Review: 'Tomorrow Never Dies' (1997) Dir. Roger Spottiswoode
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Pierce Brosnan returns as James Bond for another action / adventure taking on a dangerous and maniacal media baron...
When tensions escalate between Great Britain and China after a British warship is torpedoed and a Chinese fighter jet is shot down, both sides prepare for war. But MI6 suspect foul play. James Bond (Brosnan) is given just 48hrs by M (Dench) to investigate before the British fleet move in.
Bond suspects media mogul Elliot Carver (Pryce) has something to do with it, all for the benefit of his empire, the Carver Media Group and newspaper ‘Tomorrow’. Bond travels to Hamburg to apply pressure to not just Carver, but his wife and Bond’s old flame Paris (Hatcher).
Carver reacts and does his best to stop Bond digging deeper, but 007 finds he’s not the only government agent investigating. He crosses paths with Chinese Colonel Wai Lin (Yeoh), and both must work together to preserve peace and stop Carver before he starts World War III…
Pierce Brosnan returns as 007 to continue a new run of James Bond fever 35 years since ‘Dr.No’. Riding high after 1995’s ‘GoldenEye’ and his success in bringing Bond up to date for a new era and new audience, EON had to do bigger and better. The classic espionage was there, but layered underneath high-octane action, explosions and stunts. The series continued to produce a range of video games, books, clothes and toys – something never really seen before in the series for a long time, but cashing in on this new generation of fans taking in James Bond for the first time. This was a new era for a new action hero.
This time Bond is out to tackle the very identifiable foe of Media corruption and manipulation out to take the world to the brink of a nuclear war, all for the ratings. Jonathan Pryce is hamming it up for all his worth, but is a tad forgetful as our Bond villain who just hides behind computer screens and thin rimmed glasses to manipulate the world into a new war and doesn't really do much for us to fear or remember him by.
Carver is a very current and tongue-in-cheek villain, one that isn’t a million times removed from what you could expect to see in the real world.
With support from Teri Hatcher as Carver's wife Paris, Götz Otto as the hulking henchman Stamper and Judi Dench and Samantha Bond back as M and Miss. Moneypenny, it's another nice mix of actors. We do start to expand the roles of British Intelligence, with Colin Salmon as new Deputy Chief of Staff Charles Robinson and Geoffrey Palmer as Rear Admiral Roebuck – they all help build the world Bond lives and works in, giving us new relationships to enjoy on screen.
However, the villains are a mix of 90s action staples and Bond templates; faceless goons are on tap as machine gun toting heavies, and Otto is never going to be a menacing henchman the likes of Jaws or Oddjob was – there’s nothing that shouts Bond about him. He’s just big, German and could be from a ‘Die Hard’ movie. Many of the themes from the Brosnan Bond films catered to that 90s action genre over the true Bond template, even if there were many influences from the past. Maybe it was EON trying to adapt to a new generation of cinema goers who wanted more bang for their Bond buck?
It’s Michelle Yeoh who provides something a little fresher to proceedings as Colonel Wai Lin, equal and above to 007 in many ways. She doesn’t need to sleep with him to get ahead in the investigation, and instead is just as resourceful with bullets, brawn and brains when it comes to escaping deadly situations. She represents the strong Bond girls ten-fold, and is everything you wanted and more to go against Teri Hatcher as Paris, a trapped, diamond adorned lover of Bond’s who is limited to much else bar sipping champagne, wearing lingerie and having a cruel fate ahead.
Backed by an exciting soundtrack by new composer David Arnold who blends classic with contemporary and brass with synths, this is a fast-paced and exciting adventure in all forms whether we are jumping from the roof of a skyscraper, sabotaging a stealth boat or driving a BMW with a mobile phone remote control. Taking on from John Barry, Arnold seems to understand the staples of exciting and rousing Bond music to blend with original work to enhance what we see on screen. Safe to say, the crew don’t hold back when it comes to pushing the Bond boat out in terms of stunts and outrageous set pieces. It’s one thing that the Brosnan era pulled off so well in terms of scale and variety. Set pieces like a HALO jump and opening MIG / arms bazaar fight were stand out at the time and still remain strong moments now when looked back on.
Crossing both Europe and the Far East, ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ boasts a nice mix of locations that range from the hustle and bustle of cities dwarfed by skyscrapers, bustling streets (and rooftops) and the quaint but dangerous South China Sea. It also gave Brosnan his first go at an aquatic 007, with some deep sea diving and hunts for sunken warships.
Series long producer Albert R "Cubby" Broccoli sadly died during production of the film, his 18th James Bond adventure, so never got to see beyond this film and the legacy his work would continue to forge. It was also when daughter Barbara Broccoli and step-son Michael G. Wilson took over production of the series.
Playing off the tension between the United Kingdom and China, this is the most political of the Brosnan Bond films but uses it for great effect as a plot point – something appreciated more and more in the very reality based plot.
'Tomorrow Never Dies' is an EON Productions production