Die Another Day [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - MGM Home Entertainment/Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Pat Pilon (7th December 2008).
The Film

Released in 2002, 'Die Another Day' celebrated the 40th anniversary of the release of 'Dr. No', the first Bond movie. As such, the filmmakers wanted to go all out, putting as much as they possibly could in 2 hours. Fans of the series will appreciate all of the little homages and references to the previous 19 movies.

'Die Another Day', however, doesn't try to emulate every other Bond movie made. It tries new territory, with varying levels of success. The movie starts out much darker than any other Bond movie – seeing the main character get tortured over the opening credits isn't a very cheery way to start a movie, let alone a Bond movie. It does get back on a lighter side, with the occasional one-liner and inevitable (and numerous) sexual innuendoes.

The plot is also a bit different. James Bond (the ever-debonair Pierce Brosnan) here is at odds with MI6 and is actually relieved of duty, only doing his work without the help of MI6. The movie has James Bond being betrayed by someone, where, through various events, ends up working alone, trying to find who betrayed him.

Director Lee Tamahori is a lucky guy. On the basis of a few rather small movies, he got this gig. One big complaint most people have with 'Die Another Day' was the overuse of CGI. I didn't like way he used CGI in 'Along Came a Spider', and that's probably my main criticism for this movie. Mr. Brosnan explains the use of CGI in his commentary and there's a good reason for it. However, Bond movies have always been recognised as using practical effects. The first sequence in 'Die Another Day' has some spectacular surfing scenes, indicating that it would stay this way through the movie. However, some of the action sequences are just too big and ambitious to ever be done practically and CGI are needed. These scenes are easily the weakest in the movie, bringing it down more than anything else.

Another, smaller criticism is, unfortunately, Bond girl Halle Berry. She looks good and all, but she looks kind of fragile to be doing all the things she does. She looks somewhat dainty when she shoots a gun or runs around. It's not the best way to be a superspy. However, she does a really good job at delivering the various innuendoes, going head-to-head, so to speak, with Pierce Brosnan. She's the typical Bond girl. Nobody will believe she can really do the things she does, but suspension of disbelief has always been strong in Bond movies, so I suppose she's a good Bond girl.

The other Bond girl is Rosamund Pike, her cold, icy blue eyes saying exactly what needs to be said. She looks great and you're never really sure what she's up to. Pierce Brosnan picks up where he left off in 'The World is Not Enough', doing what he does – being suave and sexy, well, being Pierce Brosnan. You also have go-to Asian guy Rick Yune in here. Judi Dench and John Cleese play M and R, respectively and add themselves to their roles, making them more than what other actors could have done. All around the acting is good, like in all other Bond flicks.

One really fun thing about his Bond flick are the numerous references to other movies. It's quite obvious Halle Berry's watery entrance in this movie is taken right from Ursula Andress's classic entrance from 'Dr. No'. Universal Exports from 'Dr. No', the laser machine from 'Goldfinger', the hall of mirrors from 'The Man with the Golden Gun' are a few of the more obvious references. As I've mentioned, fans of the series will get a real kick out of all the little easter eggs planted in 'Die Another Day'.

Of course, what most people will look for as the action. Thankfully, they're stunning. The sequence in Iceland is great. Not a lot of action scenes are done on ice, and this one is very well done. It's very intense and very exciting. The sword fight between Bond and Gustav Graves is a lot of fun to watch. The movie was nominated for a few World Stunt Awards, and it even won one (the sword fight at the end), and they were well deserved. The action is fun, but self-conscious. It knows what it's doing with this sword fight (the actors are serious in it, but the movie doesn't even try to be) and a few others sequences, so these things are a whole lot of fun to see. Second Unit Director Vic Armstrong is in fine form again, and he pulls out all the stops.

This is not the best James Bond movie but not the worst. It's like most of series – a lot of fun to watch. Any fan of the series will probably like this movie. The action is great and the rest of the movie follows suit. It's not one of those Bond movies that'll be remembered in 20 years, but it sure does pass 2 hours very well.

Video

2.35:1 widescreen, using the MPEG4/AVC codec. With the age of the movie compared to the other first wave releases, this one looks a lot better. There aren't really any problems with the print and the colours are accurate. The various settings show a warm or cool look and the ice lake and snow mountains in Iceland show great contrast. The skin tones are good and the various nationalities of the movie come through without a problem. Compression is stellar, as well. There's a tiny little bit of haloing in a few moments, but unless you have a very big screen, it won't be a bother. The detail seems to suffer from the tiniest amount of DNR, as faces aren’t as detailed as in some other blu-rays I've seen. However, this is only a small problem, because the rest of the transfer is fantastic.

Audio

As with the other Bond movies, the movie includes an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. It also includes French Dolby Digital 5.1 and a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track. Given that this the most recent movie in the first wave of Bond releases, it's absolutely no surprise that the track is the best. The dialogue is clear and clean throughout, with no muffling, hissing or any other problems associated with sound. The score is crystal clear, booming out of every speaker very clearly. The sound design is top-notch, with all speakers used extensively. Explosions have a very nice weight to them and the rear speakers are used very well for positions when guns are firing, things are blowing up and the like. Dynamic range could possibly be a little bit better, but overall the track is a lot more open than the other movies in the first wave, and is a terrific way to show off your system.
English (HoH) and Spanish subtitles are included.

Extras

MGM, for some reason, cut out some of the special features found on the original DVD release. However, what's on this disc is not too bad. First up are two commentary tracks. The first is by actors Pierce Brosnan and Rosamund Pike. I was looking forward to this track because I thought these two would be together. Unfortunately, they were recorded separately and their comments spliced in together. Mr. Brosnan starts the track and Mrs. Pike joins in when she appears in the movie. There are a few dead spots, which is a shame, and some of the comments given don't seem to be that important. Roger Moore's solo tracks in his movies are better. However, the two do manage to give out some good information. Mr. Brosnan talks about being Bond and Mrs. Pike talks about getting the part of Bond Girl. They also both talk a lot about the action and how they prepared for it. They both praise the cast and crew. A few behind the scenes stories are also given out, making this a nice listen, but only for fans of the movie. The second is by director Lee Tamahori and producer Michael G. Wilson. These two are together and they do have a very nice report with each other. They talk about the locations, the actors the many changes during production, the problems with Pierce Brosnan's knee, the man’s acting ability and the stunt work, among other things. They also have a few funny stories from the set, making this a very nice listen. I preferred this track to the first one.

The MI6 Datastream is your standard, and very, very informative, subtitled fact. You'll learn all about the actors, the action, the locations and everything tangentially related to these things. The one bad thing is that this has to be viewed on its own, and can't be watched while listening to a commentary.

The Declassified: MI6 Vault has a slew of very nice featurettes. 'Die Another Day' is probably the first Bond movie that had the DVD release in mind while in production. As such From Script to Screen (51:40) is a wonderfully thorough documentary starting with the writing process and ending with the end of production. You learn about the origin, about the selection of the Bond girls, the location scouting, the action shooting and a few other things. It's thorough and pretty nice to watch. It's probably the best extra on the disc.

Shaken and Stirred on Ice (23:35) and Just Another Day (22:39) both focus on one sequence. The former is all about Iceland and the sequences done there. You see and learn about the car chase scene and the Ice Hotel. You also see how these were accomplished. The latter focuses on the shoot in front of Buckingham Palace. You see the frantic shoot on the day and how they accomplished everything they did. The British Touch: Bond Arrives in London (3:32) is a short featurette detailing the the involvement of British Airways in the movie. You also see Deborah Moore (former Bond Roger Moore's daughter) and hear her thoughts on being in the movie. On Location with Peter Lamont (13:51) is composed of a bunch of on set footage from the various locations they film in. Mr. Lamont talks about those locations, giving out nice little stories. The Vault Credits (1:21) are also here.

007 Mission Control is the same as it is in every other release. You can jump to any scene based on these criteria: '007', 'Women', 'Allies', 'Villains', Mission Combat Manual', 'Q Branch' and 'Exotic Locations'.

The Image Database is last, and shows you 'Cast Portraits', 'Special Photo Shoots', 'Sets & Locations', 'Stunts & Special Effects' and 'Vehicles & Gadgets' in very nice galleries.

Overall

The Film: B+ Video: A- Audio: A Extras: B- Overall: B+

 


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