A middling Bond is better than most other films, but still it is less than one might hope for. “Tomorrow Never Dies” is not a bad film, it just seems to be missing some of the things I like so much about 007 films. The romantic angle does not really work. The Villain is not particularly interesting, and James seems to struggle to make his witticisms work. I enjoy this movie, but it is not one of the films that i have seen more than a dozen times (probably only ten or so). With that said, here are the Double O Seven things I did like best about the film.
001 The one bad pun that actually works.
There is a horrible sequence where Bond and M are meeting in her car and they start trading quips. Moneypenny jumps in with a particularly leaden attempt to flirt and be clever. It is one of the most painful exchanges of dialogue I can think of in a Bond film. There is a much better piece of verbal humor later in the film. It still is a bit out of place, but it comes close to a line that I could imagine Sean Connery making work. As Bond and his Chinese counterpart are brought to the Saigon headquarters of media villain Elliot Carver, a giant banner with his image hangs off the building.
Bond’s comment: “Another Carver building. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he developed an edifice complex.”
002 Back Seat Driving
I suppose we should be wary, knowing where all the fancy car technology will lead Pierce Brosnan to in his final appearance as James Bond, still this tool seems plausible. The Q provided BMW that James drives in Germany, can be operated by remote control in his cell phone. That gives him the chance to escape from the bad guys in the back seat of his car.
He launches a series of weapons at his pursuers that slow them down or stop them in their tracks. Included in the arsenal are road tacks, miniature rockets, a cable saw and the like.
The thing that seems to give him the biggest kick though is the simple out maneuvering of the chase cars with his own vehicle. The expression on his face here reminds us that there is a funny side to Mr. Bond that is not just bad double entendres.
003 “The Future Mr, Gittes, the future.”
Elliot Carver is a thinly disguised version of media mogul Robert Maxwell who had died mysteriously a few years prior. The tabloid style and high tech trappings of the film are not too distant from some of the real life media demagoguery that we see these days. I enjoyed Carvers attempts to write and report stories, often before they happened.
The Future News Today. Carver as a character is blah, but the idea of media manipulation of the news is actually old school as he mentions William Randolph Hearst himself.
004 Joe Don Baker is back.
Big lug Jack Wade, Bond’s new CIA contact is back for his second film in a row. Baker was also in “The Living Daylights” as a different character. That means he was in three out of four Bond films in a decade.
Greeting his uniformed, counterpart an American Air Base in Asia, you can see the way we Yanks are having our chains yanked. Bond id fit, with great posture and clothes. Wade is a good ole boy with a gut, an informal manner, and n Aloha shirt that would fit nicely in my collection.
Wade may not be the model of cool that we would hope for an American spy, but he provides a nice touch of humor for James, in a style that the rest of the cast would not have been able to carry out.
005 HALO Jump
This was probably my first time hearing of this technique and it was a nicely effective sequence in the film.
Bond gets prepped by American intelligence personnel, and we get to have some exposition of the HALO strategy. A five mile free fall in a high altitude suit at a speed above terminal velocity, and then a quick release of the chute close to the ground.
A similar stunt is done in the rebooted Star Trek movie twenty years later.
006 A Chase sequence that is a little different.
Trying to get away from carver’s minions, Bond and Wai Lin, handcuffed together, grab a motorcycle and streak through the streets of Saigon. The varius cars that chase them fall away, but only as more and more eloborate escapeds are shot.
A helicopter joins the chase and the maneuverability of the motorbike suddenly loses much of it’s advantage. After all, the sky has no alleys that it has to take to follow the spies.
Sneaking past a helicopter flyng low requires being high. Fortunately for the two agents, they ended up on top of a building right across from another building of equal height.
A very impressive stunt.
After going high, our two heroes have to go low to finally get the best of the pursuers. It’s all a bit preposterous but it is a fun sequence.
007 Michelle Yeoh
The Chinese martial arts star is not much of a romantic counterpart to Bond, she and Brosnan just don’t seem to have that kind of chemistry, but in the action beats of the film she is aces.
Wall walking like Batman, except she walks down the wall rather than up. A jaunty wave at the more earthbound 007 gives her a little more personality.
She is an accomplished Martial arts star, so naturally she gets to kick some ass. The best bit in the fight is a Jackie Chan like move where she walks up a wall, flips over her opponent and reverses their situations.
It was a terrific moment that we needed more of in this adventure.
James Bond Will return in:
“The World is Not Enough”