The film received mixed reviews. Some critics praised the work of Lee Tamahori, while others criticised the film's heavy use of computer-generated imagery, which they found unconvincing and a distraction from the film's plot. Nevertheless, Die Another Day was the highest-grossing James Bond film up to that time if inflation is not taken into account.
MI6 officer James Bond—agent 007—infiltrates a North Korean military base, where Colonel Tan-Sun Moon is illegally trading weapons for African blood diamonds. After Moon's assistant Zao discovers that Bond is a British agent, Moon attempts to kill Bond and a hovercraft chase ensues, which ends with Moon's apparent death. Bond survives, but is captured by North Korean soldiers and imprisoned by the Colonel's father, General Moon.
After 14 months of captivity and torture, Bond is traded for Zao in a prisoner exchange. He is sedated and taken to meet M, who informs him that his status as a 00 Agent is suspended under suspicion of having leaked information under duress. Bond is convinced that he has been set up by a double agent in the British government and decides to avenge his betrayal. After escaping from the custody of MI6, he discovers that he is in Hong Kong, where he learns from a Chinese agent that Zao is in Cuba.
In Havana Bond meets NSA agent Giacinta 'Jinx' Johnson, with whom he is intimate. Later, Bond follows her to a gene therapy clinic, where patients can have their appearances altered through DNA restructuring. Bond locates Zao inside the clinic and attempts to kill him, but Zao escapes. He leaves behind a pendant which leads Bond to a cache of diamonds, identified as conflict diamonds, but bearing the crest of the company owned by British billionaire Gustav Graves.
At Blades Club in London Bond meets Graves, along with his assistant Miranda Frost, who is also an undercover MI6 agent. After a fencing exercise (and a literal sword-fight), Bond is invited by Graves to Iceland for a scientific demonstration. Shortly afterwards, M restores Bond's Double-0 status and offers assistance in the investigation.
At his ice palace in Iceland Graves unveils a new orbital mirror satellite, "Icarus", which is able to focus solar energy on a small area and provide year-round sunshine for crop development. During the night, Jinx infiltrates Graves' command centre, but is captured by Graves and Zao. Bond rescues her and later discovers that Colonel Moon is still alive. Moon has used the gene therapy technology to change his appearance, assuming the identity of Gustav Graves.
Bond confronts Graves, but Frost arrives to reveal herself as the traitor who betrayed Bond in North Korea, forcing 007 to escape from Graves' facility. Bond then returns in his Aston Martin Vanquish to rescue Jinx, who has been captured once again. Zao pursues him in his own vehicle, both cars driving inside the rapidly melting ice palace. Bond kills Zao by shooting an ice chandelier onto him, and then revives Jinx after she has drowned.
Bond and Jinx pursue Graves and Frost to the Korean peninsula and stow away on Graves' cargo plane. Graves reveals his true identity to his father, and the true purpose of the Icarus satellite: to cut a path through the Korean Demilitarized Zone with concentrated sunlight, allowing North Korean troops to invade South Korea and reunite the peninsula by force. Horrified at the fact that it would result in a nuclear war with the United States, General Moon tries to stop the plan, but he is murdered by his own son.
Bond attempts to shoot Graves but he is prevented by one of the soldiers on board. In their struggle, a gunshot pierces the fuselage, causing the plane to descend rapidly. Bond engages Graves in a fist fight, and Jinx attempts to regain control of the plane. Frost attacks Jinx, forcing her to defend herself in a sword duel. After the plane passes through the Icarus beam and is further damaged, Jinx kills Frost. Graves attempts to escape by parachute, but Bond opens the parachute, causing Graves to be pulled out of the plane and into one of its engines, killing him and disabling the Icarus beam. Bond and Jinx then escape from the disintegrating plane in a helicopter from the cargo hold, carrying away Graves' stash of diamonds in the process.Pierce Brosnan as James Bond 007, an MI6 agent.Halle Berry as Giacinta 'Jinx' Johnson, an NSA agent.Toby Stephens as Gustav Graves, a British entrepreneur, alter ego of Colonel Moon.Rosamund Pike as Miranda Frost, undercover MI6 agent and double agent.Rick Yune as Zao, a North Korean terrorist working for Moon.Judi Dench as M, the head of MI6.Will Yun Lee as Colonel Tan-Sun Moon, a rogue North Korean army colonel, later uses his alter ego.Kenneth Tsang as General Moon, Colonel Moon's father.John Cleese as Q, MI6's quartermaster and armourer.Colin Salmon as Charles Robinson, M's Deputy Chief of Staff.Ho Yi as the Hotel manager and Chinese special agent Mr. Chang. In early drafts of the script, it was Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh) who aided Bond in Hong Kong, but the idea fell through and Chang was created to replace her.Rachel Grant as Peaceful Fountains of Desire, a Chinese agent working for Mr. Chang, undercover as a masseuse.Emilio Echevarría as Raoul, the manager of a Havana cigar factory, and a British sleeper.Samantha Bond as Miss Moneypenny, M's secretary.Michael Gorevoy as Vladimir Popov, Gustav Graves' personal scientistLawrence Makoare as Mr. Kil, one of Gustav Graves' henchmen.Michael Madsen as Damian Falco, Jinx's superior in the NSA.Vincent Wong as General LiJoaquin Martinez as an elderly cigar factory workerDeborah Moore as an airline hostess (Moore is the daughter of former Bond Roger Moore)Madonna as Verity, a fencing instructor (cameo)
Principal photography of Die Another Day began on 11 January 2002 at Pinewood studios. The film was shot primarily in the United Kingdom, Iceland, and Cádiz, Spain. Other locations included Pinewood Studios' 007 Stage and Maui, Hawaii, in December 2001. Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama, and Darrick Doerner performed the pre-title surfing scene at the surf break known as Jaws in Peʻahi, Maui, while the shore shots were taken near Cádiz and Newquay, Cornwall. Scenes inside Graves' diamond mine were also filmed in Cornwall, at the Eden Project. The scenes involving the Cuban locations of Havana and the fictional Isla de Los Organos were filmed at La Caleta, Spain.
The scenes featuring Berry in a bikini were shot in Cádiz. The location was reportedly cold and windy, and footage has been released of Berry wrapped in thick towels between takes to avoid catching a chill. Berry was injured during filming when debris from a smoke grenade flew into her eye. The debris was removed in a 30-minute operation.
Gadgets and other props from every previous Bond film and stored in Eon Productions' archives appear in Q's warehouse in the London Underground. Examples include the jetpack in Thunderball and Rosa Klebb's poison-tipped shoe in From Russia with Love. Q mentions that the watch he issues Bond is "your 20th, I believe", a reference to Die Another Day being the 20th Eon-produced Bond film. In London, the Reform Club was used to shoot several places in the film, including the lobby and gallery at the Blades Club, MI6 Headquarters, Buckingham Palace, Green Park, and Westminster. Svalbard, Norway, and Jökulsárlón, Iceland were used for the car chase on the ice with additional scenes filmed at Jostedalsbreen National Park, Norway and RAF Little Rissington, Gloucestershire; Manston Airport in Kent was used for the scenes involving the Antonov cargo plane scenes. The scene in which Bond surfs the wave created by Icarus when Graves was attempting to kill Bond was shot on the blue screen. The waves, along with all the glaciers in the scene are computer-generated.
The hangar interior of the "US Air Base in South Korea", shown crowded with Chinook helicopters, was filmed at RAF Odiham in Hampshire, UK, as were the helicopter interior shots during the Switchblade sequence. These latter scenes, though portrayed in the air, were actually filmed entirely on the ground with the sky background being added in post-production using blue screen techniques. Although the base is portrayed in the film as a US base, all the aircraft and personnel in the scene are British in real life. In the film, Switchblades (one-person gliders resembling fighter jets in shape) are flown by Bond and Jinx to stealthily enter North Korea. The Switchblade was based on a workable model called "PHASST" (Programmable High Altitude Single Soldier Transport). Kinetic Aerospace Inc.'s lead designer, Jack McCornack was impressed by director Lee Tamahori's way of conducting the Switchblade scene and commented, "It's brief, but realistic. The good guys get in unobserved, thanks to a fast cruise, good glide performance, and minimal radar signature. It's a wonderful promotion for the PHASST."
The soundtrack was composed by David Arnold and released on Warner Bros. Records. He again made use of electronic rhythm elements in his score, and included two of the new themes created for The World Is Not Enough. The first, originally used as Renard's theme, is heard during the mammoth "Antonov" cue on the recording, and is written for piano. The second new theme, used in the "Christmas in Turkey" track of The World Is Not Enough, is reused in the "Going Down Together" track.
The title song for Die Another Day was co-written and co-produced by Mirwais Ahmadzai and performed by Madonna, who also had a cameo in the film as Verity, a fencing instructor. The concept of the title sequence is to represent Bond trying to survive 14 months of torture at the hands of the North Koreans. Critics' opinions of the song were sharply divided—it was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Song and the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording, but also for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Original Song of 2002 (while Madonna herself won the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress for her cameo). In a MORI poll for the Channel 4 programme "James Bond's Greatest Hits", the song was voted 9th out of 22, and also came in as an "overwhelming number one" favourite among those under the age of 24.
MGM and Eon Productions granted Mattel the license to sell a line of Barbie dolls based around the franchise. Mattel announced that the Bond Barbies will be at her "stylish best", clad in evening dress and red shawl. Lindy Hemming created the dress, which is slashed to the thigh to reveal a telephone strapped to Barbie's leg. The doll was sold in a gift set, with Barbie's boyfriend Ken posing as Bond in a tuxedo designed by the Italian fashion house Brioni.
Revlon also collaborated with the makers of Die Another Day to create a cosmetics line based around the character Jinx. The limited edition 007 Colour Collection was launched on 7 November 2002 to coincide with the film's release. The product names were loaded with puns and innuendo, with shades and textures ranging from the "warm" to "cool and frosted".
Die Another Day had its world premiere on 18 November 2002 at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were guests of honour, making it the second Bond film premiere to be attended by the Queen, the first one being You Only Live Twice in 1967. The Royal Albert Hall had a make-over for the screening and had been transformed into an ice palace. Proceeds from the première, about £500,000, were donated to the Cinema and Television Benevolent Fund of which the Queen is patron. On the first day, ticket sales reached £1.2 million. Die Another Day was the highest grossing James Bond film until the release of Casino Royale. It earned $432 million worldwide, becoming the sixth highest-grossing film of 2002.
Die Another Day was controversial in the Korean Peninsula. The North Korean government disliked the portrayal of their state as brutal and war-hungry. The South Koreans boycotted 145 theatres where it was released on 31 December 2002, as they were offended by the scene in which an American officer issues orders to the South Korean army in the defence of their homeland, and by a lovemaking scene near a statue of the Buddha. The Jogye Buddhist Order issued a statement that the film was "disrespectful to our religion and does not reflect our values and ethics". The Washington Post reported growing resentment in the nation towards the United States. An official of the South Korean Ministry of Culture and Tourism said that Die Another Day was "the wrong film at the wrong time."
The amount of product placement in the film was a point of criticism, specifically from various news outlets such as the BBC, Time and Reuters who all used the pun "Buy Another Day". Reportedly 20 companies, paying $70 million, had their products featured in the film, a record at the time, although USA Today reported that number to be as high as $100 million. By choice, the number of companies involved in product placement was dropped to eight for the next Bond film Casino Royale in 2006.
Rotten Tomatoes listed Die Another Day with a 58% rating. Metacritic gave the film a 56 out of 100 rating, representing "mixed or average reviews." Michael Dequina of Film Threat praised the film as the best of the series to star Pierce Brosnan and "the most satisfying installment of the franchise in recent memory." Larry Carroll of CountingDown.com praised Lee Tamahori for having "magnificently balanced the film so that it keeps true to the Bond legend, makes reference to the classic films that preceded it, but also injects a new zest to it all." Entertainment Weekly magazine also gave a positive reaction, saying that Tamahori, "a true filmmaker", has re-established the series' pop sensuality. Dana Stevens of The New York Times called the film the best of the James Bond series since The Spy Who Loved Me. Kyle Bell of Movie Freaks 365 stated in his review that the "first half of Die Another Day is classic Bond", but that "Things start to go downhill when the ice palace gets introduced."
However, Die Another Day was strongly criticised by some reviewers who felt that the film relied too heavily on gadgets and special effects, with the plot being neglected. James Berardinelli of Reelviews.net said, "This is a train wreck of an action film – a stupefying attempt by the filmmakers to force-feed James Bond into the mindless XXX mold and throw 40 years of cinematic history down the toilet in favor of bright flashes and loud bangs." Of the action sequences, he said, "Die Another Day is an exercise in loud explosions and excruciatingly bad special effects. The CGI work in this movie is an order of magnitude worse than anything I have seen in a major motion picture. Coupled with lousy production design, Die Another Day looks like it was done on the cheap. Gary Brown of the Houston Community Newspapers also described the weak point of the film as "the seemingly non-stop action sequences and loud explosions that appear to take centre stage while the Bond character is almost relegated to second string." Roger Moore remarked, "I thought it just went too far – and that’s from me, the first Bond in space! Invisible cars and dodgy CGI footage? Please!"
Die Another Day was written into a novel by the then-official James Bond writer, Raymond Benson, based on the screenplay by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. An effort is made to depict some of the film's more outlandish elements with more believability, in the style of Fleming's original novels' use of cutting-edge technology. So for example, the non-bodywork elements of the Aston Martin with its 'cloaking' function – the glass windows and rubber tyres – are described as having retractable covers to achieve the invisibility effect. Fan reaction to it was above average. After its publication Benson retired as the official James Bond novelist and a new series featuring the secret agent's adventures as a teenager, by Charlie Higson, was launched in 2005. As the novelisation was published after Benson's final original 007 novel, The Man with the Red Tattoo, it was the final literary work featuring Bond as originally conceived by Ian Fleming until the publication of Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks in 2008 to mark the 100th anniversary of Fleming's birth.
Speculation arose in 2003 of a spin-off film concentrating on Jinx, which was scheduled for a November/December 2004 release. It was originally reported that MGM was keen to set up a film series that would be a "winter olympics" alternative to 'James Bond'. In the late 1990s, MGM had originally considered developing a spin-off film based on Michelle Yeoh's character, Wai Lin, in 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies. However, despite much speculation of an imminent movie, on 26 October 2003, Variety reported that MGM had completely pulled the plug on this project, to the dismay of Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson of Eon Productions, who were reported to be "clearly furious" about the decision. MGM were keen to instead move on with the next film, Casino Royale, which went on to feature several recycled ideas originally penned for the cancelled spin-off.