Someone is pitting the world´s superpowers against each other—and only the legendry James Bond (Agent 007) can stop it. When a British warship is mysteriously destroyed in Chinese waters, the world teeters on the brink of World War III—until 007 zeros in on the true criminal mastermind. Bond´s do-or-die mission takes him to Elliot Carver, a powerful industrialist who manipulates world events as easily as he changes headlines from his global media empire. After soliciting help from Carver´s sexy wife, Paris, Bond joins forces with a stunning yet lethal Chinese agent, Wai Lin. In a series of explosive chases, brutal confrontations and impossible escapes, including a motorcycle pursuit through Saigon, Bond and Wai Lin race to stop the presses on Carver´s next planned news story—global pandemonium. (Synopsis from Hollywood.com)
While it's not unusual for a soundtrack album to be released prior to the film—resulting in some cuts not making it onto the album—it is unusual to have a second, separate album produced that includes the remaining orchestral music. In the case of Tomorrow Never Dies, however, the "score" album includes neither the main title song, sung by Sheryl Crow, nor the closing song, "Surrender," sung by K. D. Lang. So, to get the full soundtrack one needs both albums. To date, I have only purchased the original, abridged release, so the second, orchestral album will have to be reviewed at a later time.
After the scores to Licence to Kill and GoldenEye went largely ignored by audiences (and more importantly, the soundtrack album-buying public), composer David Arnold (Young Americans, Stargate, Independence Day, Godzilla,) stepped in to take the musical helm. With the release of Tomorrow Never Dies, it became immediately apparent that the score was something a little different, but very much in the Bond tradition. The orchestration was bigger and more frenetic than the typical Barry score, but the wild brass, some distinctive themes, and a renewed sense of grandeur paid homage to Barry without being totally derivative.
Like the biggest Bond films, Tomorrow Never Dies presents a larger-than-life villain: Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce), a media mogul with designs to dominate all the earth's media by starting World War III and offering exclusive coverage. While his introductory scene is hugely disappointing, presenting him as nothing more than a caricature, Pryce soon is able to command the respect a very bad Bond villain deserves and sets in motion a fast-paced, compelling storyline. Through a somewhat contrived plot device, Bond gets close to Carver through his wife Paris (Teri Hatcher), with whom he has apparently had a past relationship. But as he investigates the shady goings-on at the Carver Media Group in Hamburg, he encounters an intriguing Chinese woman, Wai Lin (Michele Yeoh), who turns out to be his opposite number from the Chinese External Security Force. The two join forces in the most enjoyable pairing of characters in any Bond film, with Yeoh playing an even more exciting female lead than Halle Berry as Jinx in Die Another Day. There are some exhilarating stunts (the motorcycle chase with Bond and Wai Lin handcuffed together earns high marks, although the pursuing helicoptor using its blades to cut a swath through the streets of Saigon is a bit much), and the design of Carver's stealth ship is convincing.
I have never been a fan of Sheryl Crow, and my first impression of "Tomorrow Never Dies" was that it was mediocre at best. However, it didn't take long for the song to grow on me, and I find myself actually enjoying it quite a bit, especially its heavy guitar and string arrangements. Unfortunately, Daniel Kleinman's title sequence is very disagreeable, with images of computer circuitry transforming into "sexy" women and vice-versa—as if there's any real appeal in that. I suppose it was meant to be clever. But it's several steps down from GoldenEye, and sadly, a notch above his titles for The World Is Not Enough.
Arnold's score has a tendency to lapse into ascending and descending noise with no recognizable melodies or motifs—mere furious cacophonies that reflect the pace of the on-screen action. Fortunately, he also provides some well-conceived, well-rendered dramatic pieces, such as the six-minute-long "White Knight" (the music for the mostly exciting pre-credit sequence), which utilizes lots of Barry-like brass, including some riffs reminiscent of From Russia With Love. However, Arnold short-changes us on the "Gunbarrel" opening by omitting the customary opening horn bursts and the Vic Flick riffs, instead going straight from the traveling four-note progression to the concluding four notes that rise a half-step per sequence. It's far less satisfying than the arrangement of old.
Clocking in at just over seven minutes, "The Sinking of the Devonshire" is dark and atmospheric, if devoid of any memorable melody. It's very standard action-suspense music, which could have just as easily come from the Godzilla or Independence Day soundtracks. Opening with a brash rendition of the Bond theme, "Company Car" is a nice little piece, the title referring to Bond's remote-controlled BMW, which is provided, of course, by the redoubtable Desmond Llewelyn in his penultimate performance as Q. A muted xylophone adds a few jazzy notes to the theme, making it one of the album's winning cuts.
"Station Break" is another generic action piece, with honking brass and rumbling bass, but its fast-paced climax is both effective in the film and enjoyable on its own. "Paris and Bond" calls for a more poignant arrangement than it offers, although the woodwind-based "Paris" theme is a pleasant-enough melody. "The Last Goodbye" reprises the theme after Paris's murder, providing a genuinely emotional backdrop for Bond's obvious grief, then turns dark as his desire for revenge takes over.
One of the better suspenseful pieces, "Hamburg Break In" calls to mind the pre-credits music from Goldfinger ("Bond Back in Action Again"), augmented by a chirping synthesizer, which heralds the introduction of a rhythmic, percussion-based theme. "Hamburg Break Out" immediately follows, featuring a technopop beat and swirling synthesizers as well as blaring brass. It's an agreeable pairing of tracks, again working equally well on film as on the album.
"Dr. Kaufman" refers to the nefarious forensic physician (Vincent Schiavelli) who murders Paris and then confronts Bond, bent on doing the same. The exchange between the two is one of the best of the film, with Schiavelli stealing the show when he finds out from Carver's henchman Stamper (Götz Otto) that Bond's car—which contains a stolen GPS control device—is impregnable. Thoroughly embarrassed, he begs Bond to tell them how to get into the car, adding that, if he doesn't talk, he will have to be tortured. The music is low and, in the film, barely discernible. But when Bond's cell phone gives Kaufman a shock ("* - 3 - Send"), the music rises abruptly, briefly repeating Paris's theme. Then, as the inevitable chase ensues, the music swirls into a techno-enhanced Bond theme, although it only lasts a few moments. Effective on film, but in this case, not particularly satisfying on its own.
"Underwater Discovery" comes off as generic action music—aptly similar to "Sinking of the Devonshire"—as Bond and Wai Lin explore the sunken British warship. The strains here are actually reminiscent of the climactic action music from Dr. No, whether intentional or not. "Backseat Driver" begins as a somewhat too-cute background for the chase through the parking garage—with Bond in the backseat of his BMW using the remote control to drive it. Cinematically, the whole thing would have come off much better if the remote control had taken a backseat to Bond's actual driving skills. The music rises to more impressive heights, incorporating synthesizers, soaring brass, and warbling keyboards as the chase draws to its conclusion. Bond's expression, however, as the car sails out of the parking garage, into the front window of a Hertz car rental agency, is priceless. One can just imagine his glee at explaining this one to Q.
The music from the final third of the film is relegated to the "score album," so the ending of this one seems somewhat abrupt. But K. D. Lang's inspired performance of "Surrender" blows away Sheryl Crow's opening theme, making for a satisfying climax. The closing Bond theme by Moby is a generally agreeable electronic rendition, but it won't hold up to the years. George Martin's rendition from 1973 has much better lasting power.
In spite of its short length, the Tomorrow Never Dies album offers a great deal of satisfying material. Unfortunately, It's also the best of Arnold's Bond scores to date, which might run contrary to expectations, or at least to one's hopes. While the 007 films have found a reasonably capable composer in Arnold, his contributions are nowhere near as consistently excellent as Barry's, and one can only hope that, if he remains affiliated with the Bond films, a trend toward higher quality will assert itself.
Darling I'm killed,
It's so deadly my dear,
Darling you've won.
Until that day
Until That Day...
Your life is a story,
And I have the power,
Tomorrow never dies
Whatever you're after,
Tomorrow never dies
The truth is now
Tomorrow never dies
Tomorrow never dies...