Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) | Bond

Actors and Allies

Brosnan's not doing anything too different than what he did in GoldenEye, but the script's not helping him out. He's playing it straight, but the rest of the movie can't decide what tone it wants to take and undercuts him. Still, he's doing a fine job and is a much better Bond than I anticipated when they hired him.

When he was first up for the role to replace Roger Moore, I was a big Remington Steele fan, but assumed that Brosnan's Bond would continue the light-hearted, foppish take that Moore developed. After Dalton, I didn't want to go back to the Moore version and was thrilled that Brosnan apparently didn't either.

M continues to be a figure of restraint in Tomorrow, but this time Bond is her ally. She's at odds with the Navy, who wants to bluster forward and start a war with China, while she's trying to investigate and gather information. The Navy's position is stupid (especially since there's tangible evidence linking Elliot Carver to the sinking of the British vessel in Chinese waters), but I like that it puts M and Bond on the same side and gives her a reason to stick up for him. He's very much an instrument of her will, which is a theme I love and am glad it's going to continue through Judi Dench's time as the character.

I especially like when she has to remind him that sex is a viable tool to get information from his former girlfriend. I don't buy the Paris-Bond relationship, but it's a refreshing change to see Bond reluctant to use sex that way, but be ordered into it by M. Bond has always made jokes about "having" to go to bed with beautiful women "for queen and country," so it's cool (and kind of a comeuppance) to finally see him do it against his will.

Getting a bit more of a handle on Bond's relationship with Moneypenny now. It was vague in GoldenEye, but Tomorrow shows that she's not flirting with him. She knows what he's like and it doesn't bother her - in fact, she's able to wink and joke about it - but she's way too smart to fall for his crap herself. I miss the mutual flirtation of Lois Maxwell's version, but Stephanie Bond's take is cool too.

Joe Don Baker is back as Jack Wade and I still like him. I'd still rather see a great version of Felix, but I like Wade better than most versions of Felix up to this point.

And finally, there's Michelle Yeoh's character, Wai Lin. Usually when I think of Tomorrow Never Dies, I remember Carver and Paris and will tell you that I hate the movie. But I'm forgetting about Wai Lin when I do that. She and Bond make an awesome team with neither of them really being "in charge." They're convincing as agents with competing priorities whose missions happen to align this one time. They also have fun chemistry and the last half of the movie is pretty great because of it.

Best Quip

"I've always been a fan of Chinese technology," after playing with many Chinese spy gadgets culminating in a dart-shooting fan. It's a funny scene anyway with great reactions by Brosnan, but the pun puts it over the top.

Worst Quip

"Backseat driver," after ejecting the enemy gunner from the backseat of the plane Bond's stealing. Too easy.


Tomorrow has a couple of pretty cool gadgets that I'll get to in a second, but there are also a couple of small items that need mentioning. Both are explosives: one concealed in a lighter and the other (stolen from Wai Lin's stash) is hidden in a watch. That second one is so tiny that I'm not sure what it's intended purpose is. Bond uses it to break some glass, but it doesn't produce any flame, so it doesn't look very effective against anything stronger.

The bigger personal item is a cell phone that includes a skeleton key, a taser, a fingerprint scanner/copier, and a car remote that not only unlocks Bond's new BMW, it also drives it.

The BMW is the big showcase item for Tomorrow. In addition to being able to be driven by the phone, it's also fully loaded with an electrified security system, smoke cloud, cable cutters, a caltrops dispenser (and matching re-inflatable tires), and rockets. It's also bulletproof and sledgehammer proof, but apparently not grenade launcher proof, though the bad guys don't try that until Bond's already in the car and getting away. When Q gives Bond the car, he also claims there are machineguns, but Bond never uses them.

Speaking of giving Bond the car, it's totally lame to squeeze in one more product placement by having Q wear an Avis jacket and hand the car over at the rental company. It's a funny scene as Q reads through the insurance options, but it doesn't make sense in the context of how MI6 usually does things.

Having the car be a BMW is another unfortunate effect of product placement. The vehicle's gadgets are mostly great, but the car itself is bland and not in the same class as the Aston Martins or Lotus. Also, the remote control is a cool fantasy, but doesn't seem like it would work in real life. Including it comes from the same impulse that's going to give us an invisible car in Die Another Day. Don't like it.

Top Ten Gadgets

1. Lotus Esprit (The Spy Who Loved Me)
2. Aston Martin DB V (Goldfinger and Thunderball)
3. Jet pack (Thunderball)
4. Iceberg boat (A View to a Kill)
5. Aston Martin V8 Vantage (The Living Daylights)
6. Glastron CV23HT speed boat (Moonraker)
7. Acrostar Mini Jet (Octopussy)
8. Crocodile submarine (Octopussy)
9. Little Nellie (You Only Live Twice)
10. Rocket cigarettes (You Only Live Twice)

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