Film scores Franchises

Soundtrack review: Tomorrow never dies (David Arnold – 1997)

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“Tomorrow never dies” marked the first time David Arnold wrote a score for a Bond movie. Just like the title character was played by a few actors, each with his own appeal and qualities, so the scores benefitted, after John Barry, from another composer who took the helm and wrote 5 of them. Different from maestro Barry as day from night, Arnold brought thunderous, relentless action to the franchise and I absolutely adore all of his scores. If the Pierce Brosnan Bond movies almost alienated me from the series for good, the scores brought new life and made me regret even more the bad movies. I wish I could have connected better with them. Having said that, this is the one Brosnan movie that didn’t annoy me as much as the rest. The story has Bond fighting a media mogul who, of course, wants to start world war III. David Arnold’s score saw two releases and I am reviewing the extended one from 2000.

The main theme of this movie was sung by Sheryl Crow but as it had happened a few times before it was recorded to close to the release date of the movie so there was no way for it to be reworked in instrumental form throughout the score. Instead the secondary theme, “Surrender”, written by Arnold and performed by k.d. Lang features in “Tomorrow never dies”. It’s good because I love that theme. There is also the powerful and exciting rendition of the James Bond theme by Moby at the end of this release.

On to the score, the composer doesn’t waste time in introducing himself and opens with two cues that take up 15 minutes. “White knight” is David Arnold’s hello and it sounds as if he had been writing for Bond movies for ages. This monster cue has everything I love about this musical franchise: the lush main theme, the frantic action and the subtle breaks that make this as fun to listen as it usually is to watch the traditional opening chase of any Bond movie. It’s clear right from the start that Arnold knows his Bond music. This score feels like the natural continuation of the Barry compositions. It has the same formula and brings modern techno sounds to enrich it. I feel joyful and refreshed after this magnificent opening, so layered, so intense and so exciting. Welcome, Mr. Arnold!

After the second cue “The sinking of the Devonshire” I am already tired, good tired. The action is relentless and almost epic at times. This is not a word usually associated with a Bond score but there are some choral inserts in there that just take this to the next step. “Company car” seals the deal because this is where David Arnold first uses Monty Norman’s iconic main theme. It is wrapped in smooth jazzy goodness and it sounds better than ever. All this and we still have an hour of score to go, isn’t this just the most wonderful feeling?

The love theme “Paris & Bond” is another nod to maestro Barry’s work and a proud continuation of his string of memorable romantic Bond moments. It is just a sweeping theme which uses the flute and some moments where the feelings just burst to become unforgettable. This romantic side is the light to the darkness of other moments which make this score a statement on how right David Arnold is for the franchise. He reprises the romantic theme in “Kowloon Bay” to the same result, also incorporating “Surrender”.

“Hamburg break out” is the first full on techno action moment and it just rips. This is pure adrenaline and a moment worthy of the character. The Bond theme is cleverly inserted in the fabric of the cue and this could work very well as trailer music for the film. “Backseat driver” expands on that pulsating style and I can hear the Bond music morphing into this new, modern version. This is simply very exciting music and I frequently use it for running. David Arnold never forgets the big band / orchestra motif which just blends with his techno beats so a very enjoyable result. “Backseat driver” is a fresh and grandiose action piece which brings a smile on my face and raises my pulse.

With this thematic diversity and the freshness of the sound, “Tomorrow never dies” marked a spectacular entrance into the Bond world from David Arnold. He would go on to write even bigger and better things for these movies and I still regret that he’s not writing the music anymore. But this first score he did will always be one of the most special. It almost makes me want to give the movie another try. David Arnold was the one who kept me connected to the Bond franchise even through the toughest times. If you don’t believe me, try just the final cue “All in a day’s work”. It has everything I’ve always loved about the music of James Bond.

Cue rating: 90 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 50 / 76

Album excellence: 76%

Highlights:

White Knight

The Sinking Of The Devonshire

Company Car

Paris & Bond

The Last Goodbye

Hamburg Break Out

Back Seat Driver

Bike Chase

Bike Shop Fight

Kowloon Bay

Boarding The Stealth

All In A Day’s Work

Surrender

James Bond theme (Moby’s re-version)

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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