Well in the ever ongoing series of reviews of the James Bond series, this particular installment is the last of the Pierce Brosnan collection (the others are on the site, so go find them). And in Tomorrow Never Dies, I saved it for last because well, I needed some form of drama to keep me going.
This one takes Ian Fleming’s characters and adapts them into a screenplay that was written by Bruce Feirstein (GoldenEye) and directed by Roger Spottiswoode (Under Fire). And …n this one, James tries to stop a multimedia power hungry madman named Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce, Ronin), who uses his media powers to try and incite a war between China and England using manipulation. Carver’s wife is Paris (Teri Hatcher, Desperate Housewives), who once shared a bed with James. James also enlists the help (or at least the athletic prowess) of Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) in order to stop Carver.
After seeing this film again for the first time in a few years, I was reminded of the overall silliness of its villain, a clear takeoff of Bill Gates. No matter what I think of Pryce’s acting ability, that’s what this does for me. Second, the addition of two actors in supporting roles really annoyed me. Hatcher was nothing more than a nod to make things more identifiable for Americans was the big one, but Vincent Schiavelli as a feared German assassin was one of the more foolish casting ideas. Who would think that Mr. Vargas could kill secret agents? I didn’t think so.
Despite the poor casting and shady script, the stunts are pretty action packed and imaginative, doing just enough to distract from the story. So in a sense, it may be either a shark jumping moment or one where the action was the distraction from the storytelling, which is normally quite good. Either way, it’s certainly worth checking out.
2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen that for my money doesn’t look dramatically different than any other masters that MGM has done. Flesh tones remain natural, the exteriors look good but there isn’t a wide palette of colors to display during the film to show things off.
DTS (which I think is new for this release) and a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track are what you get to enjoy here. The DTS track is quite the active little sonic outing, with surrounds working overtime to go with the subwoofer. This one is among the best sounding Bond films out there.
The commentaries from the previous edition have been held over for this one. Spottiswoode and writer Dan Petrie Jr. recall their experiences with the production, with Petrie serving more to spur the conversation on. Longtime Bond producer Michael Wilson and crew member Vic Armstrong discuss their experiences on this and other Bond films, which is a little bit better as they’re the relative subject matter experts on things 007.
Disc Two kicks things off with the “Declassified: MI6 Vault” section, starting with some deleted and extended scenes with Spottiswoode providing introduction, followed by some expanded angles on scenes that made the cut with a separate introduction by the director. The deleted scenes aren’t too bad, one gives Ricky Jay (who plays a villain with Carver) a chance to show off his card throwing prowess. All of the extra/expanded footage totals about 25 minutes in length and is well worth having. From there, “Highly Classified: The World of 007” is an hour-long piece hosted by Q himself, Desmond Llewelyn, as he segues into interviews with Armstrong and other longtime Bond crew members who discuss their roles in the film and in the scenes for this one, not to mention examining the stunt sequences that were pulled off for the film. Before I forget, there’s also quite a bit of interview footage with the cast as well. Since Llewelyn hosts this piece in character, it’s a little more tedious and much longer than other normal on-set or near-release looks at the making of a production. After that, Moby contributes his interpretation of the long-favored theme song in a music video. The “007 Mission Control” section is the interactive guide available on the rest of the Bond discs, and the “Mission Dossier” section has the holdover extras from the Special Edition. First up is a piece called “The Secrets of 007”, which is a piece similar to the Llewelyn one, except this covers the legacy of the franchise up to this film, full of gadgets, girls, stunts, weapons and villains. There’s a bit of critical examination on the films, but there’s also ample interview footage with the numerous Bonds and those actors who worked with them. If you’ve seen fifteen or sixteen other Bond films, the “rare footage” doesn’t appear so rare, and overall this piece isn’t too bad, I just have seen it before, several times. Following this is an interview with composer David Arnold, as he discusses his thoughts on the music and what he wanted to try and do for the film. There’s a special effects reel that basically shows before and after elements set to the film’s score for three minutes. Sheryl Crow did the theme song and has a video, and some storyboards follow that. Wrapping up the section is something called “gadgets”, which is an interactive look at some of the bigger gadgets in the film, featuring Q’s description of the features, if Q were a younger female voice. This part is a bit unnecessary, to say the least. The “Ministry of Propaganda” section contains two trailers, and the “Image Database” section has (say it with me now) the stills from the film.
It might not be the greatest Bond film, but it’s arguably the best of the Brosnan era. The stuntwork is pretty good, the extras may be good but are the tiniest bit redundant, and the audio track is absolutely worth the upgrade. But for R1 buyers, as part of a lackluster Volume 4 of the Bond collection, that set in and of itself isn’t worth the time.
Special Features List
- Director Commentary
- Producer Commentary
- Deleted Scenes with Introduction
- Expanded/extended scenes with Introduction
- “The World of 007”
- Music Videos
- Interactive Guide
- “The Secrets of 007”
- Storyboard Presentation
- Stills Gallery