DIE ANOTHER DAY
Each time I see Pierce Brosnan in the role of James Bond, I am convinced that his interpretation of 007 is one of the screenís finest. And with each subsequent Bond outing, I am equally convinced that the material isnít nearly as good as Brosnan. Brosnan has the ability to take the Bond character to a darker place, yet this possibility is never really exploited. DIE ANOTHER DAY ($30) had the opportunity to take the Bond franchise to the darkest place itís been since the superior Timothy Dalton outing LICENCE TO KILL. In DIE ANOTHER DAY, we find Bond captured and brutally tortured for more than a year, when he is finally returned to British authorities he is considered compromised and left hung out to dry. Although Bond is forced to turn rogue agent briefly, the film quickly returns to formula and hits all the expected marks.
Now I donít want to give the impression that I didnít like DIE ANOTHER DAY, I enjoyed it immensely while watching it, but felt it could have been a lot better had it gone in a darker direction and assigned more psychological complexities to the James Bond character. DIE ANOTHER DAY opens with 007 undertaking a mission to assassinate a North Korean officer who has been trafficking in illegal weapons inside the DMZ. The mission ends with Bond in the hands of the North Koreans, who torture him for fourteen months, until the day he is released as part of a prisoner exchange. Unable to return to Her Majestyís Secret Service, Bond goes it alone, using his connections to tie up the loose ends of his last mission and to discover whose betrayal allowed him to fall into enemy hands.
Jaunting from Hong Kong to Havana to London and finally Iceland, Bond eventually has his licence to kill reinstated by M (Judi Dench), when he discovers evidence that politically connected diamond broker Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) isnít what he seems, nor are the diamonds that he has supposedly discovered in an Icelandic mine. Adding to the mix is slinky NSA Agent Jinx Jordan (Halle Berry), who has at least one of the same objectives as Bond- namely, eliminating a North Korean terrorist named Zao (Rick Yune), who had also been trafficking in weapons inside the DMZ. DIE ANOTHER DAY probably works as well as it does because Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry make a good onscreen combination, plus director Lee Tamahori keeps the action rapid enough for the audience to disregard some of the holes in logic. The cast of DIE ANOTHER DAY also features Rosamund Pike, John Cleese (who makes a fine new Q), Michael Madsen, Will Yun Lee, Kenneth Tsang, an uncredited Madonna and the delightful Samantha Bond as Miss Moneypenny.
MGM Home Entertainment has made DIE ANOTHER DAY available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays (a separate full screen edition is also available, but not reviewed here). DIE ANOTHER DAY is a supremely gorgeous movie, which translates into a phenomenal looking DVD. Every frame of DIE ANOTHER DAY has been beautifully lit and photographed and this transfer really shows off David Tattersall superb cinematography. The image on the DVD proves to be wonderfully sharp and brimming with detail. Colors can be quite vibrant or slightly muted, depending upon the mood the filmmakers are trying to convey for an individual scene. Flesh tones are usually very appealing, except in the more subdued sequences, during which they appear rather bland. All of the most intense hues are rendered with out noise or bleeding. Blacks appear perfect, while the whites are clean and stable. Contrast is excellent, as is shadow detail. Additionally, the picture produces a terrific sense of dimensionality. Digital compression artifacts are well camouflaged on the dual layer DVD.
Complementing the demonstration quality visuals are the filmís explosive 5.1 channel soundtracks in the varieties of Dolby Digital and DTS. The sound design is in full action mode, meaning that the viewer will be sitting dead center during a continuous sonic assault- and loving every minute of it! Surround junkies are certain to get a kick out of how aggressively and how convincingly the split rear channels have been implemented. Sound effects effortlessly pan in all directions, while maintaining a totally cohesive sonic environment. Fidelity is truly excellent from top to bottom, rendering everything from sound effects to the musical score in pitch perfect fashion. The bass channel is outstanding and guaranteed to blow the viewer into next week. Dialogue resonates naturally and is rendered with complete understandability. As for the differences between Dolby Digital and DTS, they arenít taken to the extreme, but the DTS has a slight edge in terms of warmth, character and depth. Like the video portion of the disc, the digital soundtracks on DIE ANOTHER DAY are definitely demo quality. French and Spanish Dolby Surround tracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVDís very stylish interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements, which have been spread across both DVDs of the two-disc set. Disc one of DIE ANOTHER DAY includes two separate running audio commentary tracks- the first is with director Lee Tamahori and producer Michale G. Wilson, while the second features actors Pierce Brosnan and Rosamund Pike. Of course, the commentaries approach the material from different perspectives; the "performer" track is a bit looser and more fun, while the "crew" track tends to be more serious and technical minded. Of course, both are worth a listen, if you are a fan of the movie, but casual viewers may get a bit more enjoyment out of the "performer" commentary. Also included on disc one is the MI6 Datastream, which allows one to watch the movie with popup factoids, as well as providing the option to view additional video vignettes- all very cool and highly informative. A promo for other Bond titles closes out disc one.
On disc two, one will find the main body of the supplements including the Inside Die Another Day documentary. The documentary runs approximately ninety minutes, however, it has been broken into eight parts, which include Intro & Surfing, Hovercraft Chase, Cuba, Quartermaster, Ice palace, Car Battle and Post Production & Finale. These various segments of the program feature interviews with the cast & crew, as well as providing a look at the nuts and bolts of the film. Next up is the Mission Deconstruction section, which focuses on the filmís visual aspects and has been divided into four segments- Scene Evolutions, Interaction Sequences, Title Design and Digital Grading. Equipment Briefing focuses on the filmís gadgets- Surfboard, Watch, Jet Glider, Sonic Agitator and Aston Martin.
Disc twoís Image Database offers well over 200 images that have been indexed into the following subsections: Cast, Special Shoot, Sets & Locations, Stunts & Special Effects and Vehicles and Gadgets. Ministry of Propaganda offers up the promotional material that includes two teaser trailers, the original theatrical trailer, TV Spots, Madonna's music video for Die Another Day (with separate making of), 007 Nightfire video game promo trailer (with separate making of) and MGM bonus trailers. DIE ANOTHER DAY is also DVD-ROM enabled with access to additional content to coincide with the DVDís street date.
DIE ANOTHER DAY may not be the most intriguing James Bond adventure ever produced, but it does make for a highly entertaining, demonstration quality DVD experience. If you are a Bond fan or someone looking for something new to feed your home theater system, youíll want to add DIE ANOTHER DAY to your arsenal. Recommended.
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