Tomorrow Never Dies

Reviewed By MP Bartley
Posted 08/19/04 23:16:21

"The One With The Newspapers."
3 stars (Average)

'Goldeneye' had brought James Bond screaming back into the 90's. But it had yet to be seen whether this was just a one-off trick or if Bond was here to stay. 'Tomorrow Never Dies' proves that, yes, he was here to stay. But unfortunately only in an extremely pre-packaged manner.

One of the best things about the Brosnan Bonds is that the pre-credits sequences are all determined to out-do the previous one. 'Tomorrow Never Dies' has a belter with Bond trying to fly out some nuclear missiles from a terrorists arms bazaar before they're blown to smithereens by a Royal Navy missile. It's so good in fact, it's a fair criticism that it's better than the rest of the film.

Sheryl Crow then pops up to deliver a forgettable smoky ballad before Brosnan's second Bond mission starts proper. There's an international incident brewing between Britain and China. A British destroyer has been sunk by the Chinese who claim it was in their waters. The British however claim they were in neutral waters and that it was the Chinese who acted aggressively. MI6 however suspect a third party is to blame but only have 2 days to discover who before the British declare war. Their main suspect is media tycoon Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) who is to be investigated by Bond, a mission complicated by Bond's previous affair with Carver's wife, Paris (Teri Hatcher). His mission will also involve him with Chinese agent Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh)

'Goldeneye' had worked so well because it used the typical Bond formula, but with vigour and energy. 'Tomorrow Never Dies' follows the same formula but is lacking in the same energy. Aside from the opening pre-credits sequence, the only other part worth mentioning is an excellent escape down the face of a skyscraper which eventually leads into a superb motorbike against helicopter chase through the streets of Bangkok. Otherwise, Spottiswoode's direction is fairly lethargic and uninspired, with even the climax indistinguishable from the other dozen 'the base is about to explode!' finales.

'Tomorrow Never Dies' also marks the point where product placement fatefully tainted the Bond series forever. Hey, Bond uses an Ericsson phone! Maybe I could get one too! And it's also annoying how Bond now has a get out of everything card from Q. An otherwise impressive car chase in a multi-storey is spoilt by the handy use of a rotating blade in the front of the car to cut through a metal cable thrown into the path of Bonds car. A device completely useless...unless someone happens to throw a metal cable into the path of your car.

It's not that 'Tomorrow Never Dies' is an annoying or offensive Bond film, it's just so standardised that it's hard to be too interested in it. The two day deadline that Bond is working too for example, is hardly mentioned meaning there's not much tension to his mission.

Brosnan however has never been bad as Bond, no matter the quality of his film. He's completely comfortable and confident in the role now and finally brings a little quality of his own to the character. Brosnan manages to retain Bond's humanity amongst all the gadgets and always reminds us of how much death Bond has seen, and indeed is responsible for. He has a carefully hidden melancholic and regretful streak as Bond which stands out more than ever.

Llewelyn doesn't have much to here and Samantha Bond's Moneypenny continues to be irritating, but Dench continues her superb work as M. She gets one of the best lines any M has ever had when angrily asked what Bond is doing stealing nuclear missiles from the terrorists, "His job!" she snaps back. Great stuff.

It's a Bond film that's pretty limp in terms of Bond girls and villains however. Hatcher doesn't have enough to do to make you care about her and Yeoh, although the toughest Bond girl yet, is a cold and unlikeable presence.

Pryce is a very generic and lightweight villain. Although clearly having fun, he's just not threatening enough and his reasons for starting an Anglo/Chinese war are pretty stupid when it comes down to it. His Ayran henchman Stamper (Gotz Otto) is also just a generic rip-off of Jaws/Oddjob/May Day and has no real presence of his own. This lack of great dramatic threat is part of the reason that 'Tomorrow Never Dies' has no real danger to it.

A couple of terrific action sequences aside, there's little to get excited about with 'Tomorrow Never Dies'. It looks decent and moves the plot along nicely but it's all too under cooked for its own good. There's possibly no other Bond film that's such a standard procedure.

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