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Die Another Day [Blu-Ray]

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Caffeinated Clint
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Clint is the creator, editor and maintainer of Moviehole.

By Clint Morris

The 20th James Bond movie – and your final chance to see Pierce Brosnan in the role. A sort-of mish-mash of “License to Kill” – the one where 007 has his license revoked just before he goes on a revenge mission – and the last few Brosnan-led Bonds (all of them ever-so-cheesy), “Die Another Day” sees the unstoppable secret agent bedding fellow spies Halle Berry and Rosamund Pike, while searching for the man who captured and tortured him for a year in Korea. In a sort of superior interweave (or is it?) of 80s Bond-effort ‘’License to Kill’’, events in ‘’Die Another Day’’ kick off in a very un-Bond like coil, with our ostensible straight-shooter having his license to bleed and bunk revoked. But typical of the urbane superman, he won’t be restrained and sets out after the twosome who made his new class so – evil megalomaniac Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) and his callous right-hand man, Zao (Rick Yune). Assisted by outwardly casual super heroine Jinx (Halle Berry) – and in due course his dependable band of MI6 comrades, led by ‘M’ (Judi Dench) – the renegade Bond sets out to unmask a traitor, and ultimately roll out the stop sign to their all-evil sketch of globe domination.

If you’d asked me that question five minutes after leaving the theater what’s wrong with this movie, I’d have said not much – it was fun! It wasn’t until the second or third viewing of it – I just watched it again last night, two days after catching the superior “Quantum of Solace” – that I realized how bad a film this is… well, not so much bad as stupid. It’s absolutely preposterous… in fact it might even be the cheesiest and most ridiculous Bond film ever! There’s not a minute in this that seems to be set on our planet nor is there a line in the movie that isn’t tacky. It’s quite amazing how cheesy it all is. It’s no wonder someone suggested they pull the franchise back after this one…. it’s plays about as real as that shoddy American remake of [REC]. The film actually starts off pretty intriguing, and even sets up a fairly realistic scenario for itself, but by the time Madonna has her unnecessary cameo about three-quarters the way through, the film has become an out-and-out comedy. Once ‘Q’ (John Cleese) shows Bond to his new ‘Invisible’ Car it’s all over. Any chance the film had of being a gritty, tense Bond film – and it did have the potential to be that, the first 20 minutes or so of the film are actually pretty damn solid – is suddenly discarded in favour of unbelievably over-the-top gimmicks, gadgets and more offensive and demeaning lines concerning Bond’s array of always-easy-to-screw women. There doesn’t seem to be one real person in this film – sans maybe Judi Dench’s ‘M’ (who wasn’t really used to effect until she was bought back to play the same part in the gadget-less gag-less Daniel Craig-Bond “Casino Royale” in 2006) who although good and trying her butt off, seems a bit out-of-place in this incarnation of Bond. They could’ve also lost Halle Berry. It feels like she’s gate-crashing this series with her cartoonish Lara-Croft knock-off, Jinx. And Berry, for what it’s worth, has next to no chemistry with Brosnan. Their love scene is about as steamy as an air-conditioned Aston Martin but more so, the addition of Berry seems like a last-minute ‘tack on’ to draw in more viewers. The main problem though is the script – if the film’s second-half had actually had a point, and not just be silly [invisible] car chases on the ice about the earth’s core being ripped down the middle by a giant laser from the sky, the bad jokes, and the cartoonish characters mightn’t have been as noticeable. I know that there were a bevy of bad jokes and comic-book style villains in “Goldeneye” (1995) but its script was so tight, and Brosnan was on top of his game then, that it didn’t matter…. And one hardly noticed.

As I said, upon my initial viewing, I had a fun time with it – and it’s only after repeated viewings that it starts to aggravate. It is a good time – there’s loads of action, some terrifically staged action sequences (though some of the CGI leaves a lot to be desired – – check out the surfing scenes at the film’s beginning or the bit at the end where Bond’s invisible car goes off the cliff), Brosnan makes a great Bond (he’s charming as heck, in some ways, I refer him to Sean Connery), and Rosamund Pike is one cute Bond Girl. The film’s first act is also rather great too – Bond being captured and tortured for over a year, then escaping and ultimately going renegade (without his credit cards and endless supply of goodies), is fun stuff. It’s a really interesting set-up. It’s also a treat the way the filmmakers – Lee Tamahori directed this – weaved in some nods to some of the classic Bond movies…. Like the dusty props we see in Q’s gadget-shop. If you can turn your brain off, and just go with it, you will have a good time – – there’s not a flat moment in the film.

As tawdry as it is, and as laughable as its storyline is, the film’s cheesy humour, over-the-top action sequences and Bond’s turn as the chauvinist MI6 agent is still bloody hard to resist – especially after a couple of beers. And there’s definitely a lot of folks out there who prefer Bond, and their Bond movies to be like this – loud and loony – over the real-man real-situation Craig incarnation. And in defense to everything I’ve written above, A. O. Scott in the New York Times responds: “Don’t we go to these movies precisely to savor the familiar: the sports cars, the shaken vodka martinis, the knowingly stale elbow-in-the-ribs sexual innuendo, the pop song during the opening credits? And isn’t our taste for Bondage built around a desire for immediate gratification?” Maybe. Maybe.

Blu-Ray Details and Extras

As fantastic as the film looks on Blu-Ray it also represents the minor disadvantage of the format – that it exposes ‘everything’ on screen, including bad CGI! The movie does look better in the formats 1080p format, but there’s a point where things look too good… and almost diminish a movie’s enjoyment (like seeing the wires taped to the exploding chap’s back in the “Face/Off” Blu-Ray – something you wouldn’t have picked up on DVD). On the other hand, some sequences, like for instance the snow-set scenes look divine on Blu-Ray – I can only imagine how, er, Vanilla those scenes must’ve looked in SD.

The DTS HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio packs a nice punch – but again, I noticed a bit of a problem : the sound effects are louder than the dialogue. You’ll be flat-out hearing Bond talk over the explosions and gun-fire. Its way too-bass heavy. Still, a minor problem when all you’ve really got to do is have you hand on the AMP remote at certain intervals throughout the movie to fix that problem.

The Extras have been carried over from the DVD release – dual commentaries, featurettes, multi-angle inter-action scenes, trivia track, and database of piccies – none of which seemed to be in SD.

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Clint is the creator, editor and maintainer of Moviehole.

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