Film Reviews:

Tomorrow Never Dies

(Roger Spottiswoode, UK/US, 1997)

Pierce Brosnan (ever so suave and sophisticated) successfully returns in his second film as the ultimate British spy, James Bond, 007. From the exploding opening teaser, our hero is thrown in to the crossfire of an evil media tycoon, Eliot Carver (played by Jonathan Pryce), whose sole intent is to cause havoc and mayhem on the world by sparking off hostilities between the People's Republic of China and the United Kingdom. Ridiculous, but hey, it's a Bond movie.

The usual characters are all there to assist Bond in his attempts to prevent all out war. Judi Dench reprises her role as the 90's M and who gets to deliver one of the best one-liners in the film. Technical genius Q, played to perfection by Desmond Llewelyn, provides Bond with the latest death-inflicting gadgets (serious case of mass product placement) and not to mention, the cool sports car, BMW 750iL. There is enough security defences on this piece of German machinery to ward off any pesky villain brandishing a crow bar, machete and Uzi 9mm. Brosnan excels himself once again as the perfect Bond for the 1990's. He has the charm, the looks and the moves that merely reinforces the reasons why he was picked to play 007. He builds upon his excellent debut in Goldeneye, by developing and adding new dimensions to the character. Confident, athletic, and ruthless as he swiftly despatches his enemies with his new deadly Walther P99 gun, yet displaying glimpses of vulnerability and loneliness. His one liners and yes, there are plenty, are delivered with precise comic timing. Brosnan is the best Bond since Sean Connery.

But what strikes this as the best Bond film yet is Michelle Yeoh. At last, this Kung-Fu queen and ex-Miss Malaysia is allowed to demonstrate her talents to a mainstream audience. With their sights set on eliminating Carver, Yeoh as Chinese agent Wai Lin and Bond grudgingly team up together. Mutual respect for each other predictably blossoms in to something else. Anyway, what makes this film impressive is that Bond finally meets a Bond girl who is his equal. Wai Lin is not your typical pouting feeble femme fatale. Basically she kicks ass. And she does it well, as many die-hard Hong-Kong martial arts fanatics will tell you. Yeoh shows that there can be room for strong, independent and intelligent female characters in Bond movies. Pryce's Carver is not the usual disfigured Bond villain with the distinctive dodgy East European accent. He lacks the menacing factor, but he does an adequate job of camping it up as a totally insane and power hungry megalomaniac. Teri Hatcher as Mrs Paris Carver simply pales in to insignificance compared to Yeoh - her scenes are few and well, forgettable. More impressive are the motley crew of nasty henchmen. From the stereotypical Aryan blonde baddie to the professional assassin who is played to comedic proportions, the classic traits of Bond adversaries are all there.

The set pieces and special effects are bigger, the pace is fast and the stunt sequences are incredible. There is a breathtaking and elaborate cycle stunt, which involves Bond and Wai Lin hand-cuffed together, riding a 1200-cc BMW bike, whilst being pursued by a low-flying helicopter. Even the odd John Woo orchestrated gun shoot-outs are thrown in for good measure - a clear sign of the influence this H.K. director has on today's action pics. David Arnold's funky re-mixes and sweeping emotive John Barryesque soundtrack perfectly captures the essence of the film. Sheryl Crow's theme song is moody, brassy and sexy and is accentuated by the sleek opening titles. Tomorrow Never Dies shamelessly kicks sand in the faces of all the recent spy/espionage movies (The Saint, Mission Impossible, etc). Bond is still the unrivalled spy action hero. This film brilliantly delivers an up-to-date version of all of the classic trademarks of a great Bond movie - cars, guns, girls, villains and 101% full on action. Nobody does it better than Bond.

Jenny Chung