Welcome to your briefing 007. Your mission: Tomorrow Never Dies. The HMS Devonshire has sunk in the South China Sea, miles from where they thought they were. We suspect the media giant Elliot Carver and his newsgroup may have something to do with it, inciting World War III for the sake of selling newspapers. You have 48 hours 007 before we launch a counter against the Chinese. Work fast and get to the bottom of this, or else we may find ourselves a world at war.
The film opens in a fairly novel way, in war room with M and her cronies observing a highly dangerous secret mission by one of her agents, codename “White Knight”. It is slowly revealed that, of course, it is our man Bond, hiding out in the mountains at a terrorist pow-wow. But after the British fire a missile to take the encampment out, it is revealed that nuclear warheads are present, and Bond must take on the whole group by himself, hijack a jet, and fly it out of there. There is exciting action and the mystery of the scene heightens the tension a great deal.
The opening theme song, performed by Sheryl Crow is an interesting one to say the least. I can’t say with conviction that Crow is the artist I would have imagined doing a Bond theme song, or even performing this particular song, yet it seems to work quite well. The song comes off as kind of cheesy in my opinion and yet it really got me and I enjoy it a great deal.
South China Sea; Hamburg, Germany; China
Joe Don Baker reprises his role as the CIA contact of Bond, Jack Wade, and provides just as little, or perhaps even less, than he did in GoldenEye. He has a couple funny lines, looks goofy, and connects Bond with the necessary personnel who know more than Wade, and then he is gone just as quickly as he came. I also considered putting Wai Lin in this category, because in reality she is Bond’s closest and best ally in the film, but she is categorized more as a Bond girl, albeit a unique and altogether different kind, but more on that later.
Carver (Jonathan Pryce) is of course the main villain in this film. He is the media giant who is all a little too power hungry, even proclaiming that he could command the world with his words and satellites, therefore making him the supreme commander. He is clearly insane, as most villains in the series are, and he is not even really all that threatening and that is thanks to Pryce, whose characterization is all too ridiculous. He plays him in a very childish way that comes off as completely non-threatening and quite laughable. When I think Bond villain I do not think of the likes of Jonathan Pryce. Now I think some of that certainly had to do with the writing of the character, but Carver is the type of villain that just doesn’t work for me.
Stamper, the head henchman in the film, is far more threatening and menacing. Gotz Otto is a stone faced killer, which is both a positive and a negative. He helps to balance the animation of Carver with the cold and mysteriously somber Stamper, but he does come off as quite wooden from time to time, almost as if he exists only in the film and would never be considered a real person.
Dr. Kaufman is a really fun character, even if he is only in the film for one scene. Played wonderfully by the great character actor, Vincent Schiavelli, Dr. Kaufman is a hitman with talents of torture. He encounters Bond in his hotel room, speaks with a hilarious German accent, provides a few funny lines, and then is quickly thwarted by the Q technology provided for Bond. He doesn’t do much, but I’ll be darned if he isn’t memorable.
Q has his token one scene once again, the outfitting of Bond, which actually takes place on location in Hamburg Germany, but boy is it wonderful. The charm of Q is in his disdain for Bond and the humor with which he approaches their relationship, which has been aided greatly by the humor provided by Brosnan too. Q shows up as a Q service clerk at the airport, getting Bond into his “rental” car, which will be discussed later. But the fun gadgets he provides Bond are all on his handy mobile phone. He has a fingerprint scanner, a taser, and he can also control everything on his car with this amazing phone.
Wai Lin, played by Michelle Yeoh, is perhaps the toughest Bond girl to ever grace the screen in the series. I don’t think that automatically boosts her to the upper echelon of the list of Bond girls, but it definitely makes her unique, memorable, and awesome. It is soon revealed, after a nice mysteriousness to her popping up everywhere Bind is, that she is a Chinese secret agent, a counterpart to Bond. And she proves herself worthy, keeping up with Bond and sometimes even out smarting him. They are on the same mission: prevent Carver from starting World War III, and they soon form a great partnership and work really really well together. Wai Lin is one of the more interesting Bond girls for her martial arts expertise, even if that includes yelling out “hi-yah!” when shooting a machine gun.
Paris Carver is the result of a necessary character in the script. Someone has to feed Bond information in Elliot Carver, so why not make a character who is married to him, but has a history with Bond!? Played by a terrible Teri Hatcher, she is beautiful and very easy in terms of “pumping” her for information. I really do not like the character, despite how pretty Hatcher may be, so I guess I can say I was glad that she was dispatched from the proceedings as quickly as she was.
The Car & the Chase
Bond continues to use the German automobile, the BMW. This time it is the BMW 750, with obvious Q modifications, such as rockets, machine guns, sledgehammer/bullet-proof windows, and a remote control. Bond is able to control the car using a tough pad on his phone, which he uses quite efficiently in one particular chase scene, where he uses the capabilities to avoid the enemy and divert them by driving it off the roof of a parking garage, returning it, ironically, to an Avis.
There is also a second chase, but this time it involves a motorcycle, albeit a BMW, a nice touch from the filmmakers. Bond is handcuffed with Wai Lin and they must escape first from a car, and then from a helicopter in the streets of China. A difficult task, Bond is able to outsmart the baddies and it really is a pretty good chase scene overall.
After the triumphant success of GoldenEye, it was evident that the Bond series was back and much of that thanks to the new leading man, Pierce Brosnan. I really do think that what he has brought to the role was the main reason why the series came back with as big of a bang as it did. Absolutely, the filmmakers made some cool choices and helped revitalize the series that almost appeared dead after the exit of Timothy Dalton, which I still don’t entirely understand, but have come to accept at least. Brosnan has a great charisma about him. He comes across as confident bordering on cocky, which makes him that much more likable. But his ingenuity and penchant for confronting the enemy instead of trying to be the spy who snoops and then attacks makes his reputation that of a tough guy who is not afraid of conflict, and is capable of escaping almost any circumstance. His courage is commendable.
I think with the new era of Brosnan Bond, they have brought back the cool of Bond which was lost, starting with Roger Moore and continuing with the much more grounded Timothy Dalton films. They have returned to the bigger, better, Bond approach, which includes awesome gadgets, bigger plots, and awesome stunts/action. The difference between the Brosnan Bonds like this and those that Moore did, is that this time they are executed quite well. The films have their flaws, don’t get me wrong, but they are able to pull off the ridiculous and make it much more fun and cool than they did before with it. With Brosnan’s delivery, and I think it does have to do with him, I am able to suspend disbelief and just have a great, escapist, time with the film.
There is the cool weapons cache in China that Wai Lin has, which kind if made me droll, and plus the stealth ship! How freaking cool is that? A freaking stealth ship. I think it is a great idea and it really works. Everything really works in terms of the bad guys, their plot, everything is tied in nicely and seems to fit where it needs to. I think if I had a problem with it though, is that I just did not care for Carver and what he was trying to do. The idea of a certain kind of “yellow journalism”, manufactured by the media itself, is a great premise for a Bond film in the late 90s, but I felt they could have benefited from a more menacing villain. Think Charles Foster Kane instead of the nerdy, childish, whiny Elliot Carver. They made him too much of a caricature to make the idea of the film all that great. And Paris Carver is the same way.
However, I did like a good majority of the characters here and they really fuel the film to be as good as it is. The stunt work and action are great. There is a HALO jump for goodness sake. And plus all the martial arts provided by Michelle Yeoh, who is amazing to watch in action. Some of the other technical aspects are quite unremarkable, including the film’s score, which takes some really strange cues, especially in the opening scene which I found particularly awkward. It is a problem that subsides for the rest of the film for the most part, but the score is nothing more than average. I think Tomorrow Never Dies is a nice, middle of the road Bond that could have benefited with a little better writing from Bruce Feirstein, who helped write the first three Brosnan Bonds. Brosnan makes for a good Bond, providing really great moments both comedic and in terms of classic Bond moments, but I think this film is a good indication that his era as 007 might be cut short by poor screenwriting if anything else because I find him to be quite good in the role, but he still has two more installments before I can make that judgment.
James Bond will return in…
The World is Not Enough