Written by: Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, based on the creations of Ian Fleming
Directed by: Lee Tamahori
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, Rick Yune, Judi Dench, John Cleese
- Running audio commentary by director Tamahori and producer Michael G. Wilson
- Running audio commentary by actors Brosnan and Pike
- Video streaming trivia
- Documentary: Inside Die Another Day
- Storyboard scene comparisons
- Multi-angle sequence explorations
- Opening credits breakdown
- Special effects featurette
- Bond gadgets featurette
- Photo gallery
- “Die Another Day” music video by Madonna
- Making of “Die Another Day” music video
- Making of 007 Nightfire computer game
Released by: MGM
My Advice: Bond fans should own it, otherwise rent it.
[ad#longpost]James Bond (Brosnan) has found himself in many exotic locations from Monte Carlo to Istanbul (not Constantinople) to even in orbit around the Earth. But in the 20th installment of the franchise, Bond is languishing in a North Korean prison and is ‘enjoying’ scorpion venom instead of vodka martinis. It seems that his mission to take out a North Korean army colonel selling arms for diamonds was leaked and Bond left out to dry. After fourteen months, he is traded back for the colonel’s aide, Zao (Yune) and is informed by M (Dench) that the Americans think he is the one that has been leaking intelligence. Determined to clear his name and find the real traitor, he tracks Zao to a gene therapy clinic in Cuba. There he finds someone else is after the Korean, the sexy and dangerous Jinx (Berry). Some more blood diamonds (i.e., diamonds sold to fund terrorist activities) link Zao to the flamboyant industrialist Gustav Graves (Stephens) and his icy assistant Miranda Frost (Pike). While in Iceland to witness the unveiling of Grave’s new space mirror ‘Icarus’, Bond and Jinx discover that there is much more going on than just a renegade Korean officer. Bond is going to need all Q’s (Cleese) gadgets and Jinx’s help to save the world and live to Die Another Day.
I do not envy the Bond film producers led by Barbara Broccoli or the director Lee Tamahori. They have to balance the need to be innovative to keep the franchise fresh and interesting with not straying from the Bond formula of girls, gadgets, and eye candy that so many fans expect. Tamahori and company has put in some interesting twists. Having Bond trapped in North Korea and fighting to prove himself as well as saving the world adds more resonance to the character than we’ve seen previously. Berry’s Jinx is less an appendage and more like a real partner for Bond and it’s easy to see why Hollywood is discussing a separate franchise for her NSA agent. The use of speed ramping, rapid shifts in film speed, also add a modern feel to the production. Of course we still get the odd looking henchman in Zao and his face that only a jeweler could love, plenty of gadgets, the Aston Martin with all the optional extras, the world destroying superweapon, and explosions and action galore. Sometimes the movie is too over the top for its own good and some of the quips make you roll your eyes, but compared to some of the incoherent messes out there that call themselves action-adventure, it holds up.
The actors all know what they’re doing, which is good since there is not much depth to their characters. Brosnan does give Bond a certain gravitas that makes you believe that he is a professional operative with a license to kill. In contrast, Berry has Jinx be less serious and lighter. While she will have to watch out for this if the character goes out on her own, paired up with Bond here, it works. Dench still impressed as ‘M’, giving off waves of cool authority that even Bond must respect while Cleese is a worthy successor to Desmond Llewelyn as the keeper of the gadgetry, ‘Q’. The rest of the cast plays their characters to the hilt since they have to compete with all the frenetic action going on around them. Tamahori manages to keep atop this monster of a movie, so I think simplicity in direction and acting can be forgiven.
The special features on these two discs are exhaustive. On the first disc we have the actual movie with an optional trivia track with video streaming. That means little boxes pop up during the film giving details on the production, the cast, past Bond movies, the creator Ian Fleming, and other miscellaneous tidbits. Along the way, you get extra video shorts going into more detail about the technical aspects of the movie such as profiling the sword master who choreographed the fencing scene with Bond and Graves as well as the climatic cat fight between Miranda Frost and Jinx. The movie shrinks to a postage size rectangle so you wont lost track of where you are. You also get not one but two commentary tracks. The first one is with director Tamahori and one of the producers, Michael G. Wilson. Unfortunately, their talk is mostly on technical matters and the trivia track already covers most of what they talk about. The second commentary with Brosnan and Pike is more interesting. Both are animated about being part of the Bond legacy. Brosnan is still impressed with the way the filmmakers seamlessly cut between location and studio shots. He doesn’t take for granted the experience of being Bond and is enjoying every minute of it even with his blown out knee. His praise for his others actors is copious but never seems false. Pike seem to be mostly in awe of the mammoth sets and the actors she worked with in her first film role. Both talk about the experience of dealing with swords, guns, and eveningwear. You’ll appreciate the feeling of chatting with the two actors instead being lectured at by the director and producer.
The second disc starts with a documentary on the making of the film. You see them filming surfing big waves in Hawaii, car chases on an ice lake in Iceland, and gun battles in Cadiz. From these location shots they mix them with footage in the studio and the back lot to produce the scenes in the film. The sheer complexity of this film and everything that goes on is daunting. We get a look into their use of scale models, massive sets, and even computer graphics. One thing the features put across is how fluid the planning is. For example, in the middle of filming, the director wanted to utilize the ice palace set more so he sketched out a car chase inside. The set designer had to almost rebuild the set with steel girders to supports the cars racing around.
The Madonna video of the title song is on the disc as well. There are also shorts on the gadgetry, the making of the title sequence, the making of the Madonna video, and the making of the computer game 007 Nightfire, and many others. If you have any interest in the production side of movie making, you get quite an education. For the casual viewer, though, it’s too much. You get so much detail on the film; you lose enjoying the movie as a whole. And it is enjoyable. If you want to see a better than average Bond film, go ahead and rent it. Just be prepared for some late fees if you want to explore all these two discs have to offer.