Tomorrow Never Dies
77. Backseat driver
Topping the superb Goldeneye pre-titles was always going to be a tall order, but kudos for trying. There is a nice build to the pre-titles in Tomorrow never dies. We don’t see Bond until a bit later on, and the tension builds nicely with some wonderful banter between Dame Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer as a gruff Admiral (who they really should have brought back for another go!). Bond escapes via plane but is also pursued by another pilot. Not only that, he has a dazed passenger in the backseat who also comes around and begins to attack him. Cue a nice moment where he ejects the passenger through the bottom of the pursuing plane. “Back seat drivers!”.
78. An urgent phone-call
I’ve always loved this scene. Bond is called away for “An urgent phone-call”. Bong being Bond knows full well this isn’t a genuine, the wry smile soon giving way to a more concerned look. Lead into a room, he is beaten by a baseball and informed “It’s a sound-proof room Mr Bond, nobody hears you scream”. The scene is nicely inter-cut to scenes with villain Elliot Carver being megalomaniac at his German media launch. The fight has some nice touches: Bond using half an orchestra to take out people in the background and perhaps my favourite: sadistically testing an ashtray’s strength before calmly planting it over an opponents head.
79. Dr Kaufman
They kill off Teri Hatcher’s character (if they went with the original actress Monica Bellucci in the role, we might not have cheered). Further reason to rejoice happens when the brilliant Vincent Schiavelli playing Dr Kaufman appears to finish Bond off alongside. There is some brilliant comic timing on his part, I particularly like his over-confidence “I could shoot you from Stuttgart und still achieve ze proper effect”. Unfortunately for Dr Kaufman he falls foul of Q’s phone and cold-blooded Bond just pops him in the head. I felt far more emotion when he died frankly!
80. Backseat Driver part 2
Another backseat driving scene. This one gets points for originality and Bond’s childish “boy with a toy” attitude whilst driving. All pumped up by a David Arnold/Propellerheads track. But it’s not perfect, I could have done without the fact that the car is as sexy as a brick (it is quite possibly the least desirable Bond vehicle ever) and that BMW wire-cutter is extremely groan-worthy.
Other great scenes:
Carver’s checks his sources for media headlines, Bond brushing up on Danish in Oxford (we could use a few more blonde Bond ladies soon – most since this film have been brunette), Bond breaking in to Carver’s facilities/the printing press brawl, the superb bike chase with Wai Lin (in particular the jump over the rotar blades – which almost made it in), “every now and then you get to sail on a beautiful evening like this. And sometimes work with a decadent agent of a corrupt Western power”. Be sure to look out for young versions of Gerard Butler and Hugh Bonville on the sub, by the way.
Not so great:
The film is rather shallow and whilst the first half seems pretty balanced, the second half is noisy action sequence after noisy action sequence (and little further character development). Elliot Carver as a concept is interesting, but Pryce makes for a pretty wimpy adversary. The “BMW brick” as already mentioned. Teri Hatcher “acting”. Final gripe “Surrender” the end-title song by David Arnold and KD Lang is a significantly stronger Bond song than the terrible Sheryl Crow effort (perhaps they should have switched them).
The World Is Not Enough
81. Bilbao Escape
Bond gets stuck in a Swiss bankers shoot-out in Bilbao. “If you can’t trust a Swiss banker, then what’s the world come to?” observes Bond. Naturally he ties a chord around one of his dazed opponents, grabs the suitcase of money, smashes the window and casually jumps out the window onto the street below. As you do!
82. Thames chase
The World is Not Enough has (to date) the longest pre-title sequence in the series. The Thames boat chase is clearly the biggest highlight of the film, making the film peak very early. The Q Boat swishes, bobs, jumps and rolls around all over the place whilst The Cigar Girl blasts at it from her Sunseeker. It’s thrilling stuff which climaxes on a hot-air balloon over the Millenium Dome. Originally this whole sequence was set after the main-titles, but the test audience demanded more action – so things were moved.
83. I never miss
Elektra is revealed as the films main antagonist. She initially tortures Bond, but thanks to Valentin, Bond manages to escape and chase after her. Pointing a gun at her, he pleads with her to call off her planned assault or he’ll shoot. She flirts with him saying “But you’d miss me”. When she doesn’t comply, without question he fires a bullet into her claiming “I never miss” and dives after the submarine trying to prevent the attack. Unknown to Bond, M has seen most of what happened with that “none-to-proud of what she has created” look that Dame Judi does so well.
Other great scenes:
The use of Eilean Donan castle as an MI6 base is lovely, it also has both Tanner and Robinson in this one. Q’s escape plan (particularly poignant being Desmond Llewelyn’s last appearance as gadget man Q before his fatal car crash). The concept of Renard dying, not feeling pain but becoming more powerful each day is a great (with some reservations). The Para-skis are cool (with some reservations). Sophie Marceau is wonderful. The devils breath scene.”You wanna put that in English for those of us who don’t speak Spy?” and “First things first”. The caviar factory assault (for once they have a half-decent BMW, which does nothing again except get cut in half – “Q’s not gonna like this!”). Take that BMW, Bond will go back to his superior Aston Martin’s after this installment!
Not so great:
The editing is slightly ponderous, bordering on dull. The action scenes (save for the boat chase) have a rather mundane feel about them (perhaps in part down to the fact that director Apted was not known for doing action films at that point). The slow editing destroys the impact what could have been very exciting (eg. the para-ski sequence). As mentioned, the idea of Renard is great and yet it goes absolutely nowhere. He also seems unthreatening (odd considering he played Begbie in Trainspotting) and he feels like a cheap Dr Evil knock-off. Oh and Denise Richards, possibly the least convincing Nuclear scientist – ever!
Die Another Day
84. Surfs up!
This was filmed in the aptly named location “Jaws”. We open to some huge waves, and three tiny little surfers riding them. Some great work by Laird Hamilton and his team.
85. Bond in his PJs
Isn’t there something refreshingly cool that even when strutting around in his pyjamas with his moobs on display and that scruffy beard – Bond can still walk into any international hotel and demand his “usual suite”?
86. Jinx emerges
Not a patch on Ursula’s scene naturally. But it tries hard, as does Berry – perhaps a bit too hard (with all its oozing slow-mo shots). But there is no denying that Halle Berry still looks fantastic in the orange bikini. It’s just a shame that a few moments later she is given some painful dialogue with Bond and then worst – an arkward grinding sex scene.
87. Cock Fight
Okay, let’s ignore Madonna at the beginning of this scene shall we? There, that’s better already! There is something fun about this sword fight with Brosnan going head to head against Toby Stephens sneering villain. The ante keeps getting upped and this is one of the highlights of the film.
88. Aston vs Jag
Whilst the ice lake chase in The Living Daylights is superior, this one does have a gadget laden Aston Martin going head to head with a gadget laden Jaguar XK-R. It becomes clear that the gadgets are going to even each other out, so things a crazier turn when they start racing around inside the ice palace set. Now that’s a bit more like it!
Other great scenes:
Very enjoyable visuals from the main-title sequence (if you have a mute button that is), Bond making the most of a rather obnoxious South African character to gain Wheel-chair access, a shot of Bond walking down a corridor of mirrors/spinning DNA strands, Bond and Raoul discuss conflict diamonds, the VR simulator, Bond using some rather random bolt-cutters on a fence (it made me laugh anyway).
Not so great:
Where to begin? “Yo Mama!”. For a start all that rubbish CGI (which even tarnishes the gun-barrel), an invisible Aston Martin, the torture of Madonna both singing/acting, plus some additional over acting from Mr Kil/Brosnan/Berry/Stephens/Cleese, Bond and Jinx grinding at it, that horrible para-surfing scene (possibly the series nadir). Generally all plausibility is gone once things move to Iceland and beyond! Oh, and once more the editing lets the film down with too much slo-mo/speed-ramping – clearly a hang-over from The Matrix.
The Final Part (10) coming soon: Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace
Images (C) 1997/1999/2002 Danjaq/EON.