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DIE ANOTHER DAY

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, Rick Yune, John Cleese, Judi Dench
Director: Lee Tamahori
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: MGM
Features: See Review
Length: 132 Minutes
Release Date: June 3, 2003

“You know, you’re cleverer than you look.”

“Still better than looking cleverer than you are.”

Film ***

Ever since Pierce Brosnan stepped into the shoes of James Bond, the franchise has never seen brighter days. With Die Another Day, the twentieth film in the series, as well as Brosnan’s fourth outing as 007, the series may never see a more high wire dose of action and excitement than what is displayed here. It contains all the usual Bond fixes; big action set pieces, beautiful women, exotic locations, and wonderful gadgets, and all of them put to the extreme in this entry. As far as story elements, you simply get what you expect in terms of what 007’s newest adversary plots to do, but Die Another Day manages to delivers thrills a minute, and ranks with the better Bond adventures.

The movie opens with Bond arriving at North Korea to take down a notorious Korean general. His plan backfires when his cover is blown, and is captured by the Korean army following a spectacular hovercraft chase, which is the big action number that precedes the credits. Bond, held captive and consistently tortured by the Koreans is eventually freed and traded for a vicious renegade named Zao (Rick Yune), whose face has been riddled with diamonds thanks to an explosion that Bond initiated.

007 is soon put back into action, and is determined to take down the man he feels set him up on his assignment in North Korea. His trail of stolen diamonds leads directly to millionaire adventurer Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens), who seems to get as much media attention than any Royal figure in England. But Bond is not alone in his pursuit, as a lovely female operative by the name of Jinx (Halle Berry) seems to be on the same path of pursuit as 007. The two met in Cuba earlier, where this time Bond got the feeling of being ditched after bedding a woman.

Bond is then invited by Graves, himself, for a public gathering he is having at a private location in Iceland. He plans to get close to Graves by way of Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike), Graves’ lovely assistant, because of course, what woman would even resist James Bond? Graves is hatching a secret plot to test a secret space mirror, capable of destroying terrain by way of a laser beam, while telling everyone not to worry, but they will soon be enlightened.

The action scenes in Die Another Day are among the best in any James Bond movie to date. Alongside the dynamic opening action scene, it features a jaw dropping car chase between Bond and one of his foes right on Iceland terrain. I can’t remember the last time I saw a car chase on ice, but this one hit the ball right out of the park in terms of an adrenaline rush. The gadgets displayed by Q (John Cleese) include Bond’s car, which is dubbed The Vanish for it’s ability to maneuver while invisible. Other gadgets include a ring with the ability to cut glass, and a watch, which makes for 007’s twentieth, since he seems to have lost every other gadget given to him in the past.

Die Another Day is a superb treat for James Bond Fans everywhere. Loaded with action, wit, and endless energy, this is certain to become one of the more memorable films in the series.

BONUS TRIVIA: Madonna, who sings the title song to the movie, makes a cameo as a fencing instructor.

Video ****

Anyone who owns any James Bond movie on DVD will tell you that every video job is one done with pure excellence. Having said that, I am proud to note that Die Another Day is probably the most outstanding looking disc of the series, in addition to being one of the big reference quality titles of this year. The anamorphic picture quality is absolutely stunning from beginning to end, as the print practically explodes in near-cinematic quality, delivering beautiful color usage and having no flaws whatsoever. A purely terrific presentation from MGM. A full frame version is also available.

Audio ****

MGM delivers what is honestly one of the most explosive audio tracks I’ve ever heard on any disc, and will be certainly noted at the next DMC Awards. Exploding in endless dynamic range, the 5.1 mix (a DTS track is also included) delivers sharp audio power right from the traditional Bond opening. From that point on, action, music and dialogue all blend to make Die Another Day one of the most excellent DVD experiences you’ll ever have.

Features ****

One of the best packages of the year thus far, this two disc set (a first for a Bond DVD) contains endless feats of extras certain to keep you busy for hours.

Disc 1 includes two commentary tracks; one with director Lee Tamahori and producer Michael G. Wilson, and one with stars Pierce Brosnan and Rosamund Pike. Also included is a streaming feature titled MI6 DataStream, which provides trivia facts along with video streaming.

Disc 2 contains endless goodies, including an documentary titled “Inside Die Another Day”, scene evolutions/storyboard comparisons, multi-angle explorations of several action sequences, a breakdown of the title design, digital grading (an effects featurette), equipment briefing (gadgets featurette), image database, a music video by Madonna, as well as the making of the music video, the making of the videogame 007 Nightfire, and trailers and TV spots. Also included are trailers for Evelyn and Windtalkers: Director’s Edition.

Summary:

Die Another Day is a high point not just for the James Bond series in general, but for the James Bond DVD series as well. Loaded to a tee in a knockout two disc set, this is quite simply one of the must have titles of the year!