James Bond: I’m looking for a North Korean.
James Bond: Terrorist.
Raul: One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.
Trash it if you must, but it has its charms. Not the least of which is Halle Berry’s homage to Ursula Andress. Beyond the fact that the action sequences approach Marvelesque levels of absurdity, there are some interesting pieces of geopolitical subtext to note.
It’s easy to dismiss Bond films as pure escapism, but just about anyone who pays real attention to geopolitics can plainly observe that the real movements of world events take place behind the veil of NGOs, military black operations, shell companies, intelligence fronts, and vast networks of deep state assets. In short, a Bond film offers a window of insight into the true nature of power politics. Of course there’s eye candy. Of course there are going to be hot chicks, gun fights, car chases and high tech razzle dazzle. We expect these things in a 007 film, and Die Another Day delivers these in heaping portions. But this franchise wouldn’t be this big if there wasn’t an agenda behind it.
Die Another Day is most accurately seen as a piece of post-Cold War/post-9/11 propaganda. Specifically, it’s a piece of anti-North Korean propaganda. Released a year after 9/11 and the initiation of the invasion of Afghanistan, the longest war in US history, Die Another Day offers more than a few eyebrow raising propositions to ponder. Especially in light of current events. This film wants us to buy into the idea of North Korea as a military powerhouse which has a net surplus of armaments to hock in the arms trade black market in exchange for African blood diamonds. So not only are these repressive Juchebags exacerbating the conflicts in the mineral rich African countries, they’re exporting arms to innumerable baddies throughout the world. Even worse, they have imperial ambitions to reclaim the Southern half of the country lost to the capitalist running dogs of the decadent West.
Isn’t that something? When George W. Bush and the woke overlords of the Western world were mobilizing all of our collective military might into fighting the Taliban and eventually, Saddam Hussein, Die Another Day wants us to see North Korea as the font of Pure Evil.
But why? Maybe to divert your attention from the fact that the very phenomenon the filmmakers are pinning on North Korea was being underwritten by the West to prop up the War on Terror. In fact, the 2002 story of Sanjivan Ruprah’s arms trafficking to the Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone bears a striking resemblance to the storyline in Die Another Day. Isn’t it interesting that this nefarious arms dealer managed to secure a gig as Liberia’s deputy commissioner for maritime affairs? And isn’t it even more interesting that he just happened to be in contact with the CIA with information pertaining to arms smuggling to the Taliban?
[Here be spoilers and shit]
And it gets better. Our chief nemesis in Die Another Day, Colonel Tan-Sun Moon, is the heir to the seat of power in North Korea occupied by his father, General Moon. It’s a mirror image of the real life hereditary dictatorship of Kims Jong Il and Un. Also mirroring his real world analogue, Tan-San Moon is portrayed as the recipient of a Western education. When it’s revealed that he has transformed himself into aerospace/geotech mogul, Gustav Graves, through gene replacement therapy, the presumption is that his acquisition of Western scientific knowledge allowed him to build a solar geoengineering weapon. So our dastardly North Korean dictator who presides over an impoverished communist country in real life threatens the world through access to Western education, capitalism, technology, and gene therapy.
Above all else, these films are about acclimating you to technological innovation that has far reaching implications. Back in 2002, geoengineering wasn’t even discussed publicly, and 17 years later, it’s out in the open. The idea of a satellite that can replicate or block sunlight and can be weaponized to manipulate weather seems outlandish to most people, but we’re already starting to see this idea being discussed openly as well.
The most disturbing element is the human trafficking implications of the gene therapy subplot. The Avengers franchise eventually used this as a plot device for both Captain America and Black Widow. It’s being used in a similar way here because both Zao and Moon become genetically engineered super soldiers through the process. Halle Berry’s Jinx discusses the therapy with the Cuban physician who administers the treatment, he says that the blood plasma comes from “orphans, refugees and people who will not be missed.” What a pleasant thought. The movie wants you to be repelled because it’s being used by the bad guys, but in real life, this is being touted as a kind of all purpose miracle cure and fountain of youth.
What’s the more plausible thesis about this film? That the organization behind the Bond series just pulled this story out of their asses? Or that it’s a useful distraction and a mental palliative to alleviate the necessity of thinking about things too deeply? Hey. Credit where credit is due. Halle Berry AND Rosamund Pike in one 007 movie are pretty decent distractions.