Tomorrow Never Dies

TOMORROW NEVER DIES, Jonathan Pryce, 1997
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

The Cast: Pierce Brosnan (James Bond); Michelle Yeoh (Wai Lin); Jonathan Pryce (Elliot Carver); Teri Hatcher (Paris Carver); Gotz Otto (Stamper); Joe Don Baker (Jack Wade)

The Supporting Cast: Judy Dench (“M”); Desmond Llewelyn (“Q”); Samantha Bond (Moneypenny); Ricky Jay (Gupta); Geoffrey Palmer (Admiral Roebuck); Colin Samson (Robinson); Cecile Thomasen (Professor Ingstrom); Tamara Kelly (Nina Young) Vincent Schiavelli (Dr. Kaufman)

Credits: Produced by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson; Directed by Roger Spottiswoode; Story by Bruce Fierstein and Daniel Petrie; Music by David Arnold; Title Song performed by Sheryl Crow; Titles by Daniel Kleinmann;Edited by Dominique Fortin and Michael Arcand

Review by: Cavan Scott

There can be no doubt about it. Bond is back and his name is Pierce Brosnan. The risk with the follow-up to GoldenEye was whether another Bond film could survive without the novelty factor of Bond`s new persona. Would Brosnan still be able to keep the public on his side or would he prove the old cliche that familiarity breeds contempt?

Thankfully the man born to be Bond acquits himself exquisitely. Brosnan`s claim on the Walther, whether that is the PPK of old or the more contemporary P99, is secure. As it stands Tomorrow Never Dies, the eighteenth official 007 movie from EON productions, is truly a greatest hits collection for Commander Bond. The elements, so sorely missed by the audiences of Licence To Kill are all back in force. Bond is magnificently politically incorrect, although Brosnan has been able to add the human side that was desired in both Lazenby and Dalton. The key is that the task of making Bond more vulnerable does not mean that the baby must be thrown out with the bath-water.

Like Dalton before him, we see Brosnan portraying a Bond racked with a desire for vengeance, but this time the agent never forgets who he is and what his role must be. To keep him from drowning in the sea of violence that crashes around him, Bond still remembers the power of a bad pun and the schoolboy sense of adventure that also manages to keep him alive.

While the need for nostalgia which keeps the franchise alive is obviously present throughout his latest mission, Tomorrow Never Dies does break from the past in small ways. The much-maligned Jonathan Pryce simply does not deserve the criticism leveled against his portrayal of media baron Elliot Carver. It has been claimed that Carver fails to live up to the larger than life villains of yesteryear. The question must be asked whether this is such a bad thing. Carver does not command respect and loyalty by pure charisma, but a sinister mixture of corruption and avarice. His double-persona, one of a public figure striving for world media-domination and the other a puppet-master manipulating the public and governments alike to ensure total monopoly, is far more chilling that the mania of Drax or the psychopathic tendencies of Max Zorin. If ever there is an ogre for the nineties, it is the gently spoken man who hides his villainy behind rimless designer spectacles.

Carver`s accomplices are unfortunately more of a mixed batch. Gupta, the techno-terrorist played by magician Ricky Jay is easily forgettable in the light of GoldenEye`s brilliant Boris and Stamper is yet another Red Grant clone. Thankfully, Vincent Schiavelli`s Dr Kaufman is a touch of pure genius and easily the best henchmen since the camp assassins Mr Kidd and Mr Wint of Diamonds Are Forever fame.

With other elements combining to provide the thrills we all expected Director Roger Sporriswoode provides us with the sensation of slipping into a pair of nuclear powered slippers, although his use of slow motion is unnecessary and ultimately jarring in the final action scenes. Dame Judy Dench once again takes on the mantle of M and this time the relationship between her and 007 is of full respect, with more understanding than has ever existed between Bond and his superior. Likewise, while Desmond Llwewlyn`s Q is obviously having even more difficulty with the new-fangled modern equipment that his department has to provide, the actor seems far more together than the embarrassment of the previous film. Whether, he can be brought back again has yet to be seen. The difficult job of replacing the franchise`s most loved character may be a even more awesome task than finding a new 007 himself.

The final icing on the cake is David Arnold`s score, which, like the film itself, takes much of its inspiration from the past. Those who become bored of the constant activity and outlandish stunts can play spot the John Barry theme as Arnold continually suggests, but never truly plagiarises, the master of the Bond score.

Of course no film is perfect. The attempt to deglamorise Bond after the over-styled GoldenEye is misguided. Brosnan can quite easily perform stunts while wearing an immaculate three piece suit, complete with handkerchief, so there was no need to strip him from it this time round. Also, the media theme is surprisingly underused. Where is the juxtaposition of Carver`s televised narrative of the final shootout providing a sharp contrast to the events on the Stealth ship? This is truly a missed opportunity.

Also, while Bond is a trained killer, do we have to see him so dispassionate about the mass murder which he causes at every turn? This is the territory of Bruce Willis not the Queen`s finest secret agent.

As for the revolutionary leading lady, while there is no doubt that Michelle Yeoh is a fine actress who can handle the fight scenes as well as any stunt double, Chinese agent Wai Lin is hardly the break from the norm that was promised. Too similar to the character of Major Anya Amasova in The Spy Who Loved Me, Wai Lin is surely only this strong to prove how skillful our own agent actually is. She is the best, and therefore Bond must naturally be better.

Aside from this, Tomorrow Never Dies is exactly what a James Bond feature should be – Pure unadulterated escapism with lashes of explosive fantasy and one of the best cars since the Db5. There is one thing you can be sure of- James Bond will return.

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