After Brosnan’s debut in “Goldeneye”-a critical and financial success-a sequel was quickly commissioned. However, while “Goldeneye” looked at a post-Cold war world and Bond’s place in it, TND would largely go a more traditional route, complete with an over-the-top villain, and nuclear war once again in the cards (apart from Goldeneye’s more simple revenge/stealing scheme). However, the villain isn’t doing it for money, forcing people to move into the sea or into space, but for television ratings. The plot-which sees Bond teaming up with an agent from a rival power-is somewhat similar to The Spy Who Loved Me, and like the Roger Moore films, borrows a lot from film trends of the time, in particular the Asian action films of director John Woo, and stars Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and Michelle Yeoh. The last one, in particular, is one of the stars of the film.
There’s even a parallel with the opening gunbarrel-it uses a somewhat different arrangement of the theme tune usually used, similar to “Spy Who Loved Me” in that regard. The film opens with an arms bazaar, where Bond is simply observing and collecting recon for the British and Russian forces, who are observing from what seems to be a much bigger version of the situation room. We also meet Robinson (Colin Salmon), who will appear in the next two Brosnan films, and serves a role similar to Tanner in the other films, as M’s right hand (Although Tanner does appear in World Is Not Enough as well).
Unfortunately, Admiral Roebuck-played by Judi Dench’s sitcom co-star Geoffrey Palmer-decides to launch a missile strike instead of sending troops in, which turns out to be a bad idea when Bond reveals that one of the planes at the site has nukes-and if the cruise hits them, it will set off a detonation, killing Bond and causing massive radiation problems for Russia.
Here we’re also introduced to one of the film’s henchman-Gupta-played by magician and actor Ricky Jay-who has an encoder stolen from the CIA that will figure into the plot later on.
Bond scrambles into action in order to get himself and the jet out of the bazaar-in a spectacular action sequence with a lot of explosions and a stirring score by David Arnold. Arnold-also well known for his scores on the Stargate and Independence Day films-will stick with the series until Quantum of Solace, and also work on several other Bond-related scores. Here, we first hear the instrumental version of K.D Lang’s Surrender-a classic sounding Bond theme, but one that’s unfortunately only stuck on the end credits in it’s lyrical form. He also does a strong version of the Bond theme as well, although some think he uses it almost a bit too much.
Bond eventually gets the plane out of the blast zone, but even then he has to deal with a reluctant co-pilot trying to garrote him and another plane that’s trying to shoot him down. Fortunately he’s able to eject the garrotter into the other plane, causing it to spin out of control, and quips that he’s accomplished the mission-and scored two nukes to boot.
Then we get to the opening titles, which unfortunately have a fairly weak Sheryl Crow song. Crow’s a good singer but the tone of this song doesn’t really seem as Bondish to me, especially compared to “Surrender”. Like Goldeneye, this one mixes real girls with CG and the film’s media plot, including a somewhat surreal ‘circuit board’ girl.
Next up we have another Bond trope, where a British ship is attacked/stolen/compromised in some other fashion thing. In this case, a confrontation between a British ship and two Chinese MIGS-the British ship apparently having wondered into China’s waters despite it’s own stating it’s still in international waters (due to Gupta’s encoder)-is escalated by a stealth ship firing a drill missile at the ship-sinking it-and a missile at the MIGS-and then the British survivors are killed and the ship’s nuke stolen-framing both sides, who never saw the stealth ship.
This third party operation-along with Gupta-is coordinated by Stamper-another Red Grant type of henchman-aboard the ship…
But it’s later revealed that it’s in fact being coordinated by Eliot Carver, leader of the Carver News Network. Unlike “Goldeneye” which initially makes you wonder about the identity of the true villain (Unless you saw the theatrical trailer which gave it away), TND pretty much gets it over with right away, like a good deal of other Bond films.
Despite raised tensions over the incident in Britain, Carver makes two slip-ups-his encoded signal is picked up by MI6, and his newspaper leaks details unknown to Naval intelligence about the incident. M, of course, assigns Bond to the case.
Interesting thing about Dench’s M here, she’s a bit toned down from Goldeneye, saving most of her rancor for Admiral Roebuck rather than 007 (She even sort of tells a dirty joke with a raised eyebrow). However, she’ll still have tension with the agent in the next two Brosnan films, and of course in the first three Craigs as well. She tells him to use his relationship with Paris Carver-One of Bond’s many ex’s but now Carver’s wife-to help find out what’s going on. Here’s a slight similarity with Goldeneye-another ghost from Bond’s past figures into the plot.
Bond gets set up to Hamburg, where we get our Q scene with Q introducing a car. That’s actually sort of a second “sort of” gadget scene, but I’ll write about that when I get to the relevant part.
The new BMW-which has a voice interface, remote control and of course many other gadgets-more than makes up for the Goldeneye Car which pretty much does nothing. But once again, not yet.
Bond arrives at the party, where we meet both Bond girls, Paris (Teri Hatcher) and Wei Lin (Michelle Yeoh) and Bond and Elliot sort of size up each other. Teri’s performance isn’t the best here-she was mainly known at this point for TV guest roles (Most notably Seinfeld) and Lois Lane on the Superman TV series “Lois And Clark”), and she seems to be a bit out of her depth here.
Bond of course quickly gets into fisticuffs in a funny fight scene where he uses several musical instruments from a studio to subdue Carver’s thugs. Later, Paris runs to him and they renew their relationship, with him getting vital intel on where the encoder might be.
This leads to a lengthy series of action sequences with Bond infiltrating Carver’s building and recovering the encoder, and also realizing that Wei Lin might be more than she appears when she joins in the action. Wei Lin one-ups Bond with her fancy gadgets as well.
Unfortunately Paris is killed by one of Carver’s other henchman, a skilled and sadistic killer, but one with a bit of a campy performance by Vincent Schivalli, a guy known for playing oddball roles in quite a few TV shows and films.
He’s undone when Stamper needs Bond’s help getting into his car to retake the encoder, and Bond’s booby-trapped cellphone stuns Kauffman enough for Bond to finish him. Then we get a fun action sequence as Bond takes control of the BMW via remote control, and unleashes a formidable arsenal of gadgets…Tear gas, missiles, tire spikes, cable cutters-it rivals the Aston Martin and Lotus cars as far as gadgets are concerned….and you’ve gotta love Brosnan’s facial expressions in this scene, it’s like he’s playing a video game!
Here the film slows down to catch it’s breath, as Bond meets with Jack Wade again, and manages to locate the Devonshire’s wreck near Vietnam. Wade is more obnoxious this time around, but we do get one of the few times Bond is wearing full navy regalia.
Here Bond encounters Wai Lin again, and after discovering the missing nuke in the wreck of Devonshire, they’re captured by Carver but are able to escape using a motorcycle, leading to another fun chase with many stunts as they’re pursued by Carver’s men in a helicopter (which doesn’t care about the innocent people in the crossfire, or rather, cross-blades)
Eventually after the helicopter is destroyed the two decide to join forces, and we see Wei Lin’s hideout which is sort of the second Q scene in the movie, except without Q, where we see many Chinese-style gadgets such as deadly fans, dragons heads, balloons etc. here Bond also ‘upgrades’ to a new watch and more radically, a new Walther pistol. Yeoh also gets to show off some more of her action skills here.
Finding the stealth ship, they try to stop it before it escalates the conflict once again. The action in this scene is particularly machine-gun heavy, and some think that’s not exactly Bondish and more say, “Ramboish”. However, Bond’s used machine guns before in many of the films, so it’s not entirely out of character.
Pryce in particular is even more over the top in the end, mocking Wei Lin’s martial arts skills with a bit of pantomime and referring to Bond (who he believes is dead, shot and drowned) as his “new anchorman” We also learn that he plans to destroy Beijing (making it look like the British did it) so he can actually get broadcast rights-refused under the current administration-once a new Chinese government is in place (led by his co-conspirator General Chang).
Carver gets his comeuppance via his own sea-drill, a grisly demise but one that’s seen as sort of bloodless (This is still a PG-13 film, after all)
Bond still has to save Wei Lin from Stamper, with the actor camping it up even further, going on about revenge for his bosses Kaufmann and Carver. Bond pins him under the missile and rescues Wei Lin just in time as the ship is ‘lit up’ as the British and Chinese figure out they’ve been had all along.
It of course ends with Bond and Wei Lin starting to make out on the debris, and then “Surrender” plays.
TND is sort of a more traditional Bond outing than “Goldeneye”, and it’s got some silly parts-especially the villains (although not to the degree of “The Living Daylights”), but it’s got some of the best action of the films, Brosnan now seems more comfortable in the role than he was in “Goldeneye”. It also has the best Bond soundtrack since John Barry left. Next up: The World Is Not Enough, the somewhat polarizing Third Bond film.