Monday, August 30, 2010
Tomorrow Never Dies - 3.5/5
STORYLINE: The world is changing. When a GPS decoder goes missing and a British Naval ship is mysteriously sunk by a stealth boat, the blame for the catastrophe is split between China and England. The two countries are ready to go to war. With only 48 hours to figure out why this shit smells fishy, Bond is sent to investigate Elliot Carver, a media baron whom seems to always have the worst news first. With the help of a Chinese spy, Wai Lin, Bond discovers that there is more to this potential war than what's in the newspaper headlines. And Carver seems to be at the center of it all.
PLOT 4/5: Welcome to the age of information exchange, James Bond. Although the Cold War is now over, there are still new villains to arise and "Tomorrow Never Dies" does a pretty solid job at toeing the line of modernizing Bond's world wide threats. This is perhaps the greatest part about this film. Creating a villain that is the corporate baddie and a domination crazed standard Bond like villain is pretty clever. Throw on top of that adding in China as a setting (when in real life the politics of Britain letting go of Hong Kong was fresh in the air) and making them a sort of ally is pretty smart. Of course, this isn't world politics 101 all the time, because to match its fairly clever story is some seriously memorable action sequences. Whether its a massive gun fight at a black market, a car getaway sequence in a parking garage with a back seat driver, or a bad ass motorcycle/helicopter stunt bonanza through the streets of China with Bond and Lin handcuffed together "Tomorrow Never Dies" never lets off the gas once it gets going. Although both the main story and the action might be pretty ridiculous at times with the final act going for broke on both, the balance of smarts and adrenaline is pretty slick here. It may not be the most emotional or deep Bond film out there, but it might be one of the most entertaining.
BOND 4/5: Brosnan starts of his career as Bond with a pretty good wake. "GoldenEye" might still be a highlight for him, but "Tomorrow Never Dies" still shows that he has the look, the swagger, and the balls to pull of a great Bond. The film does suffer slightly from having Bond almost too cocky with his work as a character and not a lot of development for him throughout (he does have a damn cheesy moment when he is in a standoff against Carver who has Lin at gunpoint that is not reminiscent of the cold agent he was in the film prior) but his suave demeanor and charm on screen makes this one a fun watch anyway. Another solid film under the new guy's belt!
VILLAIN 4/5: Jonathan Pryce has always been a cult favorite actor of mine, particularly of his work with Python Terry Gilliam (go "Brazil"!), but his delivery of a sophisticated and maniacal media baron Carter in this film is pretty solid. The combination of a modern ideology of power hunger and his arrogant and 'above the law' delivery of the character make him a fun watch as he matches (and under estimates) the suave and un-kill-ability of Bond. He might be a little over the top with his giant screen meetings with a touch pad remote and his Dr. No like wardrobe, but he fits the overall film nicely and makes a memorable Bond villain.
BOND GIRL 2/5: Once again, this is where the Bond film falters the most. This is a very sad fact considering that the Bond girl in this film, Wai Lin, is played by bad ass and underrated actress Michelle Yeoh. She does what she can with the part, but her character is rather flat and her onscreen chemistry with Bond only ignites in the action sequences (the motorcycle scene is still awesome no matter what anyone says) as she gets to truly strut her stunt stuff. She appears briefly a few times in the beginning of the film, but only comes into play eventually towards the third act, which is not near enough time for her to get her due screen time. Her part could have been so much better had they actually used her acting abilities to match her awesome stunt work.
"Tomorrow Never Dies" is still one of my favorite Bond films to watch. It might be over the top and rather ludicrous at times with its obvious plot shifts and cheesy film elements (a stealth boat?!) but its slick action and rather unique story line lend this film to bury many of its fault under its entertainment value. Similar to what "The Spy Who Loved Me" was able to accomplish. Its the start of Brosnan's downfall into shit for Bond, but it still comes off as a highlight rather than a low point. Massively underrated in my opinion.
BONUS RANT: Stamper, the henchman to Carver, was an okay henchmen for the film but its an obvious riff on the super duper most awesome performance and character Grant in "From Russia With Love". Generally he even fails as a lead henchmen and doesn't even have any good sequences until his fight with Bond towards the end. He's over acted and makes the film lean even further into 'awkward' territory more often than not.
Written By Matt Reifschneider