Twenty years ago this month, the 18th official James Bond film – the second to star Pierce Brosnan as 007 – , Tomorrow Never Dies, premiered in movie theatres across the world. How does it hold up today?
After a lengthy but exciting pre-credits sequence in which Bond blows up a terrorist arms bazaar on the Russian border, a British warship is steered without their knowledge into forbidden Chinese waters. Lured there by a stolen encoder , the British battleship is sunk by a stealth ship under the control of media tycoon Eliot Carver (a slightly prissy Jonathan Pryce). Carver’s plan is to blame the sinking on the Chinese and set off a war between China & Britain that’ll produce great ratings for his various media press operations, as well as massive loss of life.
With the two powers about to go to war, MI6 head M (Judi Dench) assigns Bond to infiltrate Carver’s empire through the mogul’s wife Paris (Terri Hatcher), a former girl friend of Bond’s. Carver’s not fooled however, and Bond quickly finds himself in danger, aided only by a mysterious Chinese woman, Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh) and various gadgets from Q Branch. Will Bond be able to prevent World War III? Hey, it’s a Bond flick, right?
Media tycoons such as William Randolph Hearst, Robert Maxwell and the still living Rupert Murdoch were the obvious inspirations for the Carver character, and with the current political situation in this country, it’s still, after two decades, not hard to conceive a media empire setting up events for their own gain (hello Fox News!). Tomorrow Never Dies is pretty much prescient in that department. But the film is more concerned with entertaining the audience and doesn’t dwell too much on social-political subtext.
Instead director Roger Spottiswoode and screenwriter Bruce Feirstein (plus some other uncredited writers) focus on one fast paced action sequence after another. Brosnan carries himself well in his second outing as 007, although the rest of the cast is uneven, with only Yeoh and Vincent Schiavelli (in a great, darkly humorous performance as Carver’s meticulous but deadly assassin Dr. Kaufman) standing out. The various stunts, especially Yeoh’s fight scenes and Bond’s remote controlled BMW, are well directed.
So yeah, Tomorrow Never Dies still holds up after all these years. Definitely check it out!
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