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Thursday, 7 September 2017

Retro Review: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

Tomorrow Never Dies
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Jonathan Pryce, Michelle Yeoh, Teri Hatcher, Judi Dench, Joe Don Baker
Genre: Spy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $330 million

Plot: James Bond heads to China to stop a media mogul's plan to induce war between China and the UK in order to obtain exclusive media coverage

'Hardly Shaken, 007 Stirs Up More Trouble & In a Great Way, Thanks To Brosnan & Yeoh'

Released in 1997 at a time when Hong Kong became a former British colony and its reigns were handed over to China, Tomorrow Never Dies is the 18th entry in the 007 James Bond series of movies and the second starring Pierce Brosnan after Goldeneye. He is also the fifth actor to portray British super spy James Bond after Sean Connery (who was the first and foremost), George Lazenby, Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton and the last until that baton was handed to Daniel Craig. This film was also directed by Roger Spottiswoode who wrote the script for 48 Hrs starring Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte, in addition to directing the Robin Williams & Kurt Russell sports caper, The Best of Times in 1986. 

I've never been a staunch James Bond fan, although I did enjoy Sean Connery's performances and Roger Moore's movies; even as a teenager, the main action films I gravitated towards were American and Hong Kong offerings. But Tomorrow Never Dies's production values are very Hollywood-esque and American for a film where the original franchise's origins are British. 

The first 5 mins opens up in explosive style with Brosnan's Bond running amok, as Bond's mission is to thwart the plans of Elliot Garver, who is trying to cause a war between Britain and China, in order to make the front pages.  

As ever with these Bond movies, it has the following tropes: a bond theme song by Sheryl Crow (and an awful one to boot), a Bond antagonist (Elliot Carver played by Jonathan Pryce), bond girl (Michelle Yeoh as Wai Lin), a femme fatale/former flame in Paris (Teri Hatcher), as well as explosions, action scenes, shooting scenes aplenty. After the success of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, a TV series based on the titular DC Comics superhero, Hatcher followed it up with a turn that is rather futile, when one looks at it, as she later gets bumped off. The casting directors could have and probably should have gone for a nobody or lesser known actress, instead. And though Michelle Yeoh might have been cast on the basis of her athleticism and fighting skills, she definitely holds her own opposite Pierce Brosnan. 

Besides, if you have seen any of Yeoh's Hong Kong movies, you can see how agile and adept she is in those action scenes. She has a few moments and scenes of her own, where one expects Mr Bond to dominate and take charge. Yeoh is arguably one of the strongest and able-bodied Bond girls in the franchise's history. As for Brosnan as Bond, he has as many one-liners as Arnold Schwarzenegger's characters in his movies and they are still as witty and deadpan as ever. Brosnan's delivery is just as charming as those of his predecessors Sean Connery and Roger Moore. But for Mrs Doubtfire, where he had a thankless supporting role, I don't think Brosnan has had a bigger onscreen character as James Bond, prior to this series of films. He also gets to show a more tender side to Bond, thanks to the subplot relating to him reuniting with his old flame. I think come the second film, Brosnan assimilates into his character at ease, so much so, the transition is smooth without any real hiccups. & Jonathan Pryce makes for an adequate nasty bad guy in Elliott - although his chop-socky scene where he takes the mick of Yeoh's was unnecessary and tasteless. He didn't make much of a profound impact on me. 

Even though it's a modern version of Bond, it still retains that essence of what James Bond movies tick and but of which isn't too dark, overly violent and gritty. The action is still great, the stunts are unreal at times and its tone is far less intense and dark than Goldeneye -, which I have no qualms as it's entertaining in places and easy-going viewing as well. 

One amusing scene is when Wai Lin and James smash into a window of a high rise building and they carry on as if nothing had happened. Another great scene is the chase in Bangkok with the pair on a motorbike whilst they are handcuffed and they are chased by the bad guys, as is Yeoh taking on the bad guys, with the aid of Brosnan. This is one of the best and most exhilarating action scenes in a Bond film.

I didn't find much wrong with Tomorrow Never Dies, but for the sucky main theme song and Teri Hatcher's limited role & the racially offensive Elliott mocking Wai Lin scene, this is Pierce Brosnan's best and finest outing, which was unfortunately followed up by less than stellar sequels.

Final Verdict

Like I mentioned but for some minor issues I had with it, this is still more than a worthy entry to the James Bond franchise. The best bond outing of the 1990s and of Pierce Brosnan's turn, as a whole. With great stunts and action sequences and Brosnan turning on the charm assisted by the great Michelle Yeoh, this is, by all means, a terrific Bond movie.


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