Die Another Day DVD

Most milestones are marked with a party, and even though the champagne loses its fizz before the final reel, “Die Another Day,” is still cause for celebration. The twentieth film in the James Bond franchise, “Die Another Day” arrives forty years after the release of “Dr. No.”


“Die Another Day” also marks Pierce Brosnan’s fourth appearance as Bond, and he has matured nicely into the role. After three films, Brosnan brings just the right amount of personal and professional baggage to the role. He’s still easy on the eyes, but this Bond is more rugged and assured.

The screenplay by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade is equally rugged, but nearly as assured. In many ways, they bring out the best and worst of Bond. They stick to the popular formula of espionage, babes, bad guys and close calls, but in an attempt to attract teenage boys, pump up the action to the point of idiocy.

The action in Bond films has always bordered on the absurd, but in “Die Another Day” it becomes comical. However, those willing to suspend disbelief will be in for a grand time. “Die Another Day” isn’t the best Bond film, but it sure is a lot of fun, especially for fans, who will appreciate homages to previous entries.

Anyone familiar with the franchise will recognize nods to “Goldfinger,” “Thunderball,” “From Russia with Love,” and “Dr. No,” especially when bikini-clad Halle Berry sashays out of the surf dangling a knife from her suit. Ursula Andress would be proud. Berry plays Jinx, an American agent whose good looks betray her lethal skills.

Bond makes his way through the usual bevy of babes, but it’s refreshing to see him teamed up with a woman who is more than set decoration. From the first time we meet Jinx, we know she’s trouble.

Director Lee Tamahori (Once Were Warriors) brings a stunning visual edge to “Die Another Day,” incorporating stylized editing and photography to bring Bond into the twenty-first century. Tamahori never allows the larger than life action to engulf the characters. We actually care about the characters instead of the special effects.

The plot is vintage Bond, with just enough high tech thrown in to keep 007 from becoming a dinosaur. After a mission goes bad, Bond is captured and held in a North Korea prison for 18 months. Bond is released after being traded for another prisoner, but is informed by M (Judi Dench, always a delight) that he’s no use to anyone. Bond takes matters into his own hands and sets out to track down the person who betrayed him.

His personal mission interferes with one being run by the CIA and NSA, who have assigned Jinx to track down and kill a scientist using DNA to alter appearance. When their missions collide, Bond and Jinx find themselves on the trail of charismatic but elusive billionaire industrialist Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens), whose latest philanthropic contribution, a satellite designed to deliver 24-hour sunshine, is actually a lethal laser.

The plot takes us around the globe, from North Korea to Cuba, London to Iceland, all breathtakingly captured by director of photography of David Tattersall, who incorporates Peter Lamont’s jaw-dropping production design, detailed miniatures and computer graphics into a near perfect fantasy world. Most action films take you for a ride, but “Die Another Day” requires seatbelts.

Toby Stephens makes an affluent villain. Like others on a long list of megalomaniac villains, Graves is exceptionally charismatic and cocksure, obvious signs that something is wrong. After all, can you really trust a man who gives half his immense wealth to charity? There’s a lot of mystery surrounding his character, and you appreciate the writers making him more than a one note villain.

The writers also give Berry and the rest of the “Die Another Day” women the respect they deserve. Berry is smart and sassy as Jinx, a woman who understands the hazards of the job, including sleeping with Bond. Watching Brosnan and Berry go at it creates more heat than the laser.

Rosamund Pike is good as no-nonsense British agent Miranda Frost, a gorgeous woman with great aim, while Rick Yune is effective as Zao, another in a long line of freak henchmen. Madonna (who sings the theme song) even manages to shine as a lesbian fencing instructor.

“Die Another Day” mixes old and new to come up with a James Bond that should appeal to fans of all ages. Sure, some of the stunts are incredible, but more incredible is how a 40 year-old franchise can still excite and entertain. “Die Another Day” does both.

DESSERT

Impressive but not excellent digital transfer in the film’s original 2.35:1 widescreen format (a pan and scan version is also available, but what’s the point?). The average consumer won’t care about the noticeable edge enhancements, but those in the know will see it as an obvious flaw in what is otherwise a excellent presentation. The pristine print has been digitally enhanced, allowing for a crystal clear picture that looks sensational (with reservations), with heavy duty blacks, nicely saturated colors, good attention to detail, and warm, flattering flesh tones. The film’s varying indoor and outdoor set pieces, including the ice palace, have been faithfully reproduced here. Exteriors are sunny and bright, interiors warm and inviting, while earth tones looks natural. The color palette manages to make a statement without any noticeable bleeding or fading. Shadow detail is also good, while the digital transfer doesn’t wave any red flags with obvious artifacts. The print has been enhanced at 16:9 for widescreen televisions.

The DVD features powerful DTS 5.1 ES and Dolby Digital Surround EX soundtracks, and this is one DVD that will smoke your system. All speakers are utilized in a flurry of expressive sound cues, strong dialogue mix, and rumbling basses. The front sound stage delivers a precise stereo split, with awesome highs and gut wrenching lows, plus a pitch perfect dialogue mix. Surround effects are heavy and frequent, constantly surrounding you in a whirlpool of sound. Rear speakers shake, rattle and roll with enough data to score another Bond soundtrack. Ambient noise is realistic, musical cues pour out with assurance, and directional dialogue constantly catches you off guard. All ranges are pure and distraction free, with no noticeable hiss or distortion. The DVD also includes French and Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital dubbed soundtracks.

The two-disc DVD’s arsenal of weapons include two feature-length audio commentaries, the best being one with Brosnan and Rosamund Pike, who talk with each other and to the audience like we were old friends, tossing aside humorous anecdotes and screen specific information on the making of the film. After 20 Bond escapades, it’s nice to know that 007 can still carry on a conversation that has something to say. The second audio commentary features director Tamahori and producer Michael G. Wilson, who fill in the blanks in regards to the technical aspect of making the film, a decent conversation that isn’t nearly as endearing or as much fun as the star commentary. Still, any Bond fan will want to listen to both.

Want more facts and background information? Then watch the Subtitle Fact Track, with pop up facts that seamlessly take you to numerous vignettes involving special effects and production design. Previous DVDs required the viewer to click on a pop up icon to access these little slices of data, but the “Die Another Day” DVD does all the work for you. Cool for those who just want to sit back and enjoy the show.

Disc two includes even more firepower, with an impressive hour long documentary “Inside Die Another Day,” broken down into eight chapters. Each one explores a different aspect or set piece in the film, including the “Hovercraft Chase” and “Ice Palace.” The cast and crew are interviewed, injecting their enthusiasm for a film that has yet to completed, while the production team takes us behind-the-scenes and gets us up close and personal regarding the film’s extensive stunt work, special effects and production design. Shot during production, these moments are candid and refreshing slices of life.

More behind-the-scenes footage can be found under “Mission Deconstruction,” a series of featurettes that provide a unique window into the film-making process. Here you’ll find numerous storyboard options, including a storyboard-to-screen comparison on two separate scenes, plus four multi-angle looks at key scenes from the film. “Title Design” takes the viewer behind the scenes on how the film’s main title sequence was filmed.

Another featurette explains how digital grading was used to correct footage shot in the camera, a short lesson on the day-for-night effect for anyone who ever wondered how the camera managed to capture so much detail during a night shot.

Rounding out the extras is a brief explanation of Bond’s arsenal of weapons, an exhaustive stills gallery with more than 200 cast, set and special effects stills, Madonna’s music video of the title song, plus a making-of-featurette on making the music video, numerous film, television and video game trailers, and DVD-ROM access that takes the viewer to the official “Die Another Day” web site with interactive games and more behind-the-scenes information.

DIE ANOTHER DAY

MGM Home Entertainment Rated PG-13

2002

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