Should I Watch..? 'Tomorrow Never Dies'
What's the big deal?
Tomorrow Never Dies is an action spy thriller film released in 1997 and is the eighteenth entry in the James Bond series. Pierce Brosnan returns for his second performance as 007, this time facing off against a media mogul who is attempting to manipulate a third world war for his new news channel to cover. It is the only one of Brosnan's Bond films that failed to top the box office upon release (having the bad luck to open when Titanic was showing), although it still took more than its predecessor GoldenEye. It was also the first Bond film to open after the death of long-time producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli, who has the movie dedicated to him.
What's it about?
Due to interference from British secret agent James Bond, a cyber terrorist named Henry Gupta is able to escape from an arms market in Russia with a GPS encoder. Gupta takes it back to his boss, maniacal media mogul Elliot Carver who instigates his plan to develop a war between the Chinese and the British. Carver sends Royal Navy frigate HMS Devonshire off-course and into Chinese waters. Carver's stealth ship, waiting for them, launches an attack on the Devonshire whilst simultaneously destroying Chinese jets sent to investigate. Naturally, both nations assume their losses to be the fault of the other and soon, military action is threatened.
M, at MI6, isn't so sure and she sends Bond to investigate Carver after his newspapers contained a suspicious amount of confidential information. With Bond having previously known Carver's wife Paris, it might allow Bond the chance to get close to Carver and discover what's going on. But with Carver's new news channel about to launch and the Chinese secret service sending their agent Wai Lin to follow Carver as well, Bond has to move fast before many more lives are lost...
Colonel Wai Lin
Bruce Feirstein *
Release Date (UK)
12th December, 1997
Action, Spy, Adventure
What's to like?
The Bond films have always had a level of sheen that makes them stand out from other action movies. Tomorrow Never Dies is another example, fuelled by big set pieces and linked by a tenuous plot strung out far longer than it needed to be. By now, the Bond films were firing on all cylinders and the action here is once again the highlight of the movie. The rooftop motorcycle chase is a standout moment, as is Bond and Lin's escape from Carver's skyscraper - even if it goes against all sense of reason and logic. But one can't help but admire the stunt team for the death-defying tricks they manage to pull out of the bag every time.
Brosnan feels more relaxed as Bond here, having gotten over the nerves in his first outing. His rapport with Yeoh is good but then, she is no stranger to this sort of material. Yeoh's character is probably the first time we see a Bond girl on an equal footing as Bond and one struggles to believe it took them 18 films to rectify this. Pryce, meanwhile, is gloriously hammy as the Rupert Murdoch-like villain manipulating world powers for the sake of selling newspapers. Given the fantastical nature and schemes of some of Bond's previous baddies, it actually doesn't sound that far fetched and gives the film an unexpectedly satirical tone.
- The film's original title was "Tomorrow Never Lies" which makes sense, given Carver's plans. But due to a typo on the screenplay, the title was changed and the producers stuck with it.
- Götz Otto was given twenty seconds to audition for the part of Stamper. He won the part in five, saying "I am big, I am bad and I am German."
- Teri Hatcher only accepted the role because her then-husband wished to be married to a Bond girl. She was three months pregnant during filming which meant a planned sex scene between her and Brosnan was cancelled.
What's not to like?
The trouble is that while Tomorrow Never Dies doesn't do much wrong, it doesn't blow your socks off either. It sticks rigidly to the traditional Bond formula and never once thinks about straying from it. The action is well-staged, the performances are adequate, the theme tune is passable - everything does just enough to get your attention but not much more to hold it. Apart from Pryce acting like a swirly-eyed loon, there isn't anything particularly memorable about the film and that shouldn't be the case with a Bond film.
Even the worst entries in the series had moments that you watched in amazement - Moonraker had that cracking fight between Jaws and 007 on top of cable cars while A View To A Kill had Bond scrapping with an axe-wielding Christopher Walken at the top of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The only bit I can recall from this film was Bond jumping a motorbike over a helicopter's rotor blades - and that is literally it. Bond films should be about amazement, whether due to incredible stunt work, beautiful locations or gripping storylines. Tomorrow Never Dies, by contrast, feels generic and ill though-out, as though the hero could have been anybody in a tuxedo. Like GoldenEye, it's a good action movie but only a passable Bond flick.
Should I watch it?
It's a definite disappointment after the success of GoldenEye - the film lacks any of Bond's trademark humour and replaces it with lots of violence (the film has the highest body count in the series so far) and blatant product placement from the likes of BMW. I wanted to like it but I'm afraid that the news isn't good. It's undemanding, lazy and not that exciting - a far cry from the glory days for 007.
Great For: undemanding action fans, Private Eye journalists, BMW's sale figures
Not So Great For: fans of the Bond books, action fans used to better, Rupert Murdoch
What else should I watch?
GoldenEye was probably the only time Brosnan got it right - the film had the right combination of action, plot and humour and not forgetting a kick-ass video game adaptation, which isn't that relevant right now. Brosnan's third film as 007 - The World Is Not Enough - falls even further behind and the less said about the pitiful Die Another Day, the better. As Sean Connery said in the opening sequence to Goldfinger, shocking.
It wouldn't be until Daniel Craig got his hands on the tuxedo and rebooting the entire series with 2006's Casino Royale that Bond would get the overhaul he desperately needed. Taking its cues from The Bourne Identity, the film is a dark and gripping thriller that propels you head-first into Bond's very first assignment and it had much more to do with the books than any of Brosnan's films.
© 2015 Benjamin Cox