“There’s no news, like bad news.”
Pierce Brosnan’s Bond film go in order of how good they are, getting worse the longer they go on. Goldeneye is his best, Die Another Day is his worst, and that means Tomorrow Never Dies is his second best. Well that’s what most people think, in my opinion TND is at least as good as Goldeneye. First things first, the film starts with a pre-credit sequence that is arguably the best of the later Bond films. Bond is surveying a terrorist arms bazaar for MI6, but the navy make the call to blow it up. Bond has to fight his way out and stop nuclear missiles detonating. So he flies the missiles out and what ensues is an awesome mid air fight between Bond and an enemy fighter plane. This sequence is classic Bond; some awesome action sprinkled with quips, all of which hit their mark.
The plot of the film see’s media mogul Elliot Carver trying to manipulate the UK and China so they come to blows and trigger World War 3. It see’s Bond travelling from London, to Hamburg to Vietnam (actually Phuket where The Man With The Golden Gun was filmed), but unlike some of the earlier Bond films, the locations are second to the plot. The aspect of the villain wanting to start WW3 is similar to other Bond films, such as Stromberg’s plan in The Spy Who Loved me, but it’s different in TND as Carver is doing it to get ratings and news coverage for his media network. Yeah, when it comes down to it the plot is stupid. But the film does it’s best to make it sound plausible, and it becomes more believable with the awesomely hammy performance of Jonathan Pryce as Elliot Carver. The character of Carver might be based on real world media barons like Rupert Murdoch, but Pryce’s performance is completely unique. It’s a brilliantly hammed up performance that elevates a part that could be boring. He doesn’t have any deformities, he doesn’t have a completely implausible evil lair, but what he does have is a kick ass stealth boat and some evil henchmen. The best of these would have to be Stamper played by Götz Otto, a 6.5ft bleach blond, eastern European, insane psychopath in the vein of Red Grant in From Russia With Love. He is the physical threat to Bond in this film but along with him there is also Stamper’s hilarious torture mentor Dr. Kaufman played by Vincent Schiavelli. He only has a small scene but it’s really great and Bond takes him out in a surprising cold manner. There is also the brains of the operation Henry Gupta played by magician Ricky Jay, who had a lot of his awesome scenes cut but in the deleted scenes he is lethal with a pack of cards. The Bond girls in TND carry on the good streak the films had going, for the most part. Lois Lane herself; Teri Hatcher Paris Carver, the wife of Elliot Carver, and she turns in an average performance. She is perhaps underused, despite being a driving point for the story. A much better Bond girl is Wai Lin (who later became the bane of my childhood as an indestructible Nightfire multiplayer bot) played by Michelle Yeoh. Wai Lin is a Chinese secret agent to rival Bond himself and gets her own share of fight scenes, bringing a martial arts twist to a lot of them. Finally, Pierce Brosnan as the man himself. Brosnan plays Bond with the charm of Roger Moore and the cold ruthless of Timothy Dalton. In TND he appears more confident in the role of Bond and turns in his best performance. For that reason alone I believe TND to be on par with the awesome Goldeneye.
Tomorrow Never Dies also has some brilliant action set pieces as well, such as the amazing remote controlled BMW chase through a multi-storey car park in Hamburg. This scene is a good example of why James Bond films are as great as they are. It’s an awesome action scene that’s funny and creative and it is my favourite moment in the Brosnan era Bond films. Another great scene is the finale aboard Carver’s stealth boat, where Bond and Wai Lin take on Carver’s personal army. The scene could have been a by the numbers action film finale, but because of great direction, some funny moments and a just all together awesome set up the scene is brilliant. As well as that, the film contains an awesome score by David Arnold that mainly consists of an original score mixed with the James Bond theme, making it a great accompaniment to the action scenes.
The Bottom Line: Tomorrow Never Dies is an underrated Bond film that is often considered a weaker sequel after Goldeneye, but I disagree, I actual prefer it to Goldeneye. Its got a laughably over the top villain, but never so much as to ruin the film, a great Bond girl, some great henchmen and it’s got some particularly awesome action. It could be said that it doesn’t break any new ground for a Bond film and is just a formulaic Bond film. While that is true, I think it’s a film similar to The Spy Who Loved Me; it’s the classic Bond movie formula but it’s an example of the where the Bond formula works extremely well.
Up next – The World is not Enough