Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Tomorrow Never Dies

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my ramblings about the various DVDs in my collection.  Today we get to a beloved-by-me-but-not-by-the-populace James Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies.  This review is originally dated November 13, 2011.

I was craving some James Bond action, so I tossed Tomorrow Never Dies in the DVD player.  Most Bond enthusiasts consider GoldenEye to be Pierce Brosnan's best outing as Bond, but I've always had a soft spot for Tomorrow Never Dies.  I've always thought it had an interesting premise for the villain:  a media mogul who wants to start World War III just for the ratings it would bring to his media empire.  It's largely been acknowledged that the villain was based on real life media mogul Rupert Murdoch.  But probably because this was the first time that I was truly and fully swept up in the hype.  I was following its development online...I'm pretty sure it was even the first QuickTime trailer I downloaded. 

So, in the classic James Bond pre-credits sequence, British intelligence is monitoring a black market weapons flea market somewhere in Russia.  The Russian and British military send in an air strike to take it out, saying it would take out half of the world's terrorists in one fell swoop.  Sadly, they forgot to notice the nuclear warheads that are at the flea market, and an air strike would set them off.  So, the guy who was sent in to monitor the flea market -- James Bond -- does his thing and gets the warheads out of there before the air strike hits.  BANG BOOM CRASH!!

We then cut to a British warship cruising the South China Sea.  It's intercepted by two Chinese MIG fighters, saying it's wandered into Chinese waters.  The British deny this, but a mysterious boat sinks the British warship, and the mysterious ship murders all the British survivors and swipes some British missiles from the wreckage.  We are then introduced to the mastermind who orchestrated this international incident:  media baron Elliot Carver, as he gloats to his top executives that he just got the headline to launch their new satallite news network. 

Cut to London, as the British Ministry of Defense begins their investigation.  The Navy wants to send in the entire fleet to recover the wreckage.  MI6 wants to investigate first and find out what happened.  And then, Tomorrow, Carver's flagship newspaper, comes out with the news of the death of British sailors at Chinese hands.  The Navy sends the fleet to the South China Sea to recover the wreckage.  It'll take 48 hours for the fleet to reach the South China Sea, so that's how long MI6 has to investigate.  So, they dispatch James Bond.

In the briefing, Bond mentions that it's rather suspicious that Tomorrow got the news story so quickly.  M reveals that their intel shows that one of Carver's satallites sent out a mysterious signal to the British warship before the whole thing went down.  Naturally, they suspect Carver's behind it.  Bond is sent to Carver's worldwide headquarters in Hamburg to investigate, where Carver is holding a massive celebration to launch his new satallite news network.  At the party, we are introduced to Paris, Carver's wife, and one of Bond's many exes.  Naturally, seeing her again stirs up all kinds of old feelings.  We also meet Wai Lin, who introduces herself as a reporter for the Chinese news agency.  We learn Carter has a thing for China, as his media empire is banned in China and it's the one corner of the globe he still doesn't cover.  Carver doesn't like all the questions Bond is asking about his empire, and the interest Bond has taken in his wife, so Carver orders his thugs to take Bond out back and rough him up a little bit.  Naturally, Bond fights them off and as a final "screw you" to Carver, cuts power to his studios during the middle of his inagural broadcast.

Bond goes back to his hotel and begins waiting for more of Carver's thugs to show up.  Naturally, he's stunned when Paris shows up, revealing that she still loves him.  They share a tender moment (i.e. they bone) and Paris tells Bond about the secret lab on the top floor of Carver's building.  At this point, Carver, using his media empire, has determined Bond's true identity, and learned off his wife's infidelilty.  Naturally, cuz he's a villain, he orders her and Bond be killed. 

The next morning, Bond breaks into the secret lab, and finds a mysterious little gadget...a GPS timing device, used by the US Army to program the GPS satallites.  As Bond is making his exit, Wai Lin breaks in and sets off the alarms.  Much CRASH BOOM BANG as they make their escape.  As Bond returns to his hotel, he gets a call from Carver, revealing that Carver knows everything.  Bond returns to his hotel room, and finds the dead body of Paris.  There waiting for Bond is Carver's personal assassin, Dr. Kaufman.  Naturally, Bond easily fights off Kaufman, and there's a classic James Bond car chase as Bond flees the scene.

The action then shifts to a US Army base in the South China Sea, where Bond returns the GPS timing device to the US government.  Talking to the GPS experts, Bond determines that yes, Carver did use his satallites to throw the British warship off course.  Using the GPS timing device, they're able to find the wreckage of the warship, and Bond goes off on a deep-sea diving mission to investigate the wreckage and find conclusive proof that Carver cause it to drift off course.  While investigating the wreckage, Bond discovers the theft of the missiles, and runs into Wai Lin, who is also investigating the wreckage.  They return to the surface and Wai Lin's boat, only to find it's been overtaken by Carver's thugs.  They're brought to Carver, currently overseeing the operation from his Saigon offices.  It's here that Wai Lin is revealed to be a Chinese secret agent, investigating the same thing from the Chinese side.  Carver orders them killed, but they escape, and there's a spectacular motorcycle/helicopter chase.

Bond and Wai Lin decide to work together to bring this thing to an end and stop Carver before he starts World War III.  Since Wai Lin was originally sent to investigate a Chinese general who was stealing stealth material, and her investigation led her to Carver, they surmise that Carver built a stealth battleship -- the mysterious ship from the beginning -- and Carver's been using that.  They track down the secret harbour, and with British and Chinese fleets massing in the South China Sea, they know they have to stop Carver's ship before he stirs things up.

They infiltrate the stealth ship, and Wai Lin is promptly captured.  And we get the classic Bond scene where the villain lays out his plan.  Carver will stir things up and get the two fleets firing at each other, and then he'll launch the stolen missiles at Beijing.  The Chinese government will be taken out, his Chinese ally will be named the new ruler of China, he'll use his massive media empire to help broker a peace deal, but he'll get the real prize...his media empire will no longer be banned in China! 

Bond appears, saves Wai Lin, they kill Carver, sink the stealth ship, and just like in the classic James Bond films of the 1960s, it ends with Bond and the Bond girl making out in a raft while they wait to be rescued. 

All in all, I find this to be a fun James Bond outing.  Wai Lin -- played by Hong Kong action star Michelle Yeoh in her first major North American film -- is easily Bond's equal.  Not as good, though, is Teri Hatcher -- in between being Lois Lane and a Desperate Housewife -- as Paris, who just seems to be half asleep in the role.  Johnathon Pryce, though, is a great villain as Carver, who goes over the top to just the right degree. 

And I love the music.  This was David Arnold's first James Bond score, fresh off Independence Day.  He's done the music for every James Bond movie since, and sadly, not much else.  Too bad, because he was on fire in the late 1990s.

But yeah.  Tomorrow Never Dies.  I like it.

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