Die Another Day appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Almost no problems marred this consistently solid presentation.
Sharpness appeared strong. Despite some light edge haloes, I found virtually no examples of softness. The film exhibited a nice sense of tightness and accuracy. Jagged edges and shimmering created no concerns, and source flaws appeared absent. This was a clean transfer.
With its stylized palette, Day offered a pretty varied batch of hues. The colors looked nicely vivid and lively. They came across as tight and distinctive and showed no issues related to noise, bleeding or other issues. Black levels also appeared deep and rich, while shadows were appropriately heavy but not overly dense. I liked this image very much.
Die Another Day included both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. To these ears, the pair sounded the same. I found similar strengths in both tracks.
You’ll note I failed to mention “weaknesses” in that last sentence. That’s because the audio really suffered from no problems. As one might expect, Day presented a very lively and active soundfield. The mix used all five speakers to terrific advantage. Various forms of effects popped up all around the spectrum, and they mixed together neatly and concisely. Elements moved among the speakers smoothly. The surrounds added a great deal of information, especially during the movie’s many action sequences. The opening chase in the minefield made fine use of the track, and the battle in the laser room also brought the movie to life very well. The soundtrack seemed appropriately vivid and involving.
Audio quality appeared positive. Speech came across as natural and distinctive, and I noticed no problems with intelligibility or edginess. Music was bright and dynamic, as the score came across with good fidelity. Effects worked especially well, as those pieces were clean and accurate. All elements showed clear highs and deep, intense bass response. The audio brought the film to life well and excelled in all ways.
How did the picture and audio of this “Ultimate Edition” compare to those of the original 2003 release? Both offered the same Dolby mixes, though I thought the DTS improved here. For the prior disc, I preferred the Dolby track, but I found nothing to differentiate the two for the UE.
Picture quality showed notable improvements. The UE looked cleaner and sharper than the disappointing 2003 DVD. This was the kind of strong transfer we should have gotten three years ago.
The “Ultimate Edition” includes many of the same extras from the prior DVD and adds some new ones. I’ll mark the new features with an asterisk, so if you fail to see a star, the element already showed up on the prior set.
On Disc One, we start with two separate audio commentaries. The first features director Lee Tamahori and producer Michael G. Wilson, both of whom sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. A lively track, the pair cover a lot of ground. Tamahori dominates the commentary and he brings a fresh tone to this discussion of his first Bond flick. Not surprisingly, technical elements occupy much of the piece, as we hear a lot about effects, stunts, gadgets, sets, locations, visual design and other components of that sort. We also get some notes about casting the actors, working in John Cleese as the new “Q”, Brosnan’s stunt work, and some story issues. The track moves quickly and fills the space well. This isn’t one of the best Bond commentaries I’ve heard – I think that Roger Spottiswoode’s discussion of Tomorrow Never Dies remains my favorite – but it seems informative and satisfying.
The second commentary presents actors Pierce Brosnan and Rosamund Pike. The pair offer separately recorded running, screen-specific tracks that are edited together for this piece. The track starts with just Brosnan. Following the logical course, Pike doesn’t show up until the point when her character appears on screen. She and Brosnan both offer comments for the rest of the film.
Though it suffers from a few more gaps than I’d like, it provides a generally entertaining and informative chat about the film. Brosnan gives us some nice insight into the world of Bond and his work on the series. He relates some of the character and physical challenges and he also speculates on the future of the series after his departure. Pike presents some very nice comments. As a Bond neophyte, she reflects upon her casting and indoctrination into the series, and she relates good anecdotes and reflections about her experiences. Overall, the actors’ commentary works well and gives us a worthwhile examination of the film.
Also on DVD One, we get the MI6 DataStream. This offers a trivia track with a difference: in addition to the normal text, 19 times during the film the screen alters to show some video material. For the standard trivia part of it, we get lots of nice notes about the movie. Created by John Cork – the co-author of James Bond: The Legacy - we learn about diverse elements such as locations, connections to other Bond flicks, stunts, technical effects, story points and many other pieces. It’s a nicely informative piece.
The “video streaming” moments offer extra details in the same vein. For these, the movie itself shrinks to about 1/6th of the screen, and the other footage fills most of the rest. We learn about story developments, acting challenges, fencing training, the creation of effects, and a number of other bits. We get shots from the set along with interviews clips with model effects supervisor John Richardson, writers Neil Purvis and Robert Wade, actors Pierce Brosnan, Judi Dench, Halle Berry, Rick Yune, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, Michael Madsen, and Samantha Bond, makeup supervisor Paul Engelen, costume supervisor Lindy Hemming, workshop supervisor Nick Finlayson, and special effects supervisor Chris Corbould. I would have preferred a format like the “follow the white rabbit” deal found during The Matrix, as that gives the viewer a choice to skip segments and it interferes less with the presentation of the film; it’s virtually impossible to watch the movie in a coherent manner with the “DataStream” active. Nonetheless, I like the information presented and think it’s a fun way to learn more about the flick.
Now we go to DVD Two, where we find five elements under Declassified: MI6 Vault. These start with a documentary called *From Script to Screen. This 51-minute and 37-second piece mixes movie clips, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We hear from Wilson, Brosnan, Tamahori, Wade, Purvis, Corbould, Pike, Hemming, Richardson, co-producer Barbara Broccoli, executive producer Tony Waye, action unit director Vic Armstrong, storyboard artist Martin Asbury, workshop supervisor Andy Smith, Eon director of publicity and marketing Anne Bennett, Empire Magazine associate editor Ian Freer, film journalist John Millar, casting director Debbie McWilliams, production designer Peter Lamont, stunt coordinator George Aguilar, surf double Laird Hamilton, costume supervisor Graham Churchyard, production manager Philip Kohler, action unit production manager Terry Bamber, Iceland facilities manager John Hindrick, sound recordist Chris Munro, senior modeler Brian Smithies, sword master Bob Anderson and actors Halle Berry and Toby Stephens.
At its start, the program examines how a Bond script evolves. We learn about general approaches to 007 as well as specifics connected to the story for Day. The show involves bringing Tamahori on board and his impact on the tale, the development of various production units, addressing rumors and coming up with a title, sets, locations and action sequences, casting and costumes, models and effects, shooting the film and various problems along the way.
At its best, “Screen” gives us a fine production diary. The many behind the scenes shots offer a great “fly on the wall” feel for all the different events that led to the film’s creation. It’s a little too disjointed to provide a concise “making of” documentary, but its strengths more than compensate for its weaknesses.
A featurette entitled *Shaken and Stirred on Ice goes for 23 minutes and 33 seconds. It features Tamahori, Stephens, Corbould, Smith, Lamont, Finlayson, Purvis, Wade, Pike, Broccoli, Wilson, Hemming, Berry, Armstrong, greensman Tim Cale, visual effects producer Alex Bicknell, senior compositor David Rey, wave sequence supervisor Dottie Starling, Iceland production manager Chris Brock, ice safety coordinator David Rootes, and stuntman Ray De Haan. As you can figure from the title, “Shaken” looks at issues related to the movie’s icy sequences. We examine the Icelandic locations and adaptations made for the setting. This means info about the cars and stunts, sets, visual effects, costumes, and other production details.
“Script” got into a few of the same subjects, but “Shaken” explores them in much greater depth. The prior program mostly looked at problems getting a frozen-enough setting, whereas this one spends more time with other aspects of the location. It devotes enough time to the subjects to prove satisfying and useful.
*Just Another Day lasts 22 minutes, 37 seconds as it presents remarks from Waye, Stephens, Brosnan, Tamahori, Pike, location manager Simon Marsden, parachutist Allan Hewitt, and Parks Police Sgt. T. Hale. “Day” lives up to its title as it focuses on one specific day in the production. The show looks at the scene in which Graves parachutes in front of Buckingham Palace. It gets into all the elements involved in the segment as executed this day. I like the approach, as it gives us an interesting view of a day in the life of a Bond production.
Next we get the three-minute and 32-second *The British Touch: Bond Returns to London. We hear from Tamahori, British Airways global advertising manager Abby McGowan, BA promotions executive Vanessa Orange, actor Deborah Moore. This gives us a quick glimpse of the scenes shot on Bond’s British Airways flight. Despite its brevity, it offers some interesting insights.
The “Vault” ends with *On Location with Peter Lamont. This 13-minute and 52-second piece features narration from the production designer as we tour the movie’s location scouting. The show offers a fun examination of various spots inspected for use in the film, and Lamont’s commentary adds useful information about the video footage.
With that we head to the *007 Mission Control Interactive Guide. This splits into components under seven different headings: “007”, “Women”, “Allies”, “Villains”, “Mission Combat Manual”, “Q Branch”, and “Exotic Locations”. An odd form of “greatest hits”, this simply presents a few selected scenes that match the topics.
One of the only interesting elements comes from the presentation of the opening credits without text (3:23). “Locations” (3:06) also gives us a narrated set of clips. Samantha Bond chats over the scenes and tells us about the locations. That makes it more useful than the others since they just show snippets from the final film. The rest of the set is a waste of time.
The Image Database presents a collection of still galleries. The disc divides these into five sections: “Cast Portraits” (38 photos), “Special Shoot” (49), “Sets and Locations” (73), “Stunts and Special Effects” (43), and “Vehicles and Gadgets” (23). This is a nice sample of photos.
Finally, we find a booklet. It presents the standard array of facts and photos as it fleshes out the package. It’s a fine complement to the set.
Whereas the other reissued Bond DVDs sacrifice none of the extras from the earlier releases, I cannot say the same for Day. It cuts lots and lots of supplements found on the 2003 set. We lose a collection of seven featurettes called “Inside Die Another Day”; altogether, those filled more than 81 minutes
In addition, the “Ultimate Edition” cuts some multi-angle sequences, other technical discussions, trailers and TV spots, Madonna’s music video and a related “making of” featurette, and some pieces connected to a 007 videogame.
Why does the set lose all of this material? I have no idea, but it’s really unfortunate. I like the package’s new elements, but I see no reason an alleged “Ultimate Edition” would drop so many good components from an earlier release.
I’ve often commented that mediocre Bond still works well, and that applies to Die Another Day. The film comes across as a moderate disappointment because it shows more promise than most Bond flicks, but it still seems like a reasonably satisfying entry in the series. The DVD provides terrific sound, solid visuals and a very nice roster of extras. It’s a strong disc for an average movie.
Should folks who already own the prior release pursue this Ultimate Edition? Yes, if just because it improves on the picture quality of the original version. Audio remains the same, and though the two releases offer different extras, the quality of both sets seems similar in that regard. Nonetheless, the unique elements on the 2003 DVD mean fans will want to keep it.
Note that this “Ultimate Edition” of Die Another Day can be purchased only as part of “The Ultimate James Bond Collection Volume Two”. This five-movie set also includes A View to a Kill, Thunderball, Licence to Kill, and The Spy Who Loved Me.
To rate this film visit the original review of DIE ANOTHER DAY