Die Another Day
MGM // PG-13 // $29.98 // June 3, 2003
Review by David Blair | posted May 13, 2003
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The Movie

If you've seen one Bond movie, then you've seen them all, and Die Another Day is no different. In this latest installment of the James Bond series, we have expensive cars, larger than life action sequences, beautiful women, crazy hi-tech gadgets, and one cool-as-a-cucumber secret agent, the same tried and true recipe for all Bond movies. But it's these kinds of films that make going to the movies fun. After all, if people ever got tired of seeing these movies, the studios would stop making them. But they do continue to see these movies, and Bond is alive and kicking. Does Die Another Day stand out as the best Bond movie ever? No. Is it entertaining? Yes. Is it a must-have for your DVD collection? Mmmm, maybe, maybe not.

Let's dive into the story before hashing out the good and the ugly. Bond is on a secret mission to assassinate a dangerous North Korean military psychopath. But before he can successfully complete his mission, he is betrayed, and is captured for over a year. During his capture, he is tortured on a daily basis, but never talks. (The duty of every true secret agent) On the day of his perceived execution, he's traded for another infamous Korean psychopath who was captured earlier. But instead of receiving a welcome-home party, Bond finds himself confined to locked quarters, and is relieved of his duty. The British Secret Service believes Bond cracked under torture, and gave away vital information. So naturally, Bond wants revenge, and wants to find the person who betrayed him. Mix in some diamonds, and an overpriced space age tanning machine, and you've got yourself a Bond movie.

Okay, lets start with the bad. There were two specific things that really bothered me about this movie. The first is the casting of Halle Berry. Berry plays an American NSA agent named Jinx. Sure she's nice to look at, but as a Bond girl? No way. Quite frankly, Barney the Dinosaur on sedatives would have been more menacing and believable as a lethal US agent. Her cream puff swagger and sassy sense of humor left me hoping that she wasn't going to get much screen time, and unfortunately, she appeared on screen more than I would have liked. But I did like that she didn't take the role seriously, a definite no-no in a James Bond film. But in the end, her character was all-wrong for her particular abilities.

Secondly, many of the gadgets and action sequences were too farfetched, even for a Bond film. The ice wave surfing scene comes to mind for starters. Not only did this look incredibly fake, but the idea of Bond being able to pull this off was laughable. If the scene had looked more realistic, it would have been much cooler. Also, some of the gadgets were poorly chosen. For instance, the camouflage capabilities of Bond's Aston Martin Vanquish were way over the top to be believable. Granted, in theory this kind of technology is believable, but for it to work as well as it did, is pretty close to impossible. I felt like I was watching Harry Potter instead of a James Bond film. I think the Bond series kind of shot its own foot with this special effect, because now there's no reason it can't be used to great extent on all future double-O agents' equipment. But despite all the gripes, there were some positives to the movie. Such as the great action scenes like the opening surfing sequence, and the good old fashion sword fight. And don't forget the sweet car battle scene in Iceland. Plus, I'm always impressed with Pierce Brosnan's portrayal of 007. He's intense, he's soave, and best of all, he makes it look oh so easy. That's how the Bond character needs to be played, and only Sean Connery did it better.

When it's all said and done, Die Another Day is a great action movie that entertains if you know what you're getting into. Like any Bond film, you have to let your hair down, or you'll spend the whole movie saying, "yeah right, like that could happen!" Brosnan's acting was great, Berry's was weak, and the movie should have ended about 30 minutes sooner, but all in all it was an enjoyable movie. And with the nice package of special features, this DVD is not a bad choice for your home collection.


Video: Die Another Day is offered in both widescreen and full screen editions. By now I'm sure you all know where we stand on which one is the better choice, so I won't go into it. The widescreen version is presented in 2.35:1 and is anamorphically enhanced. The feature looks quite stunning, as so it should, being as it was in theaters just a short while ago. Colors look fantastic, and black levels are as dark as you'd expect. There was just one aspect of this transfer that hugely disappointed me. This movie has a hefty dose of edge enhancement that is very noticeable on most scenes. I'm really starting to get sick and tired of studios bumping up the edge enhancement. When are they going to get the message that raising the "perceived" sharpness of a DVD transfer doesn't make the movie look better? But other than that, this DVD looks great.

Audio: Now this is a great sounding DVD. Both a Dolby Digital 5.1, and a DTS audio track are offered. Both tracks are fabulous, and really put you smack in the middle of all the outrageous action. Toggling through both tracks, it was hard to pick a clear winner, but if I had to pick, I'd give the nod to the DTS track. In the scenes I referenced, the highs seemed a little crisper. But you won't be disappointed no matter which track you listen too. You'll have plenty of whizzing rockets, fiery explosions, and that oh so wonderful rumble of the Aston Martin to invade your eardrums. In short, audio on this DVD is active, exciting, and worth turning up the volume to show off to your friends.

Extras: Die Another Day is a two-disc set loaded with a lot of interesting special features to peruse through. Rather then blabbering on about them all, I'll just list them for your reading pleasure.

Audio Commentary: The first commentary if given by Director Lee Tamohori and Producer Michael G. Wilson. This is a fairly straightforward commentary that gives all the expected notes and filming tidbits about the movie. Both Tamohori and Wilson seem very laid back, almost to the point where it's boring to listen to them. But Tamohori is witty and very informative, so if you love commentaries, you'll find yourself sitting through the entire take.

Audio Commentary: Pierce Brosnan and Rosamund Pike give the second commentary. I probably enjoyed this audio commentary a little more because of the light sense of humor portrayed by Brosnan. He makes it fun, and shows that these movies aren't to be taken too seriously.

Inside Die Another Day Documentary: This is a nice segmented lot of small featurettes that give us a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Die Another Day. There aren't a lot of indebt discussions about the way they filmed the movie, but it does expose you to some interesting items such as locations and the problems they had with choosing and filming at them.

Scene Evolutions: (storyboard comparisons) Here you get to see a comparison with the finished shot, along with the storyboards originally drawn for the script. It's worth a quick look, but that's about all.

Inter-Action Sequences: Here you get to see action sequences from multiple angles.

Title Design: Here's a look at the opening credits breakdown.

Digital Grading: This is a digital effects featurtte.

Equipment Briefing: This section allows you to get in indebt look at all of the cool equipment and gadgets used throughout the movie.

Image Database: Here are a few photo galleries taken during the movie's production. These galleries are used like a slide show, and I must admit, it's worth a look.

Madonna's "Die Another Day" Music Video: Here's her video of the title song, "Die Another Day." It's a cool video, and I'm very glad it was included on this DVD. Also included is the Making of Modonna's "Die Another Day" Music Video. This was also interesting to see. Check 'em out.

Rounding out the rest of the features are a Making of "007 Nightfire" video game, movie trailers and TV spots, and some DVD-Rom goodies as well. Overall this was a nice collection of features, but I would have liked to see a bloopers reel, and definitely a indebt featurette on the vehicles used in the movie.

Final Thoughts:

Die Another Day is a great action movie that can take you on a decent thrill ride if you let your hair down. It's fast, exciting, and full of cool cars and gadgets. And lets not forget the kick-ass audio track that really intensifies the viewing experience. Sure it's not the best Bond movie ever made, but it's far from the worst. If an irritating Halle Berry and a host of unbelievable action sequences don't scare you off, then this movie is worth a rent at least. And if you idolize our favorite British secret agent, then this DVD is a no-brainer. Recommended

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