Captured and tortured while on an assignment in North Korea,
James Bond is eventually liberated more than a year later.
Vowing to find the person responsible for setting him up,
007 embarks upon a dangerous mission that takes him from Cuba
to Iceland, where he makes the acquaintance of a formidable
and alluring fellow spy called Jinx...
19 excellent 2-disc sets, Sony lets us down badly with this
one. Whereas the makers of the other Ultimate Editions
have taken great care not to omit any of the previously released
special features, a staggering two hours' worth of material
from the previous 2-disc special edition of Die Another
Day has vanished like Bond's invisible car.
audio commentaries (featuring director Lee Tamahori and producer
Michael G Wilson, and actors Pierce Brosnan and Rosamund Pike
respectively) and the "MI6 Datastream" (which cues in 19 behind-the-scenes
featurettes at appropriate junctures, and displays on-screen
information text throughout the film) are present and correct.
So too are the documentaries Shaken and Stirred on Ice
(25 minutes) and the fascinatingly in-depth From Script
to Screen (50 minutes).
where are the 75-minute documentary Inside Die Another
Day; the storyboard to final shot comparisons and multi-angle
views of scenes such as the hovercraft chase, car battle and
innovative main title sequence; the trailers; the TV spots;
Madonna's music video; the making of the music video; and
the making of the 007: Nightfire PS2 game? I can't
quite believe all this stuff has been missed out, but I've
pinched myself, double-checked the review discs and the product
information - no, there isn't a third disc that I haven't
so-called Ultimate Edition throws us a few scraps to
try and keep us happy: the "making of" featurettes Just
Another Day (23 minutes), The British Touch: Bond Arrives
in London (3 minutes) and On Location with Peter Lamont
there's always the movie itself. Die Another Day remains
a curious blend of innovation, comforting familiarity and
irritation. Nowhere is this more evident than during the opening
credits, which, in a novel break from tradition, inter-cut
the usual surreal and erotic imagery with the ongoing events
of the story. However, this visual feast is let down by a
very un-Bond-like title song by Madonna (who also plays a
cameo role as the fencing instructor, Verity).
Tamahori (Once Were Warriors, Along Came a Spider,
xXx 2: The Next Level) provides us with some very exciting
fight scenes, including a visceral fencing match between Bond
and the main villain Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens). And, of
course, there are the usual outrageous stunt sequences, involving
hovercraft on minefields and cars on ice, courtesy of action
unit director Vic Armstrong. However, the notion of an invisible
car seems far-fetched even by Bond standards.
fact, this is the most fantastical Bond film in years. With
its themes of gene manipulation, cloaking devices and heat
rays, we haven't seen this many sci-fi elements since Moonraker.
Coincidentally, scriptwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade
have plundered Ian Fleming's Moonraker novel for story
elements such as the transformed villain and his apparently
benign orbital weapon. At one point, Rosamund Pike's character
Miranda Frost was going to be Moonraker's Gala Brand,
as the documentary From Script to Screen reveals.
aficionados will also appreciate the fact that James Bond
borrows a book on ornithology, just as Fleming "borrowed"
the character's name from the author of a bird-watching book.
Another novel name-check comes in the form of the Korean Colonel
Moon (Will Yun Lee), a character inspired by the villain of
Kingsley Amis' Bond book Colonel Sun. In addition,
the frozen Icelandic location and 007's icy water torture
are both reminiscent of John Gardner's Icebreaker.
writers and Brosnan continue to explore Bond's humanity and
vulnerabilities. It is quite unnerving to behold his condition
after he has been imprisoned and tortured for 14 whole months.
Who would have thought we'd ever see 007 as a shuffling wreck
of a man with an unkempt beard? This image puts the injuries
sustained in Licence to Kill and The World Is Not
Enough in the shade. As it happens, there are a few plot
similarities to Timothy Dalton's controversial second and
final Bond movie, with the agent embarking upon a private
But don't go thinking that the trademark comical quips have
been omitted, because they are present in force. These range
from lines that really work ("So this is where they keep the
old relics then, eh?") to those that are rather awful ("That's
Following a rather stilted introductory scene, in which she
has to deliver the above dreadful line, Halle
Berry makes a big impression as the tough and resourceful
Bond girl, Jinx. The elegant Rosamund Pike does an equally
splendid job as 007's other love interest, the appropriately
main baddie is a sort of pastiche of Bond himself. With his
toothy upper-class sneer, Toby Stephens plays Graves like
a cross between Hugh Grant and the dapper Ace Rimmer from
Red Dwarf. Writers Purvis and Wade throw in a fair
few surprises in terms of certain characters' identities and
being the 20th official Bond film, which marked the franchise's
40th anniversary in 2002, the production team also include
copious references to the past, including a range of vintage
gadgets in the workshop of the new Q (the amusing John Cleese).
Jinx rises from the waves wearing (if that's the right word)
a costume that echoes Ursula Andress's famous bikini and belt
combination in Dr. No. Later on, Bond plucks a grape
from a bowl in a hospital ward, a la Thunderball, and
reads a magazine article bearing the pull quote, "Diamonds
are forever". However, the plot strays from homage to out-and-out
repetition when Graves's Icarus satellite plays a similar
role to Blofeld's orbital laser in Diamonds Are Forever.
its flaws, Die Another Day is an enjoyable film. The
franchise seems to suffering from an identity crisis at the
moment, with the departure of Brosnan and mixed messages coming
out of the studio as to exactly how action- and gadget-based
the new movie will be, or how faithful to Ian Fleming's Casino
Royale. Meanwhile, the books have headed back in time
with Charlie Higson's Young Bond series. However, I
have little doubt that 007 will live to fight another day.
And hopefully some day Sony will release a genuine Ultimate
- No, We Really Mean it This Time, Honest Guv - Edition
of this movie.