Tomorrow Never Dies, the eighteenth installment in the James Bond franchise, the longest running franchise in film continues the path that Goldeneye laid out in its resurgence of the franchise after a 6-year hiatus. In his second turn at Bond, Pierce Brosnan looks more comfortable as the fictional MI6 agent than he looked in the previous film Goldeneye. Brosnan makes playing Bond look effortless as if it’s his everyday job and he moonlights as an actor to pass the time when bored. He brings everything to the table that past actors have brought before, not adding his own unique trait but not ripping off a previous Bond either.
Of course, Brosnan was sought out to succeed Moore back then but past one the role. Why not bring the franchise back to the glory days with a modern spin on it – that’s exactly what was done. Bringing Bond into a modern post-Cold War setting reflects exactly what the franchise has done since the very beginning – taking global situations and adding the James Bond flair to it. Since Connery what male didn’t want to be James Bond, who doesn’t idolize the character wishing they could have the skills that James has. His smooth-talking seduction that makes any woman weak in the knees, the skill in combat, piloting aircraft, the courage and bravery to stare danger straight in the face and give it a wink and a smirk.
The franchise has come a long way since 1962 with Dr. No especially with how the women characters are handled. The more misogynistic undertone that each screenplay was written with has changed with how the world views women throughout the decades. As the franchise progressed, the importance of the women to the story has grown exponentially – giving them more to do than just be a pretty face and the target of James’s affections as the damsel in distress. The signature Bond girl is still there, a character the franchise will never give up.
In the decades leading up to Tomorrow Never Dies, James (Pierce Brosnan) has faced his fair share of psychotic, megalomaniacal villains looking to conquer the globe by any means necessary, playing God as billionaires with too much time on their hands wasting their potential and fortune when they could be helping millions of people. And over the years, the fair share of A-lister’s have played opposite Bond as the current villain. Tomorrow Never Dies features Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce), a media mogul looking to entice countries into a potential global World War III for the sake of having the exclusive scoop on bringing the news to the globe.
Drug smugglers, maniac’s, criminal organizations and now the media is after Bond to stop him before he stops them. If anything is certain in life, its death, taxes, and James Bond will always come out on top. Its right there in the assembly line formula in which this franchise is made on. It hasn’t failed them in 35 years so there is no reason to experiment with anything different.
Even with the formulaic approach, each installment gets predictable, Tomorrow Never Dies is but another example of that. Opening the film is an explosive that spirals into the opening credits accompanied by an original song by the biggest musical artist that year paired with visuals that match the tone of the film. Next, James gets his orders from M (Dame Judi Dench), flirts with Miss Moneypenny (Samantha Bond) and gets a tour of whats new in the technology and gadgetry department from Q (Desmond Llewelyn). Finally, Bond meets the villain and his henchmen (the real villain in some films) Stamper (Götz Otto), gets captured in some fashion and seduces the villain’s wife or mistress – Paris Carver (Teri Hatcher).
In the meat and potatoes of the story, where the main plot is unfolding, Bond will come across another country’s special agent whom he works together with to take down the villain. That special agent here is Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh) who happens to be the Bond girl who is more than capable of defying gender roles and stereotypes while kicking ass and holding her own outnumbered in a fight.
The modern era of Bond has seen an emphasis centered around the action sequences and stunts. Tomorrow Never Dies has the best fight choreography of the franchise taking Asian fighting techniques and influence and applying them here. From all involved the stunt work is clean, its handled with utmost care to get an authentic feeling to it. And that’s in one of the many sequences that Bond and Wai Lin have over the course of 2 hours.
Falling right into that sweet spot of 119 minutes, the pacing is brisk, moving at a steady pace to keep the action and story progressing forward. For an action film like Tomorrow Never Dies the camera work moves just as fast as Bond’s mind does when coming up with plans and their contingencies.
With every new installment, the action set pieces unbelievably outdo the previous film – coming up with more death-defying ways to put Bond in the position to not make it out alive. In that are countless amounts of henchmen who can’t hit a target if their life depended on it. Bond villain henchmen are the new stormtroopers just with automatic weapons and not cheaply maid armor that wouldn’t stop a knife or bullet if it wanted to. I’m just saying – there are guys in a helicopter flying as close to a building’s rooftop as humanly possible going the same speed as the motorcycle Bond and Wai Lin are riding with automatic weapons and they still can’t hit them.
Tomorrow Never Dies is as entertaining as Bond films go. Many of the familiar tropes that have become normal to appear in an installment show up here and they all dazzle. Not as good as Goldeneye but close, Tomorrow Never Dies is led by a solid Pierce Brosnan in the titular role that he looks born to play. Full of one-liners, innuendo, and self-parody from smaller roles, the eighteenth film in the James Bond franchise lives up to the potential that was promised from the rebirth. I almost don’t mind if SPECTRE or Blofeld don’t make a return at this point.
Connery may be the best Bond, but Dame Judi Dench is the best M. There’s no debate.
Written By: Bruce Feirstein
Directed By: Roger Spottiswoode
Music By: David Arnold
Cinematography: Robert Elswit
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Jonathan Pryce, Michelle Yeoh, Teri Hatcher, Dame Judi Dench, Desmond Llewelyn, Samanta Bond
Release Date: December 12, 1997
Running Time: 1 Hour 59 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 56%
My Score: 3 out of 5