Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Jonathan Pryce, Michelle Yeoh, Teri Hatcher, Gotz Otto, Ricky Jay, Colin Salmon, Samantha Bond, Vincent Schiavelli, Desmond Llewelyn, Geoffrey Palmer, Joe Don Baker, and Judi Dench
Plot: Elliot Carver (Pryce), a media mogul seems to know of international news before MI6 even does. Thinking that he might be manipulating the current affairs, Bond (Brosnan) is sent in to investigate.
The bad guys in Tomorrow Never Dies are a really interesting concept in my book. Most of the general public’s information of the outside world comes from the media: television, paper, radio, top-of-the-range movie blogs. When one of the trusted sections of a society (doctors, policemen, politicians), betray our trust, the media are the first to point the finger and start a witch hunt. However, as Roger Spottiswoode explores with his addition to Britain’s longest running movie franchise, what if the media were the bad guys? Enter Elliot Carver, Jonathan Pryce relishing this new take on the James Bond baddie and deciding not to hold back on a gloriously OTT performance. He steals some of the best lines (not easy to do when you are up against the quip-lord James Bond), exaggerating what happens when you get drunk on power, swaggering your way through one of your own parties, firing random staff members when you lose a small portion of your influence. This clever new villain also helps Tomorrow Never Dies hang around in the memory. A lot of these Bond bad guys seem dated these days, even Ernst Starvo Blofeld seeming a little behind the times, but I believe that an out of control media mogul will work no matter where we are in the future. We could even argue, for Britain at least, that untrustworthy newspaper chiefs are even more prominent today, with the phone hacking scandal a few years back.
But it isn’t just a clever bad guy that makes Tomorrow Never Dies such a decent movie. The truth is that this is good, old-fashioned fun. Spottiswoode is inspired by Campbell’s reinvention with Goldeneye and just carries on from there. We get one of the most memorable cars in Bond history with the BMW 750i, taking the over-abundance of gadgets and having a field day with the concept. In truth, the BMW isn’t the best-looking car we have had in a Bond movie, its first appearance a little underwhelming. However, then we realise it has the remote control steering mechanism, which gives birth to one of the most exhilarating and fun car sequences out there. On top of the car, we have the Stealth Boat, Carver’s weapon of choice, a boat hidden to any form of radar. The final fight sequence, a prolonged cat and mouse game throughout the inner decks of that ship, is great fun and a worthy climax to the rest of the movie. I could point to several more set-pieces, but in all honesty, the entire film performs admirably. It has just nailed that smooth coolness that we go to a Bond film to see. Pierce Brosnan definitely isn’t the best actor to play Bond out there (in fact, I am beginning to see quite a few similarities between his depiction of Bond and Moore’s; the scripts Brosnan gets are just so much better), but he knows how to look the part. Dressed in a sharp suit, with hair that survives all sorts of explosions and chases, Brosnan just becomes the character. And yes, some of those puns are awful, but after a frantic punch-up or motorcycle chase, all you want to hear is what quip is going to come out of his mouth. It is just all fantastic.
True, we have had Bond a lot better. There are moments it doesn’t seem to quite realise its potential. I love the character of Paris Carver, one of Bond’s ex-girlfriends that crops back up in the mission. It is an interesting dynamic and one we haven’t really seen before. Sadly, that side of the story is undeniably brief, with one moment Bond and Paris sharing witty dialogue, the next we are off to Saigon and dropping that subplot completely. Thankfully Wai Lin (not quite as bad as Onatopp, but getting there!), is a worthy Bond girl to fill Teri Hatcher’s shoes, just as bad-ass and dangerous as the British lead hero. The movie also clings to its action movie roots so tightly that other sides of the film are neglected. One of Bond’s loved ones is killed off nastily and we get an emotional moment where he lingers over the corpse. It is a quick breather from the gun fights and well done. However, ten seconds later we are in a car chase, Brosnan back to that cocky smile and neat one-liners. Again, it is all good, but the two sharp changes in tone end up tripping each other over.
Final Verdict: Cool, high-octane action. Maybe it could have been more, but at the very least, Tomorrow Never Dies gives you what you paid for.