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"Die Another Day" DVD Review
17th April 2003

"Die Another Day" DVD review by DVD video expert David Thomsen exclusively for MI6.

This review will focus on technical merits of the "Die Another Day" Region 2 DVD, the content of the special features, packaging, and the interactive menus.

This "Extreme Special Edition" starts off on the right footing. The cardboard outer sleeve with icy gunbarrel contains a glossy gatefold booklet containing cast photos and the usual brief details that has been present in the previous 19 007:SE DVD booklets. Collectors of the existing series can breath a sigh of relief as the plastic DVD case uses a reversible inlay that can be flipped to a black-bordered design in keeping with the previous 19 region 2 DVDs. Although the famous 007 gun logo completed on the spine of "The World Is Not Enough", the "Die Another Day" spine does not look out of place, although Bond 21 may have a problem in a few years time. Overall the packaging is glossy, well thought out, and everything you would expect of a Bond release - going someway as to qualifying its £29.95 RRP

Main Feature - Video
The digital telecine process (used to convert the film negatives into pixel data) meets the standards one has become accustomed to for big budget blockbusters. The transfer also shows signs of digital cleaning - I have yet to see one single instance of a scratch or speckle. Presented in widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the video is also anamorphic - so large display decoders or upconverters should be able to take advantage of the extra "hidden" lines in the picture.

It is quite obvious that the entire film has been digitally colour graded. Initially this is used to good effect: surfers who were filmed in Hawaiian sunshine appear to be on a night mission on the Korean coast, and military sequences appear to have been bleached, to create a dull and gloomy atmosphere. These uses of colour grading work well usually, but they do seem to be overused in places (Vibrant Cuba), and under used elsewhere (flat whites in Iceland).

There appear to be no visible film-to-video artifacts. As this is a 2-disc set, the main feature film has almost all of disc 1 to itself. This extra capacity (compared to the other single-disc 007 releases) allowed the encoding to use much higher bitrates, thereby increasing compressed picture quality. Only the large explosions and water effects (notably the hovercraft chase and Antonov climax) seemed to have strained the encoding process. Professional video analysis tools have qualified the main feature averaging one of the best overall quality ratings seen on a major DVD release so far this year. Hopefully all 007 DVD releases will benefit from multi-disc formats in the future.

Sharpness: 5/5
Colour: 4/5
Transfer Quality: 5/5
Artifacts: 5/5

Main Feature - Audio
The much hyped DTS-ES soundtrack will amaze you. Dolby's new standard which creates a "virtual" rear central speaker (a pseudo 6.1 effect) is used to its full potential. Owners of home cinema systems or 5.1 surround sound speakers will notice the difference. The sound is, on the whole, crisp, well defined and noise-free.

The only factor that spoils the "Die Another Day" audio experience are the levels. Action sequences and explosions are loud, very loud - so much so the average sound set up will probably have to be turned down unless you don't have any neighbours. This is where the crux of the problem lies - when the film slips into dialog sequences the levels seem too low, and may have you reaching for the controller to turn the volume back up. Several reviewers on this site noted the loud audio levels at the cinema, and they seem to have been faithfully recreated on the DVD, which may annoy those with thin walls.

Dialogue: 4/5
Soundtrack: 5/5
Surround: 5/5

Many Bond fans in the UK who followed the media circus around the time of "Die Another Day"'s cinema release will have seen snatches from the special features, and the "From Script To Screen" was aired in its entirety on television on 19th November 2002 - but even the most hardened and cynical Bond fans will be impressed by the sheer quantity of extras on offer.

The "Inside Die Another Day" documentary offers and interesting insight into the production of the film, and the region 2 exclusive "From Script To Screen" has a brilliant fly-on-the-wall approach, although it could have benefited from a further 30 minutes to delve into all the subjects it tried to cover.

The two audio commentaries are well worth listening to. Pierce Brosnan gives an interesting insight into his experiences filming the scenes, and makes a good debut as the first ever Bond to record a commentary. Rosamund Pike only enters when her character first appears, and it is obvious they have recorded their parts separately as the commentary swaps between the two with no overlap or interaction. The second commentary with producer and director focusses more on the technical aspects and behind-the-scenes trivia.

Possibly one of the most original DVD extras seen in recent times is the "Trivia Track" feature which zooms the main film into a smaller window when small video features kick in to introduce the cast and characters, costumes and big effects when they appear in the film. This is the kind of feature DVD was invented for.

There are handfuls of other small vignettes covering mission briefings, gadget and vehicle features (utilising some stunning CG work), multi-angle sequences and mini behind-the-scenes documentaries on the car chase and title sequence design. All these extra goodies are of high quality and interest to anyone Bond fan no matter how well you think you know 007. These compliment the standard faire for special edition DVDs: image galleries, trailers, TV spots and commercials for the latest Bond video game "NightFire". Even MGM couldn't help adding some product-placement of their own merchandise.

The menu on both discs features impressive computer graphics and 3D models, carefully blending images from the film with stunning animation. The only minor gripe is the lack of use of the traditional "Bond" branding - most screens could be mistaken for the typical action film.

The "Die Another Day" DVD will take the best part of a day to explore completely, and will have Bond fans coming back again and again. At first the RRP of £29.99 seems expensive, but after you have scratched the surface of the DVD you know it has been good value for money. "Die Another Day" is the best 007 DVD outing to date, even if the film disappointed.

"Die Another Day" DVD review by DVD video expert David Thomsen exclusively for MI6.