3.5 of 5 stars
I know I’m in the minority of Bond fans who like Tomorrow Never Dies, and I acknowledge it’s far from the best in the series, but it’s a movie that does everything right. I like pretty much everything about this film. I think the reason a lot of fans felt let down by Tomorrow Never Dies is because the fantastic reboot, GoldenEye, had raised expectations, and when the series seemed to revert back into the direction of the Roger Moore films with this latest one, fans feared the worst for the series.
Tomorrow Never Dies stars Jonathan Pryce as Rupert Murdoch, a megalomaniacal media mogul who plans to instigate a war between China and the U.K. to boost his network’s ratings, while also putting a corrupt Chinese general in power, who will give Murdoch exclusive broadcasting rights in China for the next century. Bond teams up with Chinese spy Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh) to stop Murdoch’s Blofeldian scheme before all hell breaks loose.
Pierce Brosnan found his footing as Bond in his second outing. I couldn’t get a feel for his character or approach to Bond in GoldenEye. Here he is cracking one-liners and seems more comfortable donning Bond’s tux. While the wisecracking spy seems to bring back uncomfortable memories of Roger Moore, Brosnan has more screen presence than Moore. His physicality makes him more convincing in the role, so the quips that would sound cheesy coming from Moore lend a certain personality to Brosnan.
The movie is also thoroughly fun, from the opening sequence in which Bond shoots (and then flies) his way out of an arms bazaar, to the motorcycle chase from a helicopter through the streets of “Saigon” (definitely not Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City) in the middle, to the confrontation at the end on a stealth boat caught between the British and Chinese militaries in Ha Long Bay. There’s also a breathtaking HALO jump, and a car chase through a parking garage that manages to balance humor and action perfectly.
My favorite part, perhaps, is Bond’s confrontation with Dr. Kaufman, played by the late-great character actor Vincent Schiavelli. The scene unfolds perfectly and is a good example of “plant and payoff.”
That’s not to say the film is without problems. There’s yet another muscular blond European henchman who may or may not be the same guy who played Hans in You Only Live Twice and Necros in The Living Daylights. I get they need a henchman whose hair color is different from Bond’s so we can understand who is doing what in quick-cut action sequences, but all the Robert Shaw imitations get tiring. There is also an underwater level that I get mixed up with the ones in Thunderball and For Your Eyes Only.
Some of Bond’s quips incite groans rather than laughs. At one point, he tosses an anonymous bad guy into a printing press, causing it to spew out bloody newspaper. Bond says, ‘They’ll print anything these days.’ I guess I should give the writers credit for not having him say: ‘What’s black and white and red all over? A newspaper with a dead man’s blood all over it!’
Tomorrow Never Dies is an exciting, and, just as important, competent Bond film that clocks in nicely at just under two hours. The worse thing anyone can say about it is it’s not GoldenEye.