Onto the second of the Brosnan flicks, it’s Tomorrow Never Dies. Arguably the Ninetiest movie of the series.
This is just the classic sequence of Bond being Bond. Undercover somewhere in Uzbekistan, I guess, 007is scoping out an arms bazaar and reports back the daily specials. Back in the control room, the admiral decides he’s bored with window shopping and orders a missile up their arse. Well, except Bond’s identified a couple of nuclear torps underneath one of the planes, and if that goes up – yeah. So, naturally he jacks the jet, to get it out of the way before anything bad happens.
Daniel Kleinman continues the approach taken GoldenEye of more sophisticated imagery tying in with the film’s theme and plot – this time around it’s kind of CYBER, but it still looks cool – in a different way to Binder’s classic themes, but still ineffably Bond.
Is worth noting here as the first score by David Arnold. A massive disciple of John Barry, but also not afraid to put his own stamp on things, Arnold came to the attention of the Bond producers with Shaken and Stirred, an album of older Bond themes. Incidentally, his arrangement of the On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is stupendous, both the bare orchestration (it’s on Youtube somewhere) and as the collaboration with big-beat outfit The Propellerheads. No word of a lie.
I happen to think “Surrender” sung by k.d. lang over the end credits probably should’ve kicked off the show, but the Sheryl Crow submission is fine too.
After the sequence in Russia or Tajikistan or wherever, the bulk of the action in Hamburg and Saigon (actually Thailand), with a little hark back to The Man With The Golden Gun as it returns to Phang Nga Bay.
We’re back to a stark bonkers megalomaniac who wants to start a war, but in this case, Elliot Carver is a media mogul, not possibly based on any real-life figures, who just wants to provoke shit between the UK and the PRC for the ratings. It’s… shall we say, one of the more distinct lead villains in a while, so there’s not much Jonathan Pryce can do with the character than to ham it up. A lesser actor might’ve not dealt with the material so well, but Pryce just about makes you buy into the ludicrous plot.
Such as why does some media guy have a stealth boat, and a mining drill repurposed as a torpedo? One does not simply come across these things, even if they have a thousand TV stations.
There is a pleasant array of henchmen, lackeys and minions amongst the rogue’s gallery; Otto Ganz plays the suitably hard-to-kill but rather slipshod henchman Stamper, storied magician Ricky Jay plays Gupta, the tech specialist (fortunately a lot less obnoxious than Boris last time). And then there’s Dr. Kaufman, played by the late Vincent Schiavelli, who pretty much creeps out the whole movie in the process.
Teri Hatcher plays Carver’s wife, Paris, aaaaand she was also Bond’s ex. You know, only out of maybe thousands of them? Anyway, Bond chases up his own flame as a lead into the Carver organisation (the briefing scene with M in the car setting this up is awkward af, especially when Moneypenny puts her two bobs in).
After Bond And, well, she dies, at her husband’s behest. I mean, yeah, the “sacrificial lamb” is a recurring trope in these movies, but the manner in which this was done, so casually, for no point – it’s a plot device that should’ve be left back in the days of Goldfinger.
Thankfully, Michelle Yeoh’s Wai Lin is a more positive recurrence of that other trope, “the badass female agent who is Bond’s equal”. Mostly known for her work in Hong Kong cinema, this aspect of her talents was not wasted, and there is a pretty amusing sequence where the two work out what to do next after escaping the choppa.
What holds this film together is the action scenes, which continue on the heightened level of its predecessor. And of course that tank chase through St Petersburg is a hard act to follow, so Roger Spottiswoode found some other crazy stuff, like the remote control BMW chase in Hamburg, the bike vs chopper sequence through Saigon, and of course the opening bit where Bond knows how to fly a damned fighter jet on top of everything else.
The final act aboard the STEALTH BOAT, then, is kind of… well, it reminds me a fair bit of The Spy Who Loved Me, but only as a faint imitation. I do enjoy the naval tomfoolery, in fact, considering that Bond is still holds his rank as a naval officer.
As you might tell, this might be the shortest post I’ve written for the series. It’s just – I really did like certain elements of it, the action parts are pretty damned good. But whereas last time around there was also enough suspense and even some decent characterisation, such as 007 seeing an old mate he’d left for dead, this time the wrapping is just about threadbare.
Sometimes I go on about the plots being a bit complex and hard to follow, but this time around, Carver is front and centre as the big bad, his masterplan is simple and dumb, and basically all Bond has to do is keep getting out of traps and annoying him until Carver’s hubris gets the better of them.
Yeah, not a real lot to say really. I did enjoy watching it, it does pretty much everything a Bond movie is supposed to do, but basically it was a really weird one to assess. Weird and hollow.
I’m giving this 16 out of 20 chakra torture implements.