James Bond
Tomorrow Never Dies

Starring: Pierce Brosnan
15919CDVD Z1
Certificate: 12
Available now

James Bond investigates media mogul Elliot Carver. Carver's media empire appears to be involved in the manipulation of international events, intent on provoking an armed conflict between the United Kingdom and China...

Following the noticeably timid approach taken by GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies blasts on to the screen, oozing confidence from every pore, just as a Bond film should. From the powerful pre-credits sequence, via the exciting car-park chase with Bond's remote-control BMW, to the handcuffed motorcycle ride through Saigon, the pace of this movie rarely lets up.

While the success of the action sequences can be credited to director Roger Spottiswoode and second-unit director Vic Armstrong, thanks must also go to writer Bruce Feirstein for a script that is richly laden with wit and cheeky innuendo. Bond delivers a degree of one-liners unheard of since Roger Moore's tenure, but Brosnan manages to carry them all off with great panache. Even Samantha Bond's Moneypenny and Judi Dench's M join in with their respective classic lines: "You always were a cunning linguist, James," and "Pump her for information!" A friend of mine recently likened GoldenEye to a Connery film, with Tomorrow Never Dies being more akin to a Moore movie, and he has a point.

Admittedly, Feirstein's script regurgitates several elements from previous Bond classics, sometimes to the point of resembling a greatest hits compilation. These elements include the underwater theft of nuclear missiles from Thunderball and the exploration of the sunken wreck from For Your Eyes Only, even to the point of Bond and his love interest getting captured by the baddies immediately afterwards. And, of course, the notion of a third party attempting to provoke a war has been done several times before, but never mind.

Jonathan Pryce has met criticism for his allegedly dull portrayal of the villain, Elliot Carver, but I rather like his understated eccentricity, his slightly quavering voice betraying his insanity. Carver's media-mogul status provides a topical brand of Bond villainy, akin to the silicon-chip industrialist Zorin in A View to a Kill or the drug lord Sanchez in Licence to Kill. Clever inter-cutting of one of Carver's speeches emphasises his own variation on the Bond villain's standard desire for world domination - in this case, domination of the world media.

Meanwhile, female lead Michelle Yeoh, who is currently enjoying fame in the western world once again with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, more than holds her own alongside Brosnan. As an Asian action-movie star in her own right, Yeoh's experience with martial arts and stunt work greatly benefits this movie.

Underscoring the action every step of the way is David Arnold's dynamic soundtrack. Traditional and modern in all the right places, the impact of the musician's work cannot be understated. It delivers all the essential requirements of the "Bond sound", paying homage to the classic soundtracks of John Barry, while also adding contemporary techno-pop elements, with which Arnold is also familiar. The score culminates in the powerful end-title song performed by k.d. lang, which unites various themes that have been developed throughout the film, demonstrating a valuable lesson that an effective title song really does need to be written by the movie's main composer. Fortunately, this was a lesson that the production learned in time for The World is Not Enough. The main title song, performed by Sheryl Crow, is weaker by comparison, but works well in context when set against another excellent Daniel Kleinman title sequence.

The DVD's extra features range from an extremely useful isolated music track to a rather pointless gadgets guide - which offers a scant few details on three devices, but nothing that cannot be gleaned from the movie. Storyboard presentations of nine sequences are rather let down by the fact that, laid out as they are on top of the movie action, the drawings are difficult to decipher. As with the other Brosnan DVDs, there is plenty of production information, including two feature-length commentaries, but scarcely any analysis of the movie's pre-production development, including its infamous last-minute script revisions (which, by the way, are not evident in the bold and strident finished product).

For the most part, though, this DVD - like the movie itself - gives us Bond for the information age.

Richard McGinlay