Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Dir: Roger Spottiswoode
You Only Live Twice : Part Deux
So let me be completely honest: I was going to pan this movie. I’ve been planning on panning this movie the entire time. I’ve been super excited about panning this movie and I even thought up this great article title which I’m sticking with even though I’m not planning on completely panning this movie anymore. This film is easily the weakest of the Brosnan Bonds and was also the lowest performing at the box office. It also bears a striking resemblance in plot to You Only Live Twice, which of course is one more thing to slam on this movie about—but having watched it more than a few times now, I think there are definitely some redeeming factors and I still think that this film is worth at least a cursory viewing and in the very least I can assure you that it will be a highly amusing divergence on a rainy day.
This film is completely saved from its “re-used” plot and deplorable casting by one thing: great fucking action sequences. This film’s pre-credit sequence could be one of my favorites in the Canon, as Bond is doing extremely James Bond things. He’s surveying a terrorist swap meet. The Admiral in the war room won’t listen to M or Bond, and orders the whole swap meet to be destroyed with a ballistic missile shot from a boat a long ways away. It’s only after this point of no return that Bond is finally able to convince them that the MIG in the distance is laden with nukes and this is going to be a catastrophe. With no other options but to save the world Bond leaps into action, assaults hundreds of terrorists by himself, steals the plane, and flies off with the nukes just seconds before the whole area is destroyed by the Admiral’s missile. Even after saving the world from a mess worse than Chernobyl, Bond still has to deal with a hostile who has returned to consciousness in the rear seat of the cockpit of the plane he is flying and another hostile pilot in another MIG. Bond dispenses with both of them in classic Bond fashion by ejector seat blasting his backseat driver into the other plane, thereby eliminating both problems, before getting on the radio and asking, “Where would the Admiral like his nukes delivered?” This scene is simply classic Bond. He defies direct orders and saves the world and does it in a remarkably cavalier fashion which leaves no doubt to the viewer that he or she is in for another classic Bond adventure.
After the title sequence featuring a Bond song by Sheryl Crow, which is kind of a typical Bond song in that it’s not quite bad but definitely nothing to write home about, we rejoin the film as it begins to get more and more convoluted. As I’ve mentioned before this is You Only Live Twice: Part Deux, so the basic plot is that a super-rich evil villain is trying to start World War III for his own personal gain by this time playing the UK against China (in YOLT it was the US v. Russia) This super villain is actually a great casting choice with the classic Jonathan Pryce (who also plays the governor in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series) and he is wonderful as sort of a Bill Gates/ Rupert Murdoch hybrid media mogul who is so obsessed with himself that he’s turned to making news (by starting WWIII) rather than reporting it. As it turns out his wife, who is played by the gorgeous voluptuous (and at the time secretly preggo in real life) Teri Hatcher, used to be James Bond’s girlfriend, so Bond is sent to “pump” her for information. There is a long scene where M directly uses the word pump to imply the Bond should copulate with her exclusively for the Queen’s purposes, which I also happen to think is great, and also it’s worth noting that this is the first time in franchise history that Bond definitely knows for sure that the woman he is copulating with is the villain’s wife and he still does it anyways. Anyways, super villain doesn’t like this and kills his own wife and plans on having Bond killed. Bond of course escapes and goes on to save the day but first he has a fantastic car chase.
As I’ve mentioned before this film is filled with really great, gritty, action sequences which definitely help the viewer to forget that this film is sort of a re-hash of older Connery Bond. One of the most memorable is Bond’s escape in Hamburg using his remote controlled BMW 750iL sedan. First off I should note that the use of this vehicle in the movie is still a direct result of Eon production’s deal with BMW and also this is the first and only time to date that James Bond is given a 4 door sedan by Q branch (though there have been rumors that Bond is driving the all new Aston Martin Rapide touring Saloon in Skyfall, but I have yet to see that film yet, and even if he is, the 4 door Aston is and will always be on a completely separate level from pretty much any BMW). Anyways, way before any of us had color screens (or even smart phones), James Bond drives the life out of this big dawg BMW with nothing more than his cell phone. In real life the filming of all the crazy stunt work in this sequence required no less than 17 BMWs, plenty of which were completely destroyed. Another great action sequence in this film is the BMW motorcycle chase through the streets of Vietnam while Bond is not only handcuffed to his Chinese spy counterpart and co-star Michelle Yeoh, but also being pursued by very dedicated helicopter borne villains. Now, everyone whom I’ve read (incuding Brosnan) really likes Yeoh because she did almost all of her own stunt work and was very dedicated to the film, but personally I think they should have forgone the obvious racial overtones and cast an actress who was prettier to play against Bond. The fact that they cast an Asian person seems to really seal the deal for me on YOLT: part 2, and I would have really liked it if culturally the world was ready to not need stereotyping in our films. Also worth note is that Natasha Henstridge (fresh off her superb performance in Species) auditioned numerous times for the role that Yeoh eventually got and would have been way better without the production team conceding to obvious racial stereotyping.