Directed by Roger Spottiswoode
James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) must stop media mogul Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) from starting World War III in an effort to get exclusive broadcast rights in China.
Pierce Brosnan returns for a second outing as James Bond. It is a strong second outing with a big enough plot and an over the top enough villain for Bond to go up against. We even get a little look at James Bond’s past with the introduction of Paris Carver (Terry Hatcher), Elliot’s trophy wife and former lover of Bond. This was the first time I can recall a Bond Girl showing up that meant something to 007 beyond the context of the mission.
Tomorrow Never Dies, when it comes to the action, is a mix of kung fu and the usual James Bond schtick of gadgets and fisticuffs. Michelle Yeoh provides the kung fu aspect of this as Colonel Wai Lin of Chinese Intelligence. She was perhaps the first Bond Girl that Bond spent extensive time around that he did not ever sleep with. Thinking back on the long James Bond history up until that point I cannot think of any other Bond Girl that appeared in a Bond film that he was attracted to that he did not eventually seduce or it is implied that he will eventually seduce. There’s flirtation between Wai Lin and Bond but never any actual sex, actual or implied, between the characters. Bond matured without really changing.
Jonathan Pryce as a villain is a welcome surprise. I only knew him from handful of car commercials at that time and could not fathom why they would cast him, but he was well cast as a maniacal villain willing to start a war to earn a buck. The only thing that really bothered me and still bothers me to this very second is whenever his character is using the keyboard on one of his handheld devices it is painfully obvious he is not typing anything in. You can tell he is just hitting random spots on the prop. It would have been best if he had typed in what he was actually supposed to be typing in or they never shot him using a device. Too often actors forget to act when they type. It totally takes me out of the moment.
I cannot say it was ever a big Joe Don Baker fan but as CIA officer Jack Wade who is essentially the Felix Leiter replacement is pretty good here. This was the kind of character he has the skills to best play. A little bit of a jerk but a charming jerk. Wade is the kind of asshole you would be okay with having around.
Bond villain henchmen are as important as the main villain themselves. They need to be something special and have a gimmick or standout characteristic. Their oddity needs to be something that implies how they ended up working for a supervillain. My favorite here is Vincent Schiavelli as Dr. Kaufman. Schiavelli was at the height of his character actor fame back then. There has a bit of creep to the character here as well as some humor when he learns he must interrogate Bond in order to open up the BMW. It is a silly moment that could only work in a Bond movie.
Stamper (Götz Otto) is the bigger than should be real enforcer of Elliot Carver. If you want a German henchman in your movie you MUST make him look like a Nazi’s wet dream. He ranks right up there with Jaws in onscreen toughness.
This is a small thing to notice but future star Gerard Butler makes a very brief appearance here in the beginning aboard the HMS Devonshire as a seaman just before it is destroyed by the weird torpedo. You cannot miss it now that he is famous. He is a little skinnier but that same voice is still there. I actually had to rewind it several times and triple check.
I remember some brouhaha from fans of the series over Sheryl Crow singing the theme song, but I think she does a fantastic job here. It is a little slow and bluesy, but it is not a bad Bond theme song. It is not the worst but better than some of the more recent offerings.
This is a rare instance that Q (Desmond Llewelyn) got out of the office in one of the films. Usually he is doing his gadget cutaway on a set but here he was out in the field. Desmond Llewelyn is sorely missed in the Bond films. He had a playful attitude throughout his entire run. He clearly enjoyed himself while adding a fun and playful character that was a friendly mad scientist.
The plot felt a little ludicrous back then, but most Bond plots were and it does not matter. At least the good ones were anyway but these days the plot feels a little more possible which is kind of scary.
Tomorrow Never Dies is a good Bond film. The script is strong, and the story is well paced. You get plenty of action and all the usual things you expect from Bond. Pierce Brosnan continued his slightly more serious take on the character here. He was the happy medium between Roger Moore and what Timothy Dalton was doing. This is a good Bond film.