Tomorrow Never Dies

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
MGM Home Entertainment
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Michelle Yeoh, Teri Hatcher, Jonathan Pryce

After 18 James Bond movies, you think you have seen it all, right? Wrong. The fund of James Bond scenarios seems to be endless, and though the recipe remains the same in each movie, they still are some of the most entertaining and respected action spectacles Hollywood produces. Introduced as the new James Bond in "Goldeneye", Pierce Brosnan makes it unmistakably clear in "Tomorrow Never Dies" that he is the Bond of the nineties and years to come. "Tomorrow Never Dies" is the most successful Bond movie in the whole series so far, having broken both box office and home video records.

The movie opens with a full-throttle action sequence that pinpoints the mood for the entire film. It is fast and loud, with tons of explosions, and as dryly humorous as Bond ever was. When returning home after the incident, Agent 007 (Pierce Brosnan) is put on a different job. Someone is trying to incite war between China and the western world. A British military vessel is sunk in Chinese waters, supposedly destroyed by Chinese jets, who in turn were attacked by the ship in question. When headlines about the incident appear in certain media ahead of time, it seems that someone is apparently playing with fate. Media mogul Elliott Carver (Jonathan Pryce) – a deluded hybrid of magnates like Ted Turner and Bill Gates – quickly becomes the prime suspect with his biased reports of the incidents, and it is up to James Bond to find out what’s really going on. However, it soon appears that the job may be a little too much for the veteran spy when he finds out that his long lost love Paris (Teri Hatcher) is now Carver’s wife. Jovially trying to beat his own devils, he pursues the case while attempting to keep her out of danger, yet still digging for the truth. When Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh) a beautiful Chinese super-agent with skills and gadgets comparable to Bond’s own turns up, it is time for him to team with her in order to defeat Carver’s demented plan to incorporate China into his media network and force the world into his broadcasting schedules.

Like all other James Bond movies, "Tomorrow Never Dies" is pure popcorn entertainment, a thrilling, full-throttle, roller coaster ride and the standard for all action-adventure movies to measure up to. Still, Pierce Brosnan manages to make his Bond different than the previous incarnations by Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and Timothy Dalton. While still sexist to the bone, he takes the character into the nineties. Bond is more human than ever, showing signs of vulnerability and true emotions. While this would have been inappropriate in the sixties or seventies, these character streaks definitely help make Bond a more believable man of our times.

One of the reasons the Bond movies are still so successful is that the filmmakers have always tried to touch upon current political and social issues, as well as scientific developments, to ensure the series’ attractiveness. In our current world, it doesn’t come as a surprise that China’s communistic immunity is the center of Bond’s attention. Regarded by many as a giant market only waiting to be tapped, it is still one of the most repressive societies in the world, and could in fact become a dangerous threat in times of war. Both aspects have been nicely summarized in this movie without falling into clichés. It also allowed the producers to bring some new cultural facets into the world of Bond, namely in the form of Michelle Yeoh, herself an action superstar in Hong Kong. She is presented as a Chinese Bond counterpart, but definitely with an Asian approach. As always, it is a pleasure to see her perfect and fearless Kung Fu style in action, especially when she easily takes on ten men at a time. After numerous successful Hong Kong movies, it is inspiring and very exciting to see her make such a big impression in Hollywood.

"Tomorrow Never Dies" once again features the fierce stunts that have become the trademark of the entire series. From last-minute escapes and wild car chases, this one contains one of the most memorable motorcycle chases in the series. Undeniably influenced by Hong Kong action cinema, the stunt shows James Bond and Wai Lin racing over the rooftops of Saigon with the buildings toppling underneath them. The grand finale is a jump over the running rotor blades of a helicopter from one side of the street to the other. This stunt is executed and choreographed with such immaculate perfection that it will leave you completely breathless afterwards. The movie will not leave you very much time to breathe after that however, as it keeps going from one action-packed scene to another at breakneck speed.

No Bond movie would be complete without 007’s hi-tech gadgets and "Q", of course, played by Desmond Llewelyn for the 16th time in this film. While still relying on many of his toys, it seems that the series has been refocused with the entrance of Pierce Brosnan as agent 007, moving the spotlight back onto the main character instead of simply showcasing his toys. But yet again, his gadgets pinpoint the times in which the movie plays, perfectly portraying our current society. Hardly surprising, one of his main utilities in "Tomorrow Never Dies" is a cell phone like none other, and a fully armed, remote-controlled car with a small video display in the remote control, highly reminiscent of current palm top computers.

The only thing that left me slightly puzzled during the film was that it made me wonder who would possibly want to own a car with such a stupid and obnoxious German accent? But then again, for the duration of the movie, it is wickedly funny.

"Tomorrow Never Dies" comes as a gorgeous <$RSDL,dual layer>ed DVD from MGM Home Video, containing both the original theatrical 2.35:1 <$16x9,anamorphic> enhanced <$PS,widescreen> transfer and the <$PS,pan&scan> version. It is a nice touch of the <$RSDL,dual layer> disc that you can select either version from the disc’s menu without having to flip the disc. The DVD’s image is superb with natural colors and hues, and deep, solid blacks. The picture has a fabulous sharpness and there is lots of detail in the image, especially in the movie’s <$16x9,anamorphic> transfer, and not a hint of a compression artifact or <$chroma,chroma noise> are to be found. Unlike other Bond DVDs, this one is a little light on the extras. The DVD comes with a very nice and informative 8-page booklet, which seems to have become MGM’s signature for all their DVD releases. The only supplement found on the disc itself is the movie’s theatrical trailer. Rumor has it however that

MGM are also preparing a Special Edition of "Tomorrow Never Dies" for release later this year, which will supposedly contain many more bonus materials.

The disc also boasts a soaring <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> soundtrack that is spectacularly active and contains some very low ends, giving the action sequences an amazing punch. If you’ve always been looking for a demo disc to show off you Dolby Digital equipment, here it is. The movie has an original and energetic music score by David Arnold that also revives many of the well-known James Bond tunes, while providing interesting edges to the themes. Unfortunately I would personally rate the opening song traditionally one of the Bond movies’ highlights as the weakest entry in the whole series. Sheryl Crow’s performance simply lacks the vocal qualities and class previous artists displayed when making the Bond theme songs so memorable.
Apart from the original English version, "Tomorrow Never Dies" also comes dubbed in French and Spanish. The film is <$CC,closed captioned> in English and has subtitles in French and Spanish.

"Tomorrow Never Dies" is a great Bond flick, much better than many others in the series and after watching it, its success is hardly surprising. The movie skillfully puts the finger on contemporary issues and presents us with a Bond that is more real and touchable than ever, substantially reviving the character’s credibility. It is a highly entertaining action spectacle with many interesting nuances and details on the side. If you haven’t seen it yet, there is simply no way around "Tomorrow Never Dies". James Bond is coming of age and he is more alive than ever!