Age Rating (UK/US): 12A / PG-13
Last night I re-watched Pierce Brosnan’s second James Bond movie and the 18th in the series, Tomorrow Never Dies, following my earlier review of his debut movie, Goldeneye.
Note: This review does contain some spoilers.
The movie’s pre-credits sequence has Bond breaking into a gathering of terrorists looking to sell their armaments near the Russian border. The military decide to send a missile in to take out the world’s terrorists in one strike but Bond notices a plane equipped with nuclear missiles at the gathering so stages a last minute intervention to get the plane before the missile hits. It’s a very exciting opening scene and does have a loose connection to the films plot – the films secondary villain, Henry Gupta, is introduced and he has an encoder used by navigation satellites to track ships which is a part of the main movie’s plot.
After the typical Bond song (performed this time by Sheryl Crow) the movie then goes to the South China Sea where the HMS Devonshire is sailing when two Chinese migs state that the ship is in Chinese waters and must turn back or they will open fire. The navy on board state that they are in international waters. However a mysterious boat offshore in the ownership of media mogul Elliot Carver is playing both sides off against each other. He has employed Gupta and it appears they have used the encoder to send the ship off course, they then use a drill to sink the British ship and steal one of it’s missiles. Finally, they fire a missile at the Chinese migs to provoke a crisis between the two countries, whilst also allowing Carver to write headlines about the crisis before any other publication can do so.
Back in the UK, a small crisis is brewing with the military keen to attack China and send in a fleet. M however favours moderation and wants to investigate a mysterious signal they picked up around the time the ship sank. When Bond arrives with the Tomorrow newspaper which has reported on the deaths from the shipwreck already, only 3 hours after the bodies were found, M tasks Bond to go to Hamburg to investigate Carver. This will also cause him to cross paths with his wife Paris, played by Teri Hatcher, who is Bond’s former love interest.
Whilst at the party we also meet the mysterious Chinese agent Wai Lin, played by Michelle Yeoh but as they investigate it becomes clear that Carver is using China and Britain to escalate a crisis which will allow him to expand his media network into China.
I have always really enjoyed the Pierce Brosnan James Bond movies as he was my first introduction into the Bond series and I do still really enjoy this movie.
One of the biggest strengths of this movie for me is definitely it’s action sequences which are all very exciting and the movie has plenty of them which are all very well thrilling to watch. My favourite is still the bike chase through the streets of Saigon where Bond and Wai Lin are handcuffed to each other so have to work together to escape Carver’s helicopters and cars which makes for a really exciting scene that continually ups the ante and there are also some interesting character beats during this scene where both characters want to take the lead and direct the other one.
Bond’s gadgets also include a remote controlled car from his phone which he uses in a very exciting car chase around a multi-storey car park in Hamburg (as an aside, isn’t it always strange how Bond always gets exactly the gadgets he needs in these movies?). There is also a mesmerising HALO jump from a plane where Bond jumps from a plane to investigate what sank the Devonshire.
Speaking of Wai Lin I also have to mention Michelle Yeoh as she was praised at the time as being a real highlight of the movie and I do wish that you could see more of her in this as she is a very interesting character (which also makes it all the more shocking to realise the Bond producers did plan a spin off series with her which I wish they had done but sadly wasn’t to be). Whilst there has been Bond girls in the series before where they tried to make them Bond’s equal, such as Agent Triple X and Dr. Holly Goodhead – it genuinely feels in this movie that Wai Lin is genuine Bond’s counterpart as she makes her own escapes and has a very exciting fight sequence in the middle of the movie.
Teri Hatcher’s Paris Carver is also an interesting character. Though her screen time is limited, the fact she has a previous history with Bond makes for an interesting dynamic that distinguishes her from most of the other Bond girls (to my mind it’s only Eunice Gayson’s Sylvia Trench and Lea Seydoux’s Madeline Swann that have had a history with Bond across more than one movie).
The movie does have some ridiculousness and some contrivances within the plot – I do find it strange for example that Gupta is a tech genius but MI6 pick up the signal at the beginning of the movie from Carver’s satellite when you would’ve thought Gupta would be able to mask it in some way.
Moreover, the third act of the movie from when Bond and Wai Lin get captured to the stealth boat all seems to happen on the same day as Carver says to them he moved up his timeline to midnight but it seems that Ha Long Bay is miles away from the previous scenes so it seems odd the timing of this part of the movie.
Also the main villain of Elliot Carver who is also a bit of a Rupert Murdoch figure, whilst it is interesting from a thematic point of view of the media manipulating the narrative for his gain, Jonathan Pryce to me comes across as a bit cartoonish as the villain and in the line of Bond villains isn’t really the best or that memorable.
Whilst it is an enjoyable movie and the action scenes definitely make it worth a look, I would recommend Goldeneye as the better of Brosnan’s early Bond movies.