Film scores Franchises

Soundtrack review: James Bond – Die another day (David Arnold – 2001)

die-another-day

Sigh… This movie… for me, “Die another day” is the epitome of “so bad it’s good”. I shouldn’t even joke about it being good but the truth is I do smile and watch it every time it comes on, ridiculous and absurd as it is. And even if the James Bond franchise has had its ridiculous moments in 50 years of movies this one counts as one of the lowest moments for me. It’s hard even to choose which scene was the most preposterous. It was a proper ending to Pierce Brosnan’s tenure as our favorite secret agent, a tenure he himself admitted was deeply flawed. Somehow even the choice of having Madonna sing the main theme fit with the whole feel of the movie. Why I can’t take my eyes of this train wreck is a mystery to me, but I know every scene by heart, from the Korean with diamonds in his face to falling from a plane on a collapsing glacier and finally surfing on the door of the plane in the water from the melted ice. Yes, that happens.

Somehow David Arnold seems to have caught the virus that made this movie so wrong. Or maybe he was caught in his own effort to morph the Bond music into his own. “Tomorrow never dies”, his first score in the franchise was a brilliant continuation of John Barry’s work, still warm and human. His second one “The world is not enough” meant a slight takeover from the electronic music as if the living body that’s “the Bond music” got a couple of robotic limbs. “Die another day” brought the full transformation to mostly cold electronic beats. Except the spectacular “Hovercraft chase” (which comes with the unfortunate bonus of bringing back the scene to my mind) there’s little heard in this score. It’s hard to believe, for me, that from the ashes of “Die another day” the franchise was reborn with the masterful “Casino Royale” with the awesome Daniel Craig as our hero and with the best James Bond score ever by David Arnold.

Normally I wouldn’t have appreciated a cue like “Jinx and James” but in the context of this score, it’s one of my favorites. But if the theme for Hale Berry’s character passes as enjoyable, the one for Miranda Frost is not as successful. The soft and melodic piano tune works but then electronics take over and take the life out of the music.

The choral part on “Icarus” doesn’t quite work for a James Bond film. I cringe at some cue titles because they bring to memory some of the scenes from the movie. The 11 minutes long “Antonov” was the last hope for this score. It didn’t save it. David Arnold seemed to have been the least inspired while writing this score from his 11 years as Bond composer. Again the choirs don’t fit and the heart is lacking. I almost recognize neither David Arnold nor the spirit of the James Bond franchise. It was just one of those projects… We needed this one to crumble in order to get the masterpiece that came 4 years later.

Cue rating: 68 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 4 / 55

Album excellence: 7%

Highlights:

Hovercraft chase

 

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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