Our review of James Bond Ultimate Edition (Volume 4), published January 1st, 2007, is also available.
"What the Hell is he doing?"
The second entry in the Pierce Brosnan edition of the James Bond filmography, this movie is nicely entertaining in its own right. However, the wealth and quality of the extras truly set this disc apart, setting the standard for all those that have followed.
Given that I am a devoted James Bond fan and (at the time) a relatively new DVD fan, it took an effort of will to pass up the standard version of this DVD and wait for the Special Edition. Boy, am I glad that I did. Not only do I prefer the cool simplicity of the artwork for the SE's case, but the extras on the disc made me happy to have waited for this version, price notwithstanding.
But I am getting ahead of myself…
The most important piece of evidence is the picture quality, of course, for no extras could ever make up for a lack in this area. Never fear, because as so many others have noted, this is reference quality video. When I watched this disc for the review, since this was at least my fourth viewing, I looked for flaws. I really, really looked for flaws, but I really couldn't find any. This video is very sharp, clean, and colorful. Very pretty. I can see some very slight artifacting in a very few scenes, but only very picky reviewers may notice (or care).
The audio takes nothing away from the stunning quality of the video. Clear and distinct vocals and a well (but not over) used LFE channel. Your subwoofer will enjoy the workout, from giving gunfire a bass undertone to giving you a decent thump when the big explosions spread across the screen.
So far, as with the standard version of this disc, it's exceedingly good! Now, it is with the extras that the disc sets the standard. Yes, we have the ubiquitous trailers, but too often on discs the trailers look horrible by comparison with the movie and are usually full frame to boot! Here, the trailers look excellent and more importantly are WIDESCREEN, as is the movie-clip laden Sheryl Crow music video. Also, on many (even otherwise excellent) discs, the importance of the score is given scant attention. Here, not only do we have an isolated music-only track, but a brief full-frame interview with composer David Arnold.
But wait! That's not all! You also get a short presentation that combines various stages of special effects, storyboards, and the like, set to groovy music, that shows you how some of the important effects shots and stunts were done for the finished product. For the newcomer or the long-time Bond fan, the 45 minute full-frame featurette is a nice overview of the entire series of movies, touching on all the gadgets, women, stunts, and villains, as well as the different actors who have been privileged to play 007. (If you are a Sean Connery fan, he gets a fair amount of "face time.") You also get a neat menu item, "Gadgets," which shows off three of the main gadgets in this movie.
You think I'm done? Pfah! If all of the above wasn't enough, you also get one of the few discs (outside of porn) to actually use the multi-angle feature of your DVD player. Here, in several of the action sequences, you can switch to a second angle, which overlays the original storyboards over the actual footage. The animated menus (until the recent arrival of the Alien and Aliens discs) were unparalleled, pretending that the viewer is James Bond and the disc is a collection of secret information.
Furthermore, you get not one, but two full-length commentaries, one from Director Roger Spottiswoode and the other with Stunt (and Second Unit) Director Vic Armstrong and Producer Michael G. Wilson. If you are interested in movies and how they get made, there is a wealth of small bits of interesting information, such as the pressure to try and hide the fact that Bond and M are (horror!) drinking alcohol as they are being driven through the streets of London.
Considering this movie as an entry in the "Bond film" franchise, I think it stands up pretty well. Pierce Brosnan is both suave and cold-blooded as necessary, and doesn't let the humor go over the top. What is rare about this movie is that you get to see a more personal side of Bond where you see his depth of feeling for an old flame, played by Teri Hatcher. Another item that sets this film apart is, well, the sex appeal, for lack of a better term. Now, beautiful women (and Bond having his way with them) is a staple of the series, but here you are given a much more, ah, revealing picture into Bond's escapades. Nothing like nudity, but darned close.
The gadgets are cool, as usual, and I liked the twist of having 007 drive way out of trouble from the back seat! Michelle Yeoh (as Chinese Agent Wai Lin) is a true equal of Bond, and she has one scene that looks like it was lifted from a Jackie Chan movie (a plus for me, at least). Elliot Carver (played by Jonathan Pryce) is a modern Bond villain, a mix of several current corporate barons. (Me, I think he's a combination of Bill Gates, Ted Turner, and Rupert Murdoch.) However, Tomorrow Never Dies loses some Bond points for the henchmen. Sorry, but Henry Gupta (played by Ricky Jay) couldn't scare a Teletubby and Stamper (Gotz Otto) is mean but bland. And was it me, or was the same M who was bragging about her balls and calling 007 a "misogynist dinosaur" in Goldeneye about ready to cry when she thinks he's been killed in the opening scene?
However, I give Tomorrow Never Dies major Bond points for the scene between 007 and Q, where Bond is introduced to his new BMW. The genuine affection between the actors is evident, and makes me sad knowing that the upcoming release of The World Is Not Enough will signal the last Bond movie featuring Q (Desmond Llewelyn).
Also, a small point, but Tomorrow Never Dies: Special Edition comes in the preferred Amaray keep case, and comes with nicely laid out booklet about all sorts of things Bond.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Yes, it is a bit pricey, but you get what you pay for, and more! I do wish that the disc features were laid out in a more organized format (like the Universal grid). Frankly, I can't think of anything else to criticize.
Stunning video and audio, slam bang action, sexy women, fast cars, breathtaking stunts, and jam-packed full of extras! What else could you want?
Most honourably acquitted. I wish all of my defendants were so well mannered!
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Scales of Justice
• Audio Commentary Featuring Director Roger Spottiswoode
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