James Bond Retrospective: Review of TOMORROW NEVER DIES

(I am a pretty huge James Bond fan, so with the new SKYFALL coming out November 9th, I thought it would be cool to re-watch every Bond movie and review them on the site, counting down the days until the latest one is released)

Back in 1997, this was released on the same day as TITANIC (which went on to be the biggest hit of all time).  But still, this was still a big success.  I was reluctant to see it since I didn’t like GOLDENEYE (I do like it now, though). So I was pretty surprised by how much I enjoyed it.  At the time, I considered it one of the best Bond films.  The weird thing is, even though I loved it, I only saw it that one time in the theater.  So, 15 years later, I was pretty curious to see if it still held up.

An evil Media Baron named Carver likes to cause catastrophes, then reports them on his network, just so he can get ratings.  His latest scheme is to pit England and China against each other, and cover it for television.  Bond, of course, is assigned the case.  On this mission, he meets his former girlfriend (now married to Carver), and a female Chinese agent named Wai Lin.  The two agents eventually end up working together as they try to stop Carver’s evil plan.

There is much to enjoy during the pre-title sequence.  Bond is on a mission trying to find a secret decoder at an airbase.  The Government decides to destroy the airbase, even though 007 is still there.  M tries warns him to get out, so Bond steals an enemy jet plane.  The action is unrelentless during this opening.  After Bond takes off in the plane, the enemy in the seat behind him (who he thought was unconscious) tries strangling him.  He ejects him, and the bad guy goes through the bottom of one of his own planes that was flying above them.  It’s pretty special effects heavy, but they’re very convincing.  Then before you can catch your breath, the title sequence starts, with a wonderful song by Sheryl Crow.  This IS one of my favorite Bond tunes.  Another great way to open the picture.  It also has M’s best line in the movie.  When someone asks “What does Bond think he’s doing?”, she confidently says, “His Job!”.  Good stuff.

Man!  There is so much action in this movie.  I might even have to say that this may possibly be the Bond film with the MOST action.  It almost never lets up.  Younger viewers who used to think Bond was old-fashioned and stuffy will definitely change their minds after seeing this one.  Now, I didn’t quite like it as much as I did when I first saw it, but I still really liked it.  While there may not be as strong of a story this time, the film more than makes up for it in the action department.

Every action set piece is well crafted and thrilling.  There’s an exciting scene when Bond is trying to get the secret decoding device, but then Wai Lin shows up too, on the same mission.  Love it when she’s walking down the side of the wall, and waves at Bond.  Q gives bond a car with a remote control, and there’s a great chase when Bond is driving the car as he is crouched down in the backseat.  There’s also an awesome motorcycle vs. helicopter chase on the streets of China, Wai Lin’s kung-fu battle with some baddies, and of course the big confrontation at the end which lasts about 20 minutes.  Lots of shootouts and some satisfying hand-to-hand fights.

If there’s a problem with the movie, it would be that there’s almost TOO much action.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love action.  But sometimes if you can show some brief characterization once in a while, it makes the action more involving.  I also was disappointed in Joe Don Baker’s return as Bond’s CIA ally.  It wasn’t as funny, as his character felt more forced this time.  They do try to put some darker elements in the mix towards the beginning, but then the last half is just all action.  But still very entertaining to watch.

Brosnan plays bond with more ease this time.  In GOLDENEYE, it felt like he was really trying to prove to the world that he could be 007, but this time he seemed more natural.  Jonathan Pryce is a terrific actor (I’m a big fan of BRAZIL), and he makes a terrific villain.  He’s definitely more theatrical than his predecessors, but that approach is more than welcoming.  Instead of some killer, I love that the bad guy is an insane media baron.  That was refreshing.  Teri Hatcher is a little flat as Bond’s ex.  But Michelle Yeoh (loved her in POLICE STORY 3 aka SUPERCOP), is a fantastic action star.  She doesn’t have much sex appeal, but her physical ability makes her an equal to Bond, and I found that to be a nice touch.  There’s also a few henchmen of Carver’s I should mention.  We get Ricky Jay, who doesn’t have much to do besides being Ricky Jay.  But Gotz Otto makes an impression as a sort of Dolph Lundgren-type thug, and Vincent Schiavelli seems to be having a ball chewing the scenery in his one scene as a professional killer.  Q has some good lines, and Judi Dench is still great as M.

Who would have thought that the director of STOP! OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT (Roger Spottiswoode) would have made a great Bond adventure.  The pacing is extremely fast for a Bond film, the action is practically non-stop, and the story is kind of clever.  What also elevates the film is the music.  Composer David Arnold takes his first stab at scoring a Bond film, and it’s phenomenal.  It’s very big.  He both emulates former composer John Barry’s essence and themes, while adding some appropriate modern touches.  This may also be the most I’ve ever heard the actual Bond theme used during a movie.  Definitely gives it that certain “Bond” feel.

A movie can’t be too bad if the worst thing you can say about it is that it has too much action.  It’s good action, but if they scaled back a bit and focused on the characters briefly, this could have been one of the best Bond films.  That said, this is exactly what the public was looking for.  Top notch popcorn entertainment, straight from the Hollywood factory.  I had a really fun time with it (and my daughter loved it!).  This is even better than GOLDENEYE.   ★★★ (out of ★★★★)

- Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence (though mostly bloodless), sexuality and innuendo.

- Running time: 1hr 59min.

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Categories: Austin Kennedy, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews

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