Thursday, June 12, 2014
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Pierce Brosnan's second outing as James Bond is a marked improvement over Goldeneye. While that film is good, it has some pacing issues that I will address when I cover it. Tomorrow Never Dies, however, is pure, unpretentious fun in the best possible way.
In the 18th Bond adventure, 007 tangles with mad media baron Rupert Murd- Uh, I mean Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) who plans to start World War 3 between Britain and China. He is teamed with Chinese operative Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh) and the film plays out more or less like The Spy who Loved Me/Moonraker on steroids.
Just about everything works here. Pierce Brosnan is a good Bond and this is his best work. He's cool, funny and for once, the few spots he has to show a little humanity work. As opposed to the films preceding and following this one where they came off as somewhat forced from a character and storytelling perspective.
Michelle Yeoh is equally enjoyable as she's really just there to kick ass and take names, which she does with a fair bit of style and a winning smile. Teri Hatcher and magician Ricky Jay are also on-hand as Carver's wife and one of his henchmen, respectively. Hatcher's scenes with Brosnan are okay (though neither real or spectacular) but Jay is entertaining as the obligatory science guy the villain needs to have in any respectful techno-thriller. The rest of the cast is solid as well with Judi Dench not getting in the way too much as M and Joe Don Baker making a return appearance as Wade from the last film.
The real gem in the cast is Pryce as Carver. Carver is a great villain, possibly one of the best in the entire series. He's charming, witty, casually ruthless and utterly insane. Pryce really digs into his expository speeches, chewing the scenery with absolute glee. It's quite the show and apart from a little bit where he mocks Yeoh, his performance is perfect.
Action is top notch with a huge shootout at a terrorist flea market Bond crashes in the pre-title sequence; a fun car chase with Bond piloting his gadget-laden BMW from the back seat and a long bike chase with Bond and Wai Lin handcuffed to each other, trying to escape Carver's goons. The only action beat that doesn't quite track for me is the final shootout in Carver's stealth boat as it's more or less just Bond mowing down bad guy after bad guy like Rambo. It's fine when Stallone does it but I usually expect a Bond film to do things with a little more style.
David Arnold's score is also great. While the Eric Serra score from the film was bland and seemed to feel the James Bond Theme was more trouble than it was worth, Arnold gives us a thunderous rendition of the theme at least once for every action scene. The rest of the score is equally robust and I have to say that you really don't appreciate the theme until you have to sit through nearly an entire movie without it. Any other time, this would have been overkill but here it works just fine and gives the movie an added little shot of adrenaline.
What doesn't work about the film? Well, the overall movie can come off as a little superficial and the script is a little dodgy in parts (as hilariously daft as starting a war to improve ratings is, it's still sort of dumb) but aside from that, not much that isn't nitpicking. Tomorrow Never Dies is just a blast. As I said, simple and unpretentious fun.