces a knife and proceeds to eat a kiwi fruit.
Mel isn’t impressed, “Oh, no. Not in the middle of sex. If you started peeling a satsuma during sex, I’d say, ‘What are you doing?! Can you not wait?!'”
On the screen James Bond reaches a climax. And I don’t mean it’s the big action set-piece at the film’s finale.
“That’s a lot more graphic than we’ve seen before.”
The next morning Bond steals a grape from a patient as he sneaks into the DNA re-writing clinic.
“First thing I’ve seen him eat. I bet he never ate that lobster before.”
Mel’s noticed in the last few films that we never see Bond eat anything. If she’d read any of the Fleming novels she’d soon be disabused of this notion. Fleming delights in lavish descriptions of Bond’s culinary adventures. On screen I remember he has some mushrooms at Scaramanga’s house, but they barely count as food.
007 is walking past some funky mirrors.
“I think I’ve seen this bit before,” says Mel.
I reply that she might be thinking of Scaramanga’s funhouse in The Man with the Golden Gun.
Jinx uses her Sony Ericsson mobile phone to detonate an explosion elsewhere in the clinic.
I tell Mel that I bought this model, the T68, purely on the basis that it was marketed with Die Another Day.
“Silly boy,” she replies.
I did like the phone as well. Had two more Sony Ericssons after that.
On a British Airways flight back to the UK Bond is served a vodka martini by an air hostess. I tell Mel that this lady is Roger Moore’s real-life daughter.
“Well, he can’t perve on her. That would be a bit incestuous.”
Alliteratively-named tycoon Gustav Graves parachutes into a press conference, copying Bond’s famous Union Jack parachute stunt from The Spy Who Loved Me. He comes across slightly smug and arrogant.
Mel says, “I actually hate him a little bit more than I hate James Bond. I didn’t think that was possible.”
Bond arrives at a fencing club to meet Graves.
“I bet you liked this bit,” says Mel.
I took up the deadly art of fencing at university, so I do like that Bond is a fencer too.
Madonna is uninterested in Bond and Grave’s match, claiming she doesn’t like cockfights.
‘They are both cocks,” says Mel. “James Bond is obviously going to win. Obviously.”
The two men fight and it quickly escalates from a regular epee bout as the combatants abandon the piste and their masks to take up a range of weapons from katanas to broadswords.
After winning the fight, Bond is welcomed back to MI6. He is sitting in his office cleaning his Walther (not a euphemism), when a couple of shots alert him to intruders. He finds Miss Moneypenny’s corpse, slumped at her desk where she has been shot.
“Aww. I’m sad about that. She was an innocent woman. That was really unexpected wasn’t it?”
When it turns out that Bond was actually taking part in a virtual reality exercise, and Moneypenny is alive and well, Mel is more disappointed that Desmond’s Llewlyn’s Q is no longer with us. His successor, played by John Cleese is equipping Bond this time.
“Aww. I want my Q.”
Q gives Bond his new car – an Aston Martin Vanquish that can turn invisible. I ask Mel what she thinks of this new innovation.
“I like it.”
I tell Mel that this is a hugely unpopular element of this film, and is widely used as a symbol of what is wrong with the movie.
“But the whole thing is a farce, why is that going too far?”
Graves’ assistant Miranda Frost is having a briefing with M, as she is actually another undercover MI6 agent. She scoffs at the idea that she would sleep with Bond.
“She’s obviously going to shag him,” Mel predicts.
Bond is driving along in Iceland to Graves’ ice palace.
Mel says, “Beautiful car, but it all looks so fake.”
Bond almost gets caught snooping on his host, so Miss Frost kisses him to avoid the attention of security. Bond keeps kissing her when they’ve gone.
They go back to Bond’s suite and undress for bed.
“She’s body-confident,” says Mel.
I turn to the Bible Studies book again. Part Four: Girls. I ask Mel the questions posed in this section:
- Would you like to be a Bond girl? Why or why not?
“No! Not to be a little tramp who has nothing to live for except opening her legs for James Bond!”
- How do you rate James Bond as a man?
- How do you react to sex scenes in Bond movies?
“I hate them. Especially the ones where he tries to force himself on women.”
- Would you like to be Bond?
“I think you know the answer to that.”
The book directs us to a Bible passage; Proverbs 7:1-27, which describes a young man being ensnared into casual sex by a wanton woman.
‘6 At the window of my house I looked down through the lattice. 7 I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who had no sense. 8 He was going down the street near her corner, walking along in the direction of her house 9 at twilight, as the day was fading, as the dark of night set in. 10 Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent. 11 (She is unruly and defiant, her feet never stay at home; 12 now in the street, now in the squares, at every corner she lurks.) 13 She took hold of him and kissed him and with a brazen face she said: 14 “Today I fulfilled my vows, and I have food from my fellowship offering at home. 15 So I came out to meet you; I looked for you and have found you! 16 I have covered my bed with colored linens from Egypt. 17 I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon. 18 Come, let’s drink deeply of love till morning; let’s enjoy ourselves with love! 19 My husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey. 20 He took his purse filled with money and will not be home till full moon.” 21 With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. 22 All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose 23 till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life. 24 Now then, my sons, listen to me; pay attention to what I say. 25 Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths. 26 Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng. 27 Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.’
Well that escalated quickly. I like how the seduction takes place at twilight; it ties in to what Bond told Jinx earlier about predators feasting. As Mel went to Catholic school I ask what actually happened in the story; how does the guy actual die? Does she sex him to death like Lady Mary did to that Turkish chap in Downton Abbey? Mel doesn’t know.
Jinx has been captured and bound. She is about to be diced up with a laser by Mr Kil when Bond hears her plaintive cries.
Mel says, “She sounds like she’s having sex.”
I tell her I think that’s how Bond recognises that it’s her. Bond steals Graves’ jet-car to escape, blasting off into the Icelandic wastes. Gustav uses his satellite to try and zap 007, who deploys the parachute and sails over a cliff. The car jerks mechanically from the horizontal to the vertical.
“That is one of the worst effects I’ve ever seen.”
Bond quickly cannibalises the car to kitesurf down the tsunami.
“That effect looks rubbish too,” says Mel.
Back at the Ice Palace Bond gets in his Aston Martin and has a car-duel on a frozen lake against Zao in his equally gadget-equppied Jaguar.
“I haven’t enjoyed this one at all. It’s one of the worst. And that’s saying something,”says Mel.
Jinx has been captured again, and is drowning in her rapidly melting ice room. Bond rescues her, and jumps into a hot pool to revive her.
“Sit her up!” urges Mel.
“If she sleeps with James Bond again after she knows he slept with the other woman in-between, then that’s minging. I wouldn’t put it past either of them though. They are very promiscuous.”
Gustav Graves reveals that he is really Colonel Moon to his incredulous father. “It’s so unbelievable, isn’t it?” asks Mel.
Moon Senior doesn’t like his son’s plan to destroy the minefield between North and South Korea with the giant space laser, so he is promptly killed.
Mel says, “He’s horrible. He’s turned into a real monster.”
While Bond fights Moon, Jinx takes on Frost.
“They have to get down to their tight tank tops,” says Mel. “They’ve had the cockfight; now it’s the boob-fight.”
“I don’t care. I think Ed Miliband should be thinking about other things right now.”
For readers outside the UK: Ed Miliband was the leader of the Labour Party in the run-up to May’s general election. Sadly the electorate weren’t quite ready for his progressive lady-Bond policy. It cost him the election and he has since resigned the leadership.
I guess Jinx is about as close as we’ve seen to a female Bond, and there was speculation following the release of Die Another Day that she might star in her own spin-off movie.
With Graves and Frost defeated, Bond and Jinx need to escape the crashing plane.
“Come on. I just want it to finish now. I’ve had enough, Mark.”
The two agents buckle themselves into a helicopter and drop out of the back of the plane, frantically trying to start the chopper’s engine.
“They won’t die. There’s no pressure.”
Bond starts the engine in the nick of time and they fly off. Back at MI6 headquarters Miss Moneypenny is typing up a report when Bond arrives in her office. They start kissing on the desk.
Mel isn’t impressed. “She’s pathetic. ‘Oh, James!'” she mocks.
“Just have a shag,” she advises the pair. “You don’t care, and she’s desperate. I’m sick of watching them flirt.”
It turns out that Moneypenny has just been misusing Q’s virtual reality training equipment to simulate having sex with a co-worker.
“I love how she was actually doing work in her fantasy – typing up the report!”
The real Bond is having sex elsewhere. He and Jinx have become squatters, making out on a bed of conflict diamonds in someone’s hut.
“It’s so smarmy, it actually makes my skin crawl.”
“Oh, God. Urrggh. Minging.”
As the film ends I turn to my wife and declare that we’ve now watched all the pre-Daniel Craig Bond movies! She slumps backwards in mock-relief.
I ask how she feels. “Exhausted. You owe me big time. How many hours of my life have I wasted?”
Mel will return… playing Scene It? 007 Edition.
Order Die Another Day on DVD from Amazon: Die Another Day – Special Edition [DVD] 
On Blu-ray: Die Another Day [Blu-ray] 
Order Bible Studies: James Bond – Threats, Thrills, Guns, Girls: Connect Bible Studies: James Bond : Threats, Thrills, Guns, Girls