Another film that was better than I remembered. In fact there was only one scene that annoyed the hell out of me and I’ll get to that later.
The film opens well, with an all action, all exploding scene taking place at a terrorist arms bazaar on the Russian border. How things have changed – we now have senior Russian and British agents together in the room at MI6 watching the footage broadcast from the agent on the ground. (Bond, obviously.)
We go into the opening credits and a song that starts promisingly but ultimately delivers little. Sheryl Crow sounds mournful and disinterested and lacking the power to hit those high notes as they deserve, as we watch women in diamonds dance through TV screens and silicon chips with guns and knives. Yes, there’s a TV angle to this film.
The villain is Elliot Carver, international media mogul, who is moving on from reporting the news to creating it, using stolen technology. He wants to punish China in particular, because they have not allowed his media machine to broadcast into their country. So his villainous plot is to start a war between China and the British. And his news machine will be on hand to report it as it happens.
Bond is sent to investigate Carver, using his previous relationship with Carver’s wife Paris to find out further information if necessary. Bond pretty much blows his cover immediately he arrives at Carver’s satellite launch party (not very professional). So while Bond acts like a spoilt brat and deliberately provokes Carver, getting the attention of Carver’s thugs instead, the charming Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh) gets much more positive attention from Carver.
In an important lesson in why you should avoid relationships with paranoid and jealous men, Carver reacts badly to the realisation that his wife once had a relationship with Bond, and has her killed.
Bond and Wai Lin meet again in the belly of a sunken British warship. They realise they are working for opposite teams (she’s a Colonel in Chinese Intelligence) but on the same mission – to investigate Carver. Carver, who has the ability to type furiously with one hand – the scene that annoyed me so much on first watching I was prepared to write off the whole film. (The scene still annoys me to this day.)
As the main woman in this film, Wai Lin is super cool. I love the scene where she is being super efficient, setting everything up in her ‘company’ warehouse, while Bond just bumbles around the room, knocking things over and making stupid quips. You see Wai Lin look at him, and you can tell she’s thinking, This is the best of the British Secret Service?
*Fangirl moment* I just want to say that Michelle Yeoh is amazing and she should have had her own Wai Lin movie franchise. I would have watched it for sure.
The film takes us to some not very exotic places (Hamburg) and some slightly more exotic places (Vietnam, filmed in Thailand).
I’m not going to mention the gimmicky remote controlled BMW chase scene (I wonder how much BMW paid for that nice bit of product placement – but I guess the rationale was in Hamburg an Aston Martin would have stood out too much).
Film epilogue: Wai Lin gets a commendation for stopping a war, and continues to rise up through the ranks. She eventually becomes the most senior woman in the Chinese intelligence service, reporting directly to the President’s office on matters of international importance. She successfully walks the line between political and military intelligence where some of her male colleagues fail and fall. She’s always consulted on important issues and decisions but never at the forefront when things go wrong.