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MGM Studios DVD presents
Die Another Day (2002)

Colonel Moon: You will not live to see the day all Korea is ruled by the North.
James Bond: Then you and I have something in common.

- Will Yun Lee, Pierce Brosnan

Review By: Brian Calhoun  
Published: August 31, 2003

Stars: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Judi Dench, Toby Stephens
Other Stars: Rosamund Pike, Rick Yune, John Cleese, Judi Dench, Michael Madsen
Director: Lee Tamahori

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for action violence and sexuality
Run Time: 02h:12m:12s
Release Date: June 03, 2003
UPC: 027616884282
Genre: action


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+AA+ A-

DVD Review

It is remarkable that James Bond movies have been able to flourish after all these years. The cold war has long been over, and younger audiences seem to crave a much different kind of action picture today. Yet, there is always room for a well-crafted spy story, and even after a string of lackluster entries, British agent 007 James Bond is back and better than ever. Thanks to a sharp story in addition to the usual Bond fare, Die Another Day is the best in the series in quite a long time.

Bond pictures always fall into the same formulaic traps; anyone who has seen one movie has seen them all. Die Another Day undoubtedly stays close to the formula, but there are differences that elevate it beyond the typical ho-hum franchise adventure. I might be mistaken, but I believe this is the first Bond film where the opening action spectacular is actually part of the plot rather than simply an unrelated thrill ride. After this riveting sequence involving a hovercraft chase through Korea's demilitarized zone, James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is captured by North Koreans who torture him for over a year. It is refreshing to see that James is actually a human being for a change, rather than the robotic super human he is portrayed as in most of his films.

While incarcerated, Bond is framed for leaking information on the whereabouts of several British agents. The possibility that he may have been brainwashed into divulging this classified information while imprisoned forces her Majesty's Secret Service to negotiate a risky trade: Bond's life for the Korean assassin Zao (Rick Yune), who has recently been captured by the British. Once on the outside, Bond is stripped of his "00" license, forcing him to defy his government as he sets out on an unauthorized mission of revenge against those who have framed him. He is soon led to the enigmatic Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens), a thrill-seeking billionaire whose clean reputation may not be all that it seems.

Despite the usual one-liners, this is a good screenplay for a Bond film. The narrative is designed in a way that engrosses throughout; the scenes flow with a natural quality and the action serves the greater purpose of the story. Gustav Graves makes a fine Bond villain, exuding a despicable charm of dishonesty. If there is a major flaw, it is the obligatory romantic angle. Bond has never needed much of a reason to jump in the sack, but his initial encounter with Jinx (Halle Berry) quickly leads to a sex scene so forced that I found it implausible even for someone as suave as 007.

No Bond film is complete without action sequences, and Die Another Day delivers several unlikely but dazzling stunt-filled extravaganzas. An ice-field car chase and the aforementioned hovercraft sequence are breathtaking, while the scene where James surfs a glacier that is being melted by a giant laser is downright laughable. Other than this and a few more silly moments, the special effects are quite admirable. The excitement of these scenes is once again enhanced by a visit to Q (John Cleese), who supplies Bond with his usual assortment of gadgets. I often find myself a bit disappointed that the producers of these films cannot come up with slightly more interesting gadgetry, but Die Another Day contains at least one device that had me exclaiming, "I wish I had one of those!" Not only does Bond's new vehicle contain the usual 007 optional extras, but it also features a cloaking device that renders it invisible to the enemy.

As to be expected from this 20th entry in the James Bond film catalog, there is nothing terribly original about Die Another Day. Many of the images and ideas are straight out of preceding Bond pictures. While several of these elements are a sly homage, others are merely pointless rehashes. I suppose, however, that continuity and stability are what Bond films are all about. There is a certain level of balance in creating a 007 picture; die-hard fans must be given the expected clichés they have come to love over the last 40 years, while at the same time the stories must be fresh, inventive, and pertinent to our modern times. Die Another Day manages to succeed on all levels. It is a success that all but guarantees James Bond will live on to die many more days.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The 2.40:1 anamorphic image transfer is a wonder to behold. The overall aesthetic is pristine, appearing smooth and lifelike throughout. The opening sequence boasts an intentionally cold and subdued color palette, consisting of cool, bluish tones that are nicely contrasted by the warm, vibrant hue evident later in the film. The picture conveys a commendable level of detail with a soothing touch of film grain that adds significantly to the film-like appearance. The only distraction is a noticeable amount of edge enhancement. While easily detectable, its presence is never bothersome enough to detract from the sheer splendor of this winning transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0French, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes
DTSEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Attention audio fanatics: prepare to be dazzled. The outstanding Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks both feature 6.1 matrix processing, allowing those with rear surround capability the option to become completely immersed in audio nirvana. Being able to apply this technology, I was amazed by the robust energy generated from the rear soundfield. I did feel, however, that the format is underplayed a bit. While the rear speaker certainly helps to tighten the sense of 360-degree imaging, I felt as if the sound designers were somewhat reserved in fully utilizing the back surround speaker. Nevertheless, this is an insignificant gripe for what is otherwise a supreme soundtrack. While the Dolby Digital EX track is excellent, the DTS-ES reigns superior with a more neutral high end, warmer mid-range, and tighter, deeper bass. Both tracks feature aggressive split surrounds during the many action sequences, enveloping the viewer with the sounds of speeding vehicles and crackling gunfire. Perhaps the most impressive element of the soundtrack is the natural tonal quality of the dialogue, particularly on the DTS track. Spoken words possess an incredibly warm characteristic, sounding so clear and natural that I could close my eyes and believe that the actors and I were in the same room. Delivering a brilliant display of the 6.1 matrix format and featuring perhaps the finest fidelity I have heard thus far on DVD, the Die Another Day DTS-ES soundtrack is unquestionably my new demo material.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 36 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Evelyn, Windtalkers (Director's Edition), Agent Cody Banks, Bulletproof Monk
10 TV Spots/Teasers
20 Multiple Angles with remote access
1 Documentaries
5 Featurette(s)
Storyboard
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by director Lee Tamahori and producer Michael G. Wilson; Pierce Brosnan and Rosamund Pike
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray Double
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Trivia Track With Video Streaming
  2. Equipment Briefing
  3. Image Gallery
  4. Music Video
Extras Review: MGM has supplied all the gadgets for this release, and provided Bond fans with an overwhelming amount of supplemental material. While several of the special features on Disc Two are extraneous, there are plenty of interesting extras on both discs to satisfy even the most discriminating viewer. The presentation of this two-disc set is simple yet elegant, featuring witty menu screens and tasteful outer packaging that also contains production notes.

Disc One begins with an insightful commentary by director Lee Tamahori and producer Michael G. Wilson. The two have a very pleasant discussion covering the entire filming process for Die Another Day. Very rarely does their conversation become tiresome or irrelevant. This is an excellent commentary track for both budding film students and those who are simply interested in learning more about this film.

The second commentary featuring Pierce Brosnan and Rosamund Pike is less overtly entertaining. I am always wary of actor commentaries, because they typically seem to merely rehash what is happening on screen. Fortunately, the two actors avoid this mistake, but I was disappointed to find that their two sessions have been recorded separately, with each actor delivering solo commentaries for their pertinent scenes. This method makes for a somewhat tedious track with many gaps. There are several interesting tidbits revealed, but they are too few and far between to necessitate an entire commentary track.

The final special feature on the first disc is the MI6 Datastream, which is a rather insightful text trivia track with sporadic video streaming. The trivia plays in conjunction with the entire feature, offering an endless amount of pop-up text information on a variety of interesting topics. Occasionally, a message will notify the viewer of an incoming video transmission, at which point the film will become window-boxed alongside a brief behind-the-scenes featurette that corresponds with the current scene. This is an excellent special feature that I would like to see offered on more films, but I wish the text trivia could have been a bit smaller so as to not block such a large portion of the movie.

Disc Two is where the viewer will find the majority of special features, divided into five main sections. First, is the Inside Die Another Day documentary, focusing predominately on the technical bravura behind the thrilling action sequences. The viewer has the option to watch the entire documentary or divide the viewing into seven subsections. This is an excellent "making-of" that is far more interesting than most behind-the-scenes features.

The next main section is titled Mission Deconstruction, consisting of the following four subsections:

Scene Evolutions:
Scene Evolutions contains automatically advancing storyboards for the hovercraft chase and the car battle. At any time, the viewer may use the angle button to toggle between the full-frame storyboards or the storyboard to finished film comparisons. The split screen presentation is very impressive, with the storyboards encompassing half of the screen and the finished film filling the rest. This is an excellent storyboard section.

Inter-Action Sequences:
This multi-angle section presents coverage of four sequences with the option to view the footage from as many as four fully isolated camera angles per scene. The viewer has the option to view an individual camera angle, cycle through all of the cameras by using the angle button, or watch a composite of all the cameras presented in window-box format. This interesting section allows the viewer an inside look at exactly how the editor's chose the final film footage from a number of separate camera angles.

Title Design:
This short featurette shows an in depth look at the impressive work that went into creating the quintessential Bond title sequence. A comprehensive breakdown of four different shots shows how the filmmakers used a combination of live action and CGI to create the unique sequence that we see in the finished film. Complete with a tasteful remix of Madonna's theme song, this is another winning special feature.

Digital Grading:
This is another featurette that demonstrates how the filmmakers used computers to enhance the overall mood of the film. Colors are altered, skies are changed from gray to blue, and when necessary, the entire aesthetic of the picture is completely changed. This is a nice, albeit brief, piece that shows how computers play a pivotal role in movie making these days.

The next main section is Equipment Briefing, which provides a detailed analysis on the equipment used throughout the film. A rotating three-dimensional computer image accents the many features of these fascinating gadgets, while voice-over narration tells what the particular item is and how it works. This is a fun section that showcases what I believe to be the highlight of any Bond film.

The Image Database contains hundreds of still photos, separated into five different galleries. I found these images to be a bit more entertaining than the typical DVD photo galleries—although that is not saying much.

The final major section is Ministry of Propaganda, consisting of the following:

Trailers and TV Spots:
The theatrical trailer is presented in anamorphic widescreen with Dolby stereo surround sound. A hardly surprising two-minute action extravaganza, the trailer is quite thrilling. Also included are two teaser trailers and eight TV spots presented in nonanamorphic widescreen. All of these trailers are nicely edited montages of footage; if I had not already seen the film, they would certainly spark my interest.

Next, is the full-length music video for Madonna's theme song, followed by a featurette that chronicles the making of this eccentric video. Though these are questionable inclusions, I found them to be mildly entertaining. I do wish, however, that the music video had been presented with 5.1 sound.

Also included is a brief glimpse at the 007 Nightfire game, complete with its own "making-of" featurette. While these special features are purely fluff, I do think the game looks pretty cool.

Both discs also contain DVD-Rom features, which I could not access.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

For his 40th anniversary, Bond makes a refreshing comeback in Die Another Day, easily the best Pierce Brosnan 007 outing. MGM has delivered a two-disc set as thrilling as Bond's greatest adventures, complete with near-flawless audio and video transfers, and a group of special features guaranteed to keep one busy for quite some time.

Highly Recommended.

 


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