Die Another Day

How's that for a punch line.

A review by Mike Shea   Movie Rating: ( * * * * · )    DVD Rating: ( * * * * * )

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James Bond movies are usually not held to the same standards as other movies. They have a pattern to follow and if they go outside of that pattern, a lot of people would complain. As movies go, none of them were really very powerful or moving. None of them will ever make it to the top 100 movies lists. Still, James Bond movies are a wonderful look at our culture over the past fifty years and are quite often very good forms of entertainment. Die Another Day goes just a bit beyond this. Overall it is very much a typical Bond flick, one of the better ones. Parts of it are quite a bit better. Die Another Day is one of the best James Bond movies of all time.

The true gem of Die Another Day happens in the first twenty minutes of the movie. Instead of a typical Bond moment, we find our hero thrust into a truly dark and horrifying world. Not since the death of his wife have we seen Bond face such a devastating change. The match up of Madonna's sharp and disjointed song, Die Another Day, while we see this horror being inflicted upon our hero works to build a harsh and powerful introduction. It was really above and beyond the almost comic Bond moments we are used to. My only disappointment was that very little is done with the radical change to Bond's life during the rest of movie. I would have liked a reconfirmation that our hero is not the same hero he was in the beginning. He is a bit more cynical and a bit more wild. He's not the same bond that was kicking Jaws in the ass in Egypt, not the same one who so vainly parachuted off a mountain with a British Flag parachute. He's an animal now.

The action in Die Another Day is excellent. We still don't have a bad guy or bad guy sidekick that has the same charisma as Jaws or Oddjob, but our new bad guys are a lot sleeker and a bit more dangerous. The car duel between our hero and the diamond studded bad guy sidekick is a good example. Each gets to use the secret weapons of their car to the fullest, from a trunk mounted mini-gun to a built in cloaking device. It is one of the best car chase scenes in any bond flick. The shoot outs didn't feel as polished as we might seen in movies like Face/Off, but they do the job with all the proper explosions in all the right places.

Another fun layer to watch are all the references. Apparently every other Bond movie has a little bit of nostalgia within this one. I was never able to find the For Your Eyes Only reference, but I got just about every other one.

The acting is about like you'd expect. The bad guys are over the top. Bond is too swarthy for his own good. I was disappointed to see Monster's Ball. I could have used a few less witty lines on her part, but with Bond, I can't expect too much.

The DVD of Die Another Day is reference quality. Most Bond movies that have come out recently have all been good, but this one is a step up from the norm. The DVD has a 2.35 to 1 16x9 enhanced picture with excellent color and detail. The DVD includes both a Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS soundtrack. The DTS track was very full and powerful without being overly harsh. The before-mentioned theme song is a perfect example, it is one of the best songs I've heard on DVD. There are two commentary tracks, one with director Rosamund Pike. A second disc includes a number of behind-the-scenes features and extra material. It's a lot for a Bond movie, above and beyond what the typical viewer would buy. Unfortunately, MGM chose to release a "Full Screen" version with far less material. They would have saved money and helped the industry by only releasing the widescreen collectors version.

I am a huge fan of this movie. I think the introduction alone makes up for any faults in the story or acting. I think it found a perfect blend of story and action to make it a top-notch Bond flick. Do not miss it.