Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

James Bond film #18 (Pierce Brosnan Bond)

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

The second Brosnan Bond, Tomorrow Never Dies (18), had quite an act to follow after 1995’s GoldenEye (17). Producers Barbara Broccoli (Albert’s daughter and associate producer for the Dalton movies (15-16)) and Michael G. Wilson (stepson of Albert and producer with him since A View to a Kill (14)) had brought Bond back in a big way; could they manage to do it again? With no more Ian Fleming stories to adapt, an original story was written (also the case with The Spy Who Loved Me (10)), and the story that Bruce Feirstein came up with was a wonderful merger of classic Bond plots and modern global issues. Tomorrow Never Dies (18) continues the modernization of the series that GoldenEye initiated, bringing more of the Bond tropes back for an Information Age update.

In many ways, Tomorrow Never Dies is like a smorgasbord of the things that have come to define the Bond films over the previous 35 years. Eliot Carver’s plot is ripped straight from SPECTRE’s playbook, planning to start a world war between the US and China – only now, of course, his weapons are computers and the media. Like many in GoldenEye (17), Carver belittles Bond as someone whose time is over, his expertise irrelevant. In response, the character continues to go through an evolution, especially in how compassionate he is to the two Bond girls. Because of this, the film sometimes picks up a more romantic tinge reminiscent of Lazenby’s Bond, but now Bond’s affection is more often respectful than patronizing.

There are plenty of other things that will remind Bond fans of previous films. There’s cold blooded massacres of helpless citizens (now on videotape!); there’s a ton of underwater and submarine scenes (now with stealth subs!); and the theme is back to playing all the damn time, just like it did in the early Connery films. There’s really nothing unique to Tomorrow Never Dies, but it updates what it borrows and oftentimes improves them. And all the while, Brosnan struts around with his amused confidence, perfectly at home in the role.

In fact, just like with GoldenEye (17), the whole cast is full of talented actors well-suited for their memorable characters. Jonathan Pryce as Eliot Carver is a villain of the crazy mastermind flavor. He’s a man of words and deception, so in lieu of physical intimidation he has a sociopathic arrogance about him. Like the previous two Bond villains, he gets a trio of fun henchmen, including a neckbeard, Vincent Schiavelli, and the latest in a long line of blonde muscle men (started with Red Grant way back in From Russia With Love (2)). Michelle Yeoh plays Wai Lin, a kickass Chinese spy who hooks up with Bond (in more ways than one) and is featured in an inspired rooftop motorcycle chase in Vietnam, during which she and Bond are handcuffed together.

Judi Dench continues to surpass Bernard Lee in being a curmudgeon to Bond, Samantha Bond uses her small amount of screen time to remind the audience that the new Moneypenny doesn’t give a damn about Bond’s philandering, Q continues to be played by the living artifact that is Desmond Llewelyn, and Joe Don Baker reprises his role as Agent Jack Wade to further the comparisons between his character and J.W. Peppers. Everyone is directed by series newcomer Roger Spottiswoode, who replaces Goldeneye (17)‘s Martin Campbell. Having a new director helps the film out, as Spottiswoode (a hilarious name for a Bond director) crafts a tone that’s moody and dark like the power-hungry antagonist. He also carries on the trends that GoldenEye introduced for the Brosnan era, mainly an emphasis on self-aware humor and technogadgets. Henchmen now attack and get killed as a joke, and not only does Bond get a self-driving BMW, but Wai Lin has her own collection of spy toys, and Elliot Carver gets a crazy looking shredder torpedo that, of course, ends up killing him in the end.

Tomorrow Never Dies (18) takes a while to fully open up, and there’s not a unique bone in its Bond body, but it’s still a major upgrade over most of what we got during the ’80s. If the Brosnan movies continue to just rehash old trends in a satirical way, they might end up losing steam, but right now it’s working for them. Tomorrow Never Dies is a standard but strong Bond film, like a modern version of the original Connery adventures.

Final rating: 7/10

–James A. Janisse

Stray Observations:

  • So that title doesn’t make any damn sense.
  • I wonder how many gigantic international conflicts have been avoided solely thanks to the actions of Mr. Bond.
  • I also wonder how many large scale firefights Bond has led in a maritime setting at this point. There’s at least Thunderball (4) and The Spy Who Loved Me (10), but I feel like there are more?
  • Bond would be dead a thousand times over if anyone took the time to train their henchman. That one with the rocket launcher had a clear shot on Bond’s car and fired right above it.
  • There goes Q with his hollow hopes of getting his equipment returned in working order. Let it go, Q. It’s never gonna happen.
  • What’s with the couple of random slow-motion shots in this movie? There are two, I think, on subs in the beginning and another one right at the end with Bond and Wai Lin.
Bond Girl Fate

Wai Lin

(Michelle Yeoh)

Main Bond Girl:A Chinese spy who allies with Bond to avoid an unnecessary war. She and Bond end up destroying Carver’s stealth sub and banging in the wreckage as MI6 searches for them.

Paris Carver

(Teri Hatcher)

Secondary Bond Girl:Carver’s trophy wife and one of Bond’s past lovers. She updates her resume and becomes a current lover of Bond. Then she gets killed for her efforts.

Prof. Inga Bergstrøm

(Cecilie Thomsen)

Split-Second Bond Girl:Apparently a Danish language instructor? She’s only in the movie for a second, banging Bond (surprise surprise!).

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