I’m a huge Pierce Brosnan fan and was gutted when I discovered he was no longer in the running to play Cable in Deadpool 2. If any movie could have benefitted from his awesomeness it would have been Deadpool 2. When someone makes a remix of David Harbour yelling a classic movie line, then I’ll consider him. Pierce Brosnan’s most famous role after Taffin is James Bond, the iconic MI6 secret agent. His best film is Goldeneye but I always find myself drawn towards Tomorrow Never Dies his sophomore effort. It’s quite a silly film but in terms of excitement and pacing it ranks among the best in the franchise.
James Bond is sent to investigate media mogul Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) after he tries to instigate a war between the UK and China to help boost his international multimedia conglomerate. Daft plot? Absolutely. But that’s what makes it so wonderful. If the 60’s could have big space ships eating smaller space ships, starting World War III to gain ratings is the perfect 90’s equivalent. It has great fun with the real life paranoia of the contemporary audience. Pity the villain himself is such a let down. Pryce is a very good actor but he lacks the comedic requirements for such an outrageous part. He has about as much (if not more) screen time as Christopher Walken did in A View to a Kill and isn’t half as fun to watch. The script is pretty poor too. Mass consumption of tabloid news is a goldmine for witty remarks and pithy observations. This movie resorts to lame puns and contrived cheap shots. Not nearly good enough.
Why am I writing about this movie then? Because everything else is tremendous fun. Goldeneye was such a success that the follow on film needed to go bigger in terms of stunts and effects. At this they certainly succeeded. The opening sequence has more gunfire and explosions than Goldeneye’s climax. After that we are treated to an exquisitely paced globetrotting yarn. From a printing press in Berlin to a stealth boat in the south China Sea, Bond is constantly shooting, punching and blowing people to bits with his fancy new corporate sponsored gadgets such as the lovely Omega Seamaster Watch and the new and exclusive Wather P99. A film with this many shootouts and chases could easily get tiresome but each set piece is so expertly crafted that our attention is never lost. One particular highlight has Bond and his Chinese counterpart Colonel Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh) escaping on a motorcycle (the latest BMW R1200C) while being repeatedly shot at by machine gun wielding henchmen in helicopters. It’s a masterpiece of stunt work, editing and suspense. This is all helped by David Arnold’s score, a superb mixture of synth work and bombastic brass which makes him a worthy replacement for John Barry.
Michelle Yeoh is often hailed at the best thing about Tomorrow Never Dies and deservedly so. Women in Bond movies have been subject to a lot of criticism. Not entirely unjustified I admit but there are plenty of positive exceptions. Wai Lin is by far the most hands on of all the Bond girls and the first who can match Bond’s strength, resourcefulness, and all round badass-ery. Her fight scene in their secret HQ is sheer delight. A student of both ballet and martial arts, Yeoh performed the majority of her own stunts with a distinctive grace and precision only seen in Hong Kong action cinema. Wai Lin is reason enough alone to watch this movie, she’s that good.
But I really have to talk about Pierce Brosnan himself as James Bond. What he brought to the character was a beautiful blend of two extremes. He had the requisite gravitas for the drama yet could do a comedic double take perfectly and still remain honest with the character and audience. Two moments in particular are among my favorite in the entire franchise. Bond’s encounter with another professional assassin shows a cold-blooded side to the character rarely seen. As the assassin is overpowered during the struggle he begs for his life. Bond kills him. No corny one liner. Just a single bullet to his head. It’s shocking but has to be Bond’s coolest moment. This is juxtaposed in the very next sequence where he escapes in his fancy new BMW 750iL from Carver’s mercs in their Mercs. Using his Ericsson JB988 Gadget Phone, he controls the car remotely from the back seat, swerving and dodging his way around a parking lot. It’s a complete tonal shift but not in the least bit jarring thanks to Brosnan’s performance. During the chase Bond has his tires deflated but with a single push of a button they are automatically inflated again. This brings out a beautiful little laugh from our hero and totally makes the scene. Even James Bond knows how utterly bonkers it is to be in a remote control car that can fix itself. And if he’s okay with it then so are we.
Tomorrow Never Dies is the perfect film to watch when you don’t know what to watch. Love the franchise or hate it, this movie has all the fun and enjoyment you need for those loose ends and rainy days. I know Goldeneye is a superior film but Tomorrow Never Dies is still special to me for the great stunts, the greatest Bond girl and seeing Pierce Brosnan enjoying himself. There is also another reason why I particularly like this movie. In the Father Ted episode ‘A Christmassy Ted’, we hear of a priest named Buzz who has a bit part in the new Bond movie, which at the time was Tomorrow Never Dies. In the final episode ‘Going to America’ we meet an American priest named Father Buzz played by Jeff Harding. Guess which Bond movie Jeff Harding actually has a bit part in? As far as bizarre movie connections go, James Bond/Father Ted has to be the most improbable of them all.