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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.40:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX
  • English: DTS 6.1 Surround ES
  Subtitles
    English, English - Hearing Impaired, Commentary - English
  Extras
  • 4 Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
  • 2 Audio commentary
  • 9 Featurette
  • 5 Photo gallery
  • Animated menus
  • Music video - Die Another Day - Madonna
  • 8 TV spot
  • 2 Storyboards
  • 2 Documentaries
  • Multiple angle
  • Trivia track

Die Another Day: SE

20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 127 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Righty-o then.

(crashes, bangs and thumps of much rummaging…)

Hmm, skimpy little bikini – erm, perhaps ten years ago… ooh! An Aston Martin – nice… but how’d I get that in the cupboard, let alone forget about it? A card from Christmas, hmm – never did think much of her… damn it, I know it’s in here somewhere…

KER-THUMP!

A-ha! Here it is – my trusty Bond review construction kit. FWUHHHH! Hey, I’ve got to blow the dust off it, after all this is a special occasion, a milestone in the 007 franchise – the 20th instalment. Alright, let’s get into it shall we?

James Bond: The one who liked the company so much he bought the TV show…

Main love interest: Giacinta “Jinx” Jordan (Halle Berry), and she's quite the adroit little spy-type herself thankyouverymuch.

Ancillary love interest to confuse us as to who James will lounge off into the sunset with: Fellow agent (well, “chick agent” doesn’t quite sound right) Miss Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike).

Evil baddie hell bent on world domination: Bransonesque diamond mogul/self-publicising adrenalin junkie Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens).

Baddie's henchmen: One Zao (Rick Yune), North Korean bad-dude extraordinaire, plus the usual bevy of innumerable faceless schmoes coming from everywhere on all manner of contraptions – all hopelessly lame shots and all utterly disposable.

Theme: The stop-start mess Die Another Day by Madonna - easily the most dreadful Bond theme ever.

Exotic locations: North Korea (although it ain’t looking too exotic where we go), Hong Kong, Cuba, Iceland, a spot of South Korea and, of course, Old Blighty’s capital, London.

Modes of transportation: Surfboard (cowabunga!), numerous helicopters, hovercraft, Ford Customline, Boeing 747, Aston Martin Vanquish (complete with the Wonder Woman extras package), rocket car, snowmobile, “Switchblade” (a little, person-sized airplane thingy) and one very ugly, incredibly massive Russian looking plane that’s probably an Ilyushin, Tupolev, Antonov, Molotov or something like that.

Blatant product placement: While subtlety isn’t a word often associated with Bond adventures, the product placement isn’t too over the top obvious here – despite the fact that Die Another Day apparently holds the record for the most money spun from the act. Still, there are rather noticeable occurrences of products from Sony Ericcson, the Ford Motor Company (they also own pretty much every other marque out there – Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo for starters), British Airways, Bollinger and more…

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Sorry old chap, but I'm not going anywhere without Wilson...

Plot summary: Feeling rather doublecrossed when trying to bring down a corrupt North Korean army guy running guns in exchange for diamonds, James is left to work on East/West relations by rotting in prison for 14 months, getting very skinny and hairy in the process. Once free, and after a spot of ducking and weaving, he sets out to discover just who betrayed him. Hippety-hopping from one exotic place to another, he meets an American spy named Jinx and eventually comes sword to sword with the big bad Gustav Graves - apparent diamond entrepreneur, builder of an ice palace and all round good guy intent on helping the world with his Icarus device (a space-based thing which can make cold places all toasty and the like – amongst other things) – although it seems he just may be up to no good, and may have one or two interesting connections…

"Vodka martini - with ice if you can spare it…"

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Ice to see you, swanna bonk?

Let’s face it, being the 20th film in a series that has spanned 40 years, we all have a pretty good idea what to expect from Die Another Day, right? Well, yes and no. All the requisite action is here, but with the employ of youngish Kiwi director Lee Tamahori we see 007 dragged somewhat into the very now, with much more reliance on computer-generated effects (some of which are delightfully cheesy, in true Bond tradition) and even that whole slow and fast motion thing nabbed from just about any Asian director you could name. Even the opening sequence actually advances the plot, rather than just being an excuse for scantily clad, nubile girlies with figures to die for to writhe around ecstatically. While these may sound like massive breaks with tradition, elsewhere you couldn’t ask for a more Bonder film. Celebrating the series’ milestone, usually subtle (and sometimes not – thinking bikini) homages to the 007 outings of the past abound, from the odd spot of dialogue through to some of the more classic gadgets to have graced James’ universe through the years.

While not necessarily as relentlessly over the top as some recent 007 adventures, despite what some may say there’s plenty here for Bond aficionados to love, with a fabulous balance of nostalgia and up to the minute filmic smarts in what will be yet another hard act to follow. But the best bit is that we know that they’ll manage it…

  Video
Contract

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Torvill & Dean get with the Noughties...
Ah, splendid widescreen – in fact we are treated to the original cinematic delight of 2.40:1, 16:9-enhanced vision in the gloriously popcorn stench-free luxury of our own homes. In all it’s a pretty fabulous transfer, exhibiting often remarkable levels of detail. When things plummet into the world of shadows everything is handled with the aplomb you’d expect from Mr Bond, and colour is superb – we get perfect skin tones, while everything else is generally just the right type of vivid, with the exception of the North Korea opening sequence which appears to have been purposely de-saturated a tad. Blacks are as solid as can be, and in all things are as steady as 007’s shooting hand. If you’re looking for minor issues, the layer change is noticeable, but not too disruptive, and surprisingly there are a number of minute speckles throughout the two-hour-plus course of the film.

What is a major disappointment, however, is the continuation of MGM’s stupid habit of removing the location and non-English dialogue captions as featured in the cinematic release, in favour of stodgy old player-spawned titles which sit outside the film’s frame on a standard television. Not only do we not get the film as it was supposed to be seen, it’s really distracting and takes us out of the film’s lovely widescreen world on the many occasions it happens. Go to the back of the class whoever was responsible for this, and ruminate on the fact that marks were deducted for this and the blame all falls fairly and squarely on your shoulders!

  Audio
Contract

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Pah, it's been done...
While there may be the odd visual niggle, the sound is simply awesome. Two mind-blowing mixes are provided, Dolby Digital 5.1 EX as well as DTS 6.1 ES for those lucky enough to have seven speakers dotted about the room (not that you need the extra one to enjoy this, of course). While both mixes are spectacular aural treats, perhaps the one obvious advantage the DTS track exhibits is more in the bass department. Still, either way you go you’re in for a sonic thrill ride filled with thumping subwoofwoof action, plenty of front to rear and back again effects, and fabulous use of the front soundstage. All is synched to perfection, and this really is one to show off to your friends (or get revenge on annoying neighbours with.)

Musical duties once again go to John Barry’s obvious and more than capable successor David Arnold, and his concoction of modern beats with more than the odd nod to Bond tradition doesn’t disappoint. What does grate is Madonna’s simply hideous theme – however at least there’s one good “pop” song featured, with The Clash’s glorious London Calling popping up at one point, quite surprising as it isn’t exactly the Bond way. Still, with a song that good who’s going to complain?

  Extras
Contract

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The menu, shaken not stirred - of course.
Disc One
A typically convoluted menu “system” actually holds a few decent bonuses on the first disc, whilst the meatier stuff is on the second. But first things first – patience is a virtue and all that toffy stuff. Popping into the ‘Q Branch’ option, we’re offered…

MI6 Datastream
One of those fabulous little gadgets which pops up all manner of trivia boxes all over the screen during the film, it’s advisable to skip this on your first outing, but when engaged on a repeat play there’s much in the way of fascinating informational titbits ranging from the genuinely informative to the completely trivial to be gleaned from this fabulous little option.

Mission Commentary 1 Whereby director Lee Tamahori and producer Michael G Wilson front a mike and let us in on the odd secret or three whilst watching their production back. Pleasingly unlike many previous Bond commentaries this is most definitely screen specific, and offers up much useful information for the world’s 007 junkies.

Mission Commentary 2 Getting that techy stuff out of the way, this one is a bit more fun, with Pierce Brosnan and Rosamund Pike taking their turn to chat about Die Another Day. Sadly this one consists of two separately recorded tracks spliced together, so it’s a bit gappy at times, but it does manage to keep on track according to what’s on screen. Pierce’s contribution is delightfully glib and hammy at times; yet is never uninformative while offering up everything from sartorial quips to did-you-notices regarding the odd homage to the past and his thoughts on the legacy of the whole Bond experience. Meanwhile, Ms Pike’s effort is substantially less engrossing when she pipes up. Despite tales of woe involving hand cream and the like being somewhat amusing, it’s almost as if she’s a tad overawed by the whole experience as she remains stoically English. And let’s face it, if you got to star in a Bond film wouldn’t you be?

Disc Two
Whereby we’re cleared for unlimited access to the MI6 archive – which is a good thing as otherwise this disc would be good for nothing other than a drinks coaster or shiny little frisbee - or maybe a hula hoop for a supermodel. Once the menus eventually decide to allow human interaction, we’re in for…

Inside Die Another Day
Mission Briefings is basically one pleasingly chunky documentary, playable as a whole or in chaptered segments. Featuring interviews with pretty much everybody involved with the film from production through acting – in fact it’s a wonder the cleaners don’t get a say – this follows the established pattern for such things, but is less of a schmooze-fest and more of an interesting insight-fest. Individual chapters, which are fairly self-explanatory as to what they feature, are Intro and Surfing (11:32), Hovercraft Chase (9:09), Cuba (8:50), Quartermaster (6:32), Ice Palace (8:03), Car Battle (13:21) plus Post Production and Finale (24:30). Be prepared for an often engrossing look behind the scenes at pretty much every facet of making a modern movie. Also knocking about in this section of the disc is yet another documentary, Shaken and Stirred on Ice (23:34). As the title may hint, this concentrates on things done in Iceland, with its main focus centred on the breathtaking car scenes.

Mission Deconstruction
Here we get into the nitty gritty of Die Another Day, starting with Scene Evolutions. Here we get storyboard comparisons for two scenes, one with the hovercraft (4:24), the other featuring the car battle (3:20), whereby the angle button allows a choice between storyboard only, or a split screen effect with the final film footage. Subsequently we come to Inter-Action Sequences, whereby four scenes are available with either two or four different camera angles selectable with that handy little angle button. More specifically they are Hovercraft Chase (2:02), Blades (3:26), Ice Battle (1:53) and Antonov Fight (hey, I was right! Oh, yes, it runs for 3:44). Title Design is next up on the menu, which spends just one second shy of ten minutes examining the work that went into the quite unique opening credits for this 20th 007 adventure, complete with musical accompaniment from a remix of Maddy’s theme dirge. Rounding out this particular department is Digital Grading, which if you’re into the nerdier side of filmmaking offers up some fabulous insight into the process of fiddling with colour and lighting film’s can undergo through examples and split-screen before and afters – they can even add shadows to make blah days look sunny.

Equipment Briefing
If you’re starting to worry you’ll never have time to check out all the bonus bits on offer here, this should please you. What we have is simply five computer generated screens with voiceover from an average Q impersonator telling us about some of the funkier gadgets employed by Mr Bond in this particular adventure – the specially modified surfboard (0:22), standard issue watch (0:43), Switchblade Personal Jet Glider (0:37), UHF Single Digit Sonic Agitator Unit (0:45 – funny, it takes longer to say it) and the decidedly spunky Aston Martin V12 Vanquish (2:53).

Image Database
Just a slightly posher way of saying “gallery”, we get five – Cast Portraits (41 pics), Special Shoot (50 shots taken after wrapping for advertising purposes), Sets and Locations (77), Stunts and Special Effects (44) and finally Vehicles and Gadgets (23).

Ministry of Propaganda
Think about it for a second and you’ll be right – advertising for the film and various byproducts of it. Trailers and TV Spots has the theatrical trailer (2:10), two teasers (0:54 and 1:09) plus eight TV spots played in one big 4:13 lump. Next we endure the clip for Madonna’s theme song (4:32), plus a brief behind the scenes, ‘making of’ about it (4:05). Now comes time to flog the video game, with a trailer for 007: Nightfire (1:24) and another ‘making of’ (3:30) and finally there’s a 3:14 trailer for the entire James Bond DVD collection.

Easter Egg
If you’re up for a spot of “Hi Jinx”, you may wish to check out our Easter eggs section…

  Overall  
Contract

Over the years 007’s adventures have continually raised the bar as the most original and seriously OTT examples of the BDAF genre. Fans will simply drool at the massive array of extra bits on this DVD set (well when, of course, those of lesser intelligence get past slobbering over Halle Berry in a bikini that is), along with the almost perfect vision and jaw-droppingly cacophonic audio tracks. Not to mention a tale which sees our ultra-suave hero with one foot firmly in the future, and pleasingly one plopped lovingly in the past.

Yes, Bond is back and the world is all the better for it.


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      And I quote...
    "Bond is back and the world is all the better for it..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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