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Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)  rating

Review: written 2008

Brosnan excels in otherwise routine technothriller

If there is an example of star charisma pulling a movie through, then it is here, in Brosnan's second Bond outing where he appears effortlessly cool and comfortable in the role. Every time he is on screen, the film works. The director (Roger Spottiswoode) is new to Bond movies, and yet he manages to pull off something that looks just like a Bond movie should - harking back to the Moore era, with quips and the odd comedy moment to add levity to the proceedings.

After a standout opening sequence where Bond infiltrates an arms bazaar on a mountain top before reducing most of the materials on display to scrap, the plot revolves around a media baron out to achieve global media domination. It's a neat updated twist on the megalomaniac idea. To do this, he is engineering a war between Britain and China in order to breach the Chinese media market - this means Bond has to work with a Chinese agent (who coincidentally happens to be a beautiful woman..) to stop the madman before WW III erupts. You know, business as usual for a Bond movie.

One of the standout elements of the movie, is David Arnold's terrific score (with the exception of the main theme tune) - finally, someone has taken on John Barry's mantle, and taken the Bond themes and not just run with them but given them new life, livening them up for a new generation - fantastic stuff. Other ingredients which hit exactly the right note are Judi Dench as M, Teri Hatcher as the (rather short-lived) Bond girl, Michelle Yeoh's spunky Chinese agent and the remote control car chase.

There are however some real problems with the movie. One or two of the action scenes are a little too orchestrated... the helicopter trying to slice up Bond with its blades must have looked great on paper, but fails to convince. And then the old Bond movie dilemma - when the bad guy is not good, the movie falls flat. Jonathan Pryce is never really menacing - He doesn't even look as menacing as the real Rupert Murdoch! He just looks like an actor spouting menacing lines.. and speaking of lines, the script veers from some real witty quips (Admiral Roebuck: `With all due respect, M, I think you don't have the balls for this job.' M: `Maybe. But the advantage is, I don't have to think with them all the time.'), to some real clunkers that fall flat on delivery (`There's no news like bad news ` - how long did it take to come up with that classic??).

The great thing about Bond movies is how they walk the tightrope of cliché to deliver the same old Bond film ingredients, but with inventiveness. With the Bike chase, the car chase, the quirky and interesting secondary characters, that is exactly what this movie does - for the first half. Then, the second half falls into the trap of just being Bond running about killing people, waving a machine gun around instead of killing carefully and with precision the way he ought to, trying hard to kill a guy with grey hair and glasses. It's as much action as we have seen in a Bond finale in a long time, but it does not really thrill.

That aside, if you can try and ignore the ubiquitous product placement, then the cocktail of Brosnan excelling in a role he seems destined to play, David Arnold's exciting score, and Michelle Yeoh matching Bond bullet for bullet and kick for kick rather than be the dull women on the sideline, makes this worth a watch.

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