Die Another Day [Blu-ray Review]

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, Rick Yune, Judi Dench, John Cleese
Directed by: Lee Tamahori

Running Time: 127 minutes

Back Cover

James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) pulls out all the stops to take you on an unforgettable, adrenaline-pumping ride across the globe in this action-filled adventure! From a dark cell in a North Korean prison to the beautiful beaches of Cuba, 007 is on the trail of a diabolical genius who’s hell-bent on slicing up the Earth…literally.

Movie Review

In the scope of all things 007, Die Another Day should have been something special, and at first The 40th anniversary movie (and 20th instalment) looks like it’s going to be: What starts off as just another globetrotting caper quickly goes south, and everyone’s favourite spy ends up imprisoned in North Korea. Unfortunately, though the film starts off with a bang and well-paced storytelling, the second act quickly degenerates into another formulaic Bond film, tired plot devices and all. Then the movie jumps the shark into a third act that kicks plausibility to the curb and steals its lunch money.

For the anniversary film, Kiwi director Lee Tamahori delves deep into the lore of 007, pulling out all the stops to load his movie with homages to earlier James Bond stories; from a subtle touch like playful grab at a grape, right up to a fabulously high-tech Aston Martin and a roomful of classic Bond gadgets. The self-referential aspect give the movie a fun, reminiscent dimension that only works on Bondophiles who have seen all the movies that Tamahori refers to, and casts the whole project as a landmark on the 007 highway, rather than as a standalone film.

Pierce Brosnan brings out Bond’s human side more than either Sean Connery or Roger Moore ever did. The suave killer now gets a more approachable face, though it’s still the face of an incorrigible rake. In fact, the casting might be the best thing about this film. Brosnan’s occasionally-ruffled Bond plays well off of a generally good cast, including Rosamund Pike as the icy Miranda Frost and the compelling Judi Dench as M. John Cleese’s Q is funny and familiar; and Toby Stevens, as arch-baddie Gustav Graves, is delightfully, hugely evil. Hallie Berry’s opening 10 seconds of screen time is a cool homage to Ursula Andress’s first appearance 20 movies earlier — and is pretty much her best moment. Berry is a capable actor, but the role almost never uses her skills. Instead, Jinx comes off as a black, American Lara Croft — the perma-smirked Angelina character, not the big-polygoned digital one. The lesser side of the casting is rounded out by a cardboard femme fatale played by Madonna, who’s been phoning it in for years, and whose screen time is blessedly brief.

Crave Factor – 5

Video

Okay, the movie’s gorgeous. Blacks are black, whites are bright and everything in between is natural-looking and vibrant. The lines are sharp and details are clear without looking microscopic. There were artefacts in one or two scenes, but they disappeared almost before they were noticed.

Hallie Berry stepping out of the ocean is a beautiful thing to watch; Hallie Berry stepping from the ocean on Blu-ray makes good boys think evil thoughts. The clarity of high-def images brings a sympathetic light to General Moon’s (Kenneth Tsang) craggy face, but doesn’t do Madonna any favours. Throughout, the high quality of the imagery makes the movie fabulous to look at.

Crave Factor – 8

Audio

The strongest aspect of this release is undoubtedly the sound. In both booming action sequences and quieter moments, the sound is crisp and sizzly. Dialogue is crystal clear throughout and sound effects sparkle and bang realistically. The sound channels are used very well, adding a compelling directional nature to the sound.

Crave Factor – 9

Extras

The extras are a similar mix of cool and crap as on the other films in this edition.

The Included features are:

•    Audio commentary with director Lee Tamahori, producer Michael G. Wilson, Pierce Brosnan and Rosamund Pike
•    Deleted scenes and expanded angles
•    MI6 Datastream trivia track
•    The British Touch: Bond Arrives in London featurette
•    Stirred and Shaken on Ice featurette
•    Just Another Day featurette
•    On Location with Production Designer Peter Lamont featurette
•    007 Mission Control interactive guide
•    Image database

Crave Factor – 6

Menu & Packaging

The packaging is a slickly re-designed box that makes a nod to the look of previous DVD releases, but with an up-to-date flair. The extra cardboard sleeve is an unforgivable waste of resources, though.

As with the rest of the Blu-ray discs in the series, the menus are tasteful and simple.

Crave Factor – N/A

Conclusions & Final Thoughts

Die Another Day is not a great movie. It’s clear that Tamahori and the producers wanted the anniversary movie to be big and exciting, and it is. Unfortunately, it goes too far in too many directions, sacrificing coherence for adrenaline and self-referential jokes. But, flimsy as it is, the movie is fun and full of tough, sassy Bond Girls and bad guys who bring the evil on in spades. Die Another Day doesn’t stand up worth a tinker’s cuss on its own, but fills in as a 007 signpost rather well.

Overall Crave Factor – 7

 

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