Bond number 18 and Pierce Brosnan’s 2nd outing comes in the form of 1997’s “Tomorrow Never Dies“. Running at just under 2hrs long this is a 12 rated film which is directed by Roger Spottiswoode with a screenplay written by Bruce Feirstein – of course, based on characters invented by Sir Ian Fleming. Made with a budget of $110 million this continues the successful trend of being a box office smash, grossing $333 million worldwide. This is the first Bond film to be made after the death of Albert R. Broccoli, so Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson are at it alone as producers this time around.
Media baron Elliot Carver has obtained an encoder which allows cyber-terrorist Henry Gupta to provoke a war between China and the UK. The encoder can alter GPS information of a military vessel, and it is used to make it look like a British warship is somewhere it isn’t intended to be. This allows Carver to devote a covert operation to getting some warheads for himself. As Carver is the first to cast media attention on the event, and he puts his own spin on it, MI6 suspects he knows more than he is initially letting on. Bond is sent to interrogate Carver, potentially by ‘pumping’ Carver’s wife for info – who it turns out, is an old flame of Bond’s. On his mission, Bond meets up with Wai Lin, who it turns out is a Chinese agent who is also investigating Carver. Their paths cross a few times as they try to uncover what involvement Carver has in the events. They realise before too long that Carver is manipulating events around the world in order to get scoops for his media empire. It’s up to Bond and Wai Lin to stop Carver from creating tomorrows headlines today.
Pierce Brosnan is great again as Bond, he brings in performance that is still reminiscent of the other actors who have played Bond before. He is lethal and direct like Connery, he is fun and flirty like Lazenby, he is whimsical like Moore, and his lethal like Dalton – a perfect combination and balance of all the previous incarnations of Bond.
Bond’s nemesis in this film is Jonathan Pryce as Elliot Carver. While his performance is good and authentic, he never really strikes me as a really threatening Bond villain. Perhaps it is his age and approach that did not sell it for me. Even as a genius mastermind I wasn’t quite sold as he has people doing his bidding throughout the film – maybe he’s a good planner, but as a nemesis, a mastermind, a threat – not quite, and definitely not an equal to Bond. Working for Carver, the main henchman, is Richard Stamper, played by Gotz Otto. Otto elicits all the characteristics of the “Die Hard” (1988) henchman Karl Vreski who works for Hans Gruber. In fact, Otto got twenty seconds to introduce himself to the cast when he was on-boarded, he did it in five seconds; “I’m big, I’m bad, and I’m German.”
Teri Hatcher got the role of Bond girl in this film. She might be gritty with attitude, especially the way she handles Bond, but it was a bit part that did not really require much skill. Her role is more of a throwback to when Bond girls just needed to be good looking rather than intrinsic to the plot of the film. It’s for this reason she went on record years later to say that she got no satisfaction from the role, it was artificial without depth.
While also labelled as a Bond girl, Michelle Yeoh as Colonel Wai Lin, I would argue is more of an equal to Bond and serves as much as a threat. Yes, she is a good-looking lady, but she is just as dangerous and deadly as the British spy. Yeoh’s performance is good, I can believe that she is that dangerous – probably because she actually is. I read that Jackie Chan’s own stunt team had to be called in to work with Yeoh because she is not used to holding back. She trained with them so rather than get people hurt it made sense to bring in a team that could handle her ferocity.
Regulars in the franchise; M, Moneypenny and Q all return, respectively played by Judi Dench, Samantha Bond and Desmond Llewelyn. CIA agent Jack Wade, played by Ricky Jay, pops up and he is the same loudmouth American that he was in “Goldeneye“.
This outing was written from scratch because by the time the 90’s rolled around, all of Sir Ian Fleming’s novels had been used already. There are times it feels like some scenes were included just to sate audiences and what they expected to see in a 007 film. There were plenty of gadgets, like a remote-controlled BMW, an explosive watch, and a security cracking phone. There were of course the Bond girl’s that I have already mentioned. There were death-defying stunts and sequences the defied logic at times – the helicopter using its rota blades springs to mind, or Bond and Wei Lin jumping off the side of a building and using a vinyl poster to escape. Bond gets his fair share of humorous remarks and quips too. While the key ingredients were there, importantly this film had a heart and it had a sense of realism in it too. The sense of realism is important, while films like “007: Moonraker” (1979) and “007: A View to a Kill” (1985) are fun, they were a little far-fetched in certain elements and did not allow audiences to emphasise. In this, Carver’s media empire is not unlike other worldwide media empires, Rupert Murdoch’s springs to mind. How far are madmen willing to go to lead the way when it comes to having your finger on the pulse. Being firmly in the 90’s before the full internet revolution the themes in this film were good and on-point. In retrospect, a lot of reviews have come back to this film and commented that perhaps it was ahead of it’s time in regards to the concepts and ideas. I enjoyed the film and think that it is a solid entry into the franchise. The cast and crew do a decent job and really bring a fun adventure to the table. It is complex enough to be engaging, but not too complex that it will baffle audiences. Definitely a family movie, I would have no problem putting any age group in front of the film. Just like my father watched the 60’s and 70’s Bond films with me as a child in the 80’s, I can see this being one that father in the 2000’s and beyond watch with their children too.
Title Song: Tomorrow Never Dies – Sheryl Crow
In terms of Bond films this is a 8 out of 10.
In terms of movies in the long and illustrious history of film I would give this a 7 out of 10.
Bond, James Bond, 007 – Ranking
|1||007: Goldfinger (1964) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Goldeneye (1995) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|2||007: The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: License to Kill (1989) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: A View to a Kill (1985) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Dr. No (1962) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: The Living Daylights (1987) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: From Russia with Love (1963) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|3||007: Thunderball (1965) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Moonraker (1979) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|4||007: You only live twice (1967) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Diamonds are Forever (1971) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: For Your Eyes Only (1981) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Octopussy (1983) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|007 (Unofficial): Never Say Never Again (1983) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|5||007: Live and Let Die (1973) ⭐⭐⭐⭐|