After the success of GoldenEye firmly established Pierce as a Bond for the new generation, Tomorrow Never Dies pits him against Jonathan Pryce’s thoroughly contemporary villain. As 007 begins to unravel the dirty secrets behind the Carver media empire, he realises that not only are they writing the headlines; they’re also making them.
It was going to take some doing to match the quality of GoldenEye, and so it’s little surprise that Tomorrow Never Dies fails to live up to its predecessor. Director Martin Campbell did a great job of re-invigorating the franchise with Bond’s 90s debut; in fact he did it so well he came back to rescue the franchise again when he helmed Casino Royale. Directorial duties this time round fall to Roger Spottiswoode, a man whose biggest hit up to this point had been, um, Turner and Hooch. On the runny, punchy, shooty front, Tomorrow Never Dies delivers fairly well. The downside is that the whole thing is very mid-90s Hollywood; it all feels too over-produced for Bond, faintly plastic and bland. Combine that with some slightly shonky CGI and it hasn’t dated particularly well.
Still, despite its clear flaws, there’s no doubt that it’s preposterously entertaining; Jonathan Pryce’s ludicrously nefarious media mogul Elliot Carver is an absolute gem. A perfect combination of Rupert Murdoch and Dr. Evil, Pryce clearly relishes every second of screen time. From his determination to become the single most powerful man in history, to his vigorous one-handed touch typing and his love of extreme torture implements, Carver is a riot. The most hands-on CEO ever, he writes all the headlines and front page news stories himself, and loves nothing more than to report ‘bad news’ to people across the globe. ‘Delicious!’ he exclaims as he changes a headline from reading ‘British Soldiers killed’ to ‘British soldiers MURDERED’. Subtlety is a word that Carver has seemingly never encountered, and thank God, because it’s totally brilliant.
An impressively intricate motorbike chase around two thirds in is another real highlight, with Michelle Yeoh’s Wai Lin making her and Bond a sort of sexy, borderline comedic double-act. She’s an interesting choice for the role and brings with her some much needed agency, which in combination with her race, distances her from the a-typical Bond girl. As good as Brosnan was in GoldenEye on the other hand, he seems to be slipping somewhat here. He’s less convincingly hard in his beige chinos and tucked in shirts, gradually slipping towards the Moore end of the scale with his womanising, smarmy one-liners and raised eyebrows. Still, there’s still worse to come. A lot worse.
Bond theme: After Tina brought Bond into the 90s with a bang, Sheryl Crow brings it down a peg or two with a muted, jazzy number. She doesn’t quite have the pipes for a proper Bond theme, but it’s just about passable.
Best one liner: As with most of Judi Dench’s appearances as ‘M’, she easily overtakes Bond in the one liner stakes. She delivers a particularly satisfying burn when her As Time Goes By co-star Geoffrey Palmer says she doesn’t have the balls for the job:
‘Perhaps. But the advantage is, I don’t have to think with them all the time.’
Glamorous Locations: After thwarting arms dealers at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, Bond travels to Hamburg by way of London to attend a fancy-shmanzy media event for the launch of Carver’s news channel. Leaving carnage in his wake, he HALO jumps into Vietnamese waters before being captured by Carver’s men and taken to Saigon. After a breathless motorbike chase through Saigon city, he and Wai Lin make their way to the coast at Halong bay.
Girls: Besides sleeping with his language tutor after the opening credits (‘you always were a cunning linguist, James’ remarks Moneypenny), Teri Hatcher plays his before unheard of ex ‘Paris’, while the ever watchable Michelle Yeoh plays Chinese secret agent Wai Lin. Yeoh is probably too good an actress to be in a Brosnan flick; the tacky innuendo at times seems more awkward than usual. She is great though, and it’s more than a relief to see a Bond girl that can more than hold her own. Hatcher is the polar opposite, all pampered and covered in jewels, but she allows Brosnan to tackle some more emotional material.
Gadgets: Most memorable by far is Q’s beloved remote control BMW, complete with bulletproof glass and wheel spikes. Just look at how much fun he’s having:
Classic moment: After a helicopter peruses their motorbike through the crowded streets of Saigon, Bond and Wai Lin find themselves trapped with no where left to turn. Not to be perturbed by such a minor problem, he gives the engine a few revs and floors it, gaining enough speed to jump building to building, and clear over the top of the baddies.
Low Point: Brosnan begins to encroach on Moore territory with the groan-inducing one liners. Some just about hit the mark, others are a bit pathetic. This exchange between M, Moneypenny and Bond is just ludicrous:
M: Pump her for information.
Moneypenny: You’ll just have to decide how much pumping is needed, James.
Bond: If only that were true of you and I, Moneypenny.
TELSTAR’S BIG BOND COUNTDOWN WILL RETURN WITH… TOMORROW NEVER DIES