Die Another Day Blu-ray review

The last of the Brosnan Bond movies heads to high definition, but is Die Another Day worth it?

I’m going to be upfront, Die Another Day isn’t one of my favourite Bond movies. Although I’m happy to accept that it’s a better movie in the Brosnan legacy than, say, Tomorrow Never Dies. I don’t think it has the purity of vision that’s evident in Goldeneye, for example.

Even when I watched it the first time I got the distinct impression that someone had created a checklist of features or nods they wanted in here, and as we progressed it was only to pause each scene and complete the tick-box.

Based on some of the featurette material on this disc that description may not be far from the truth. The production looks like a complete mess, and in many respects I’m amazed any film came out of some of the chaos it details.

As an uber-geek I enjoy all the references to previous movies, but I think including so many here detracted from the narrative flow, which isn’t usually a strong aspect of these productions at the best of times.

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I can’t keep from thinking that the excesses of this Bond convinced EON that the franchise needed a complete reboot that Casino Royale ultimately delivered. So Die Another Day can be thanked for that, at least.

What the movie does well are the typical Bond action sequences, lots of colour and explosions, girls, gadgets and exotic locations.

I wish they’d made more of the idea of him being a disavowed Agent, and other bits seem to be borrowed from the Kingsley Amis post-Fleming novel Colonel Sun. The start, where Bond is captured and doesn’t get away for once, is an interesting twist, and I also really liked the visceral nature of the fencing scene. Die Another Day has a few classic Bond moments, even if it isn’t that well directed.

Where my Bond nerve starts to go is with the invisible Aston Marten, the para-surfing sequence and Madonna’s appearance. Fantasy is fine, but when they start using excessive amounts of CGI then that’s not Bond for me, but maybe that’s a personal bias.

As for Madonna, I can live with her eclectic theme song but that doesn’t mean I want to see her in the movie, please. Halle Berry, she’s fine but I can’t say I cried much when her Jinx spin-off didn’t materialise.

This is the first time on Blu-ray for this movie so I was curious how it would look, as it was the newest Bond ‘fixed’ by Lowery Digital. Generally it looks great, but then as it was only made six years ago, so it should. It’s an excellent transfer which is razor sharp throughout.

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If the visuals don’t blow you away, the DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 packs plenty of punch, especially in the full-on action sequences. Where they usually go wrong is in making the dialogue level too low, but the levels on this movie are absolutely perfect to my ears.

What is less acceptable in this package are the extras, as all the video elements are in standard definition. When all the Connery Bonds released so far have some re-built HD extras, this is a very poor showing. There are a couple of decent length featurettes at 64 and 52 minutes long respectively, and a couple of entertaining commentary tracks.

One is production-orientated with director Lee Tamahori and producer Michael Wilson, and the other is an actor’s viewpoint with Pierce Brosnan and Rosamund Pike. These are both enjoyable, but don’t really go to explain the reason parts of Die Another Day are such a mess.

On the top of my list of annoyances is that in one of the featurettes they mention a deleted scene of Bond’s arrival in UK, except where is that scene? Not on this disc, is the answer. There are no deleted scenes or alternate versions, despite at least eight known ones existing. Do I feel the cold tingle of an ‘Ultimate Version’ release on the wind? Maybe so…

Die Another Day [Blu-ray] at Amazon.co.uk