Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tomorrow Never Dies - Brosnan's Best Bond

Tomorrow Never Dies - 1997

Bond:  Pierce Brosnan
Directed by: Roger Spottiswoode
Produced by: Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli 
Theme: "Tomorrow Never Dies" performed by Sheryl Crow, written Crow and Mitchel Froom

Every actor to play Bond to this point had the opportunity to do a slower-paced more character-driven film. Connery had his From Russia with Love. Moore had For Your Eyes Only. Dalton had License to Kill. Even Lazanby's only film falls into that category. Brosnan, on the other hand, gets his character development sprinkled in throughout his films, perhaps because he was the better actor of the four. (Yes, I would argue that Brosnan performed the part better than his predecessors, even if he didn't make the better films.)  Tomorrow Never Dies is the closest he gets to a FRWL or a FYEO, and in many ways, because the character exploration doesn't get in the way of the action, it's the most well-rounded film of the bunch. They were clearly evolving towards what would become the Daniel Craig years.

Bond has two of his most interesting relationships with women in this film, giving Brosnan ample opportunity to act and give Bond some emotional complexity. It helps that the movie features two of the best Bond-Girls of the franchise in Teri Hatcher as Paris Carver and Michelle Yeoh as Wai Lin. "Best" in that they could act circles around every previous Bond-Girl with the exceptions of Diana Rigg and Honor Blackman, and had two of the most interesting parts. And, yes, are both very good looking.

Paris Carver is the wife of the film's villain, Elliot Carver played by Jonathan Pryce in his best role since Brazil. (And possibly his only role since Brazil. Seriously, can you remember him in anything else? Except as the guy who barely talks in Glengarry Glen Ross?) The unique thing about Bond's relationship with Paris is that, for the first time, we see Bond having a history with a woman. They used to be involved. They used to be in love, but as Paris says: Bond's "job is murder on relationships." The whole first half of the film, Bond gets to have a very personal and emotional character arc that culminates in her eventual and inevitable death. It's like a whole mini On Her Majesty's Secret Service with the back-story implied and without the wedding.

Then he falls into a classic "beautiful female agent he's forced to work with" scenario with Chinese spy Wai Lin. Only this time the romantic-comedy "I hate you/I love you" trope works much better than in previous films, in part because Michelle Yeoh is bad-ass in her action sequences. Wai Lin could have been the star of her own Hong Kong spy film series, and I would have watched them all. The chase sequence where Bond and Wai Lin are hand-cuffed together is one of my all-time favorites because they are forced to interact and work together the entire time. Plus, jumping a motorcycle over a helicopter is just cool to watch. (Director Spottiswoode realizing he couldn't get any "bigger" than the tank chance in GoldenEye, deliberately went smaller with the motorcycle chase to great success. You can watch the whole sequence here.)

I would be remiss if I didn't also mention the film's other amazing chase sequence: the remote-controlled BMW chase. If you want to watch Brosnan have a great time playing Bond, watch that sequence. It's so much fun.

Jonathan Pryce puts in a solid performance as the Rupert-Murdoch-like media baron trying to start World War III so he can get broadcast rights in China.. Somehow he manages to both play an almost parody of a megalomaniacal Bond villain while at the same time giving him a grounded human side. Again, this plays into the self-aware nature of the Brosnan films. Pryce doesn't shy away from being over-the-top, because he knows what role he's playing. He just also knows when to pull it back in.

This film fires on just about every cylinder. The pre-title jet-fighter sequence is exciting. The Sheryl Crow theme hit #11 on the charts. The plot moves along nicely, features some good character-development, and taught action sequences. The end features an attack on a super-lair. What more could you want really?

Personal Rankings: This is by far Brosnan's best Bond and a challenge to place. It does romantic-comedy better than TSWLM and Asia better than YOLT. But TSWLM does epic better, and YOLT does megalomaniacal-villain better. As a result, it slips in just under YOLT. 
  1. Goldfinger
  2. From Russia With Love
  3. The Spy Who Loved Me
  4. Live and Let Die
  5. You Only Live Twice
  6. Tomorrow Never Dies
  7. GoldenEye
  8. The Living Daylights
  9. For Your Eyes Only
  10. Dr. No
  11. Octopussy
  12. Diamonds Are Forever
  13. A View to a Kill
  14. License to Kill
  15. Thunderball
  16. The Man with the Golden Gun
  17. Moonraker

1997 Context

President: Bill Clinton
Queen: Elizabeth II

Princess Diana is killed in a car accident.

Best Picture Nominees:
As Good as It Gets
The Full Monty
Good Will Hunting
L.A. Confidential

1 comment:

  1. Johathan Pryce played Elizabeth Swan's father in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. And who could forget him opposite Madonna in Evita. He might be hopeful we have forgotten that one...


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