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Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)



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When determining the success of film franchises, the second film is the one to look at. Typically, if it's weaker than the original, the series is doomed; if it's at least as good as the original, it's got a good chance. The Bond series as a whole passed that test -- the first film, Dr. No is a fine Bond outing, but the second, From Russia With Love, is often considered the best in the series.

1995's Goldeneye started the Bond series' second life. After a six year hiatus and a near-complete cast change, the series was back on track. If, therefore, you look at Tomorrow Never Dies, the "second" film of the series' second life, the future looks bright. Tomorrow Never Dies nimbly extracts what was good in Goldeneye, throws away the bad, injects some life and vigor of its own, and ends up being a highly satisfying Bond adventure.

Thankfully, the slapstick that's dotted the series in the past is gone, and although a couple painful puns remain, Bond comes across as ruthless and deadly. A brilliant hotel room scene involving an assassin recalls the edgy Professor Dent scene in Dr. No -- the kind of thing even the later Connery films shied away from.

The villain, played by Jonathan Pryce, is fascinating if a little under-characterized. He's a media mogul who makes his own news, even if it means creating international incidents, so he'll have the news first ("tomorrow's news today"), so the entire world will look to his TV stations, radio stations, and newspapers to hear of it. In the modern age, what better way to take over the world?

For Bond girls, there are two. Teri Hatcher is one, cast possibly for her big name, and her performance is in the best of traditions. Her character is sleek, elegant, unpredictable, and independent. But it's the scene-stealing international star Michelle Yeoh who may well go down in Bond history as one of the most memorable and unique Bond girls of all time. Yeoh, who's co-starred with Jackie Chan in Supercop and its sequel, matching Chan kick for kick, stunt for stunt, does the same in Tomorrow Never Dies, without stealing any glory from our favorite spy hero. She's quick and agile beyond belief, and as in her Hong Kong films, she gets a chance to show off her breathtaking martial arts talent. Her character does for Tomorrow Never Dies what Barbara Bach almost managed for The Spy Who Loved Me -- she's a spy herself, Bond's match, but from the "other side." Circumstances require them to work together, and the chemistry between Brosnan and Yeoh is a delight.

Although Tomorrow Never Dies does go overboard with the action scenes -- a scene in a car garage and, in particular, a motorcycle chase go on for a bit too long -- they fit within the overall story more neatly than those in Goldeneye, and the final product is something that feels like a Bond film. It's updated for the nineties yet has its roots in the Connery films of the sixties are more than evident. Bond fans everywhere should be well pleased.

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