UK / USA, 1997
Review by Beth Gilligan
Posted on 19 March 2005
Source MGM DVD
Features: The Genealogy of James Bond
Going into a Bond movie, you know what you’re going to get: an elaborate opening scene followed by a credits sequence featuring a bad song by an otherwise talented artist (in this case, Sheryl Crow does the honors), which then leads into the usual car chases, double entendres, martinis, girls, guns, gadgets, etc. The degree to which this formula works, however, is dependent on two key factors: the cast and the script. Pierce Brosnan has settled into the role of 007 well, but when surrounded by catastrophically bad actors (Denise Richards in The World is Not Enough leaps to mind), lackluster villains, or an inscrutable plot (Die Another Day manages to cram in all these elements), there’s little he can do to salvage the film. While Tomorrow Never Dies may veer into the realm of the predictable (it wouldn’t be a Bond film if it didn’t, I suppose), it also dodges many of the disasters that would befall Brosnan’s later efforts.
For starters, it boasts a villain of an unusual ilk: power-mad (obviously), but unlike many of the others he’s not a crazed terrorist, but rather a media baron. Wittily incarnated by Jonathan Pryce, Elliot Carver is a composite of the worst elements of William Randolph Hearst and Rupert Murdoch, multiplied times ten. Viewing Tomorrow Never Dies nearly eight years after its release, Carver struck me as having aged scarily well in light of the past election and the broader cultural discourse over media bias.
Also helpful is the inclusion of a Bond girl who does more than gaze seductively at Mr. Bond. In Michelle Yeoh, the producers have found the rare actress who can go head-to-head with 007 both physically and mentally.
On this particular mission, Bond is sent to investigate a British warship that has presumably been destroyed by the Chinese. As it immediately becomes clear, the ship was a mere pawn in Carver’s grand plan to launch World War III, with his newspapers and TV stations carrying exclusive coverage of the events as they unfold. With the help of Yeoh’s Chinese Security Force agent, 007 sets out to stop the madman before all hell breaks loose.
As Bond sputters into the 21st century, its makers may want to keep this film in mind as one of the better attempts at keeping everyone’s favorite secret agent relevant in this day and age.