The vault can’t get enough James Bond! It was just one month ago that Timothy Dalton’s The Living Daylights was featured in honor of Global James Bond Day. Today, on the opening of Bond’s twenty-third film, Skyfall, I reached into the hat and pulled out a worthy Bond title to feature.
Egomaniacal media mogul Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) is poised to launch the Carver Media Group’s satellite news network with the tragic, breaking news of an impending war between China and Great Britain. He knows this because his henchmen, Henry Gupta (Ricky Jay) and Stamper (G?tz Otto), have instigated the entire incident on his behalf by sinking the HMS Devonshire and destroying a Chinese fighter jet. As the British Royal Navy mobilizes to confront the Chinese fleet in the South China Sea, M (Judi Dench) orders her top agent, James Bond (Pierce Brosnan), to uncover the truth. With only forty-eight hours before the advent of World War III, Bond finds himself teamed with fellow spy, Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh) of the Chinese People’s External Security Force, to stop the presses on this madman’s war for ratings.
Tomorrow Never Dies may be my favorite of Brosnan’s Bond films. That by no means earns it the mantle of an excellent Bond film along the lines of the classic Goldfinger or the contemporary Casino Royale, but Tomorrow strikes an entertaining chord. It also helps that it clocks in just under two hours, which upon its release was the first Bond film to have done so in over twenty-five years.
I’ll admit it is rife with problems. The other Bond Girl, Paris Carver (Teri Hatcher), is a waste of a character. It’s made better thanks to Brosnan and Hatcher adding the appropriate tone of emotional baggage to their characters’ reunion, but she serves little purpose beyond pointing the way to Bond’s next action sequence at the printing presses. That’s where Bond and the audience discover Wai Lin is a Chinese spy, and a totally bad ass one at that. But I digress. On par with the poorly drawn Paris is Stamper. Stamper’s big and menacing, but audiences are never given a sequence early on in which to fear him. Sure, he guns down over a dozen innocent men, but any two bit schmo can flail a gun around.
Tomorrow‘s major issue is its perplexing plot points. After Bond retrieves a stolen GPS Encoder from Carver’s safe, how do the villains know he’s locked it in his car without searching him? Why is Bond’s BMW equipped with a cable cutter installed at exactly the height he needs to avoid the thugs’ trap? Better yet, why would a manipulative character like Carver chose to be aboard his stealth ship to personally initiate World War III? He’s pompous, but he’s a hands-off villain. The only reason he’s there is to make it easier for Bond to shove a rolled-up newspaper where the sun don’t shine.
I’ll concede that contrivance because at least audiences don’t have to watch Bond spend ten more minutes playing pocket pool before embarking on a post-climax killing spree to bring the baddie to justice. These weaknesses spur from?Tomorrow‘s entire script being scrapped just days before filming. Apparently Pryce, who chews up the scenery with his cheeky wordplay and countless cliches, replaced Anthony Hopkins who was frustrated by the production’s disarray and lack of a script.
Being an action fiend, I forgive these weak characters and story because Brosnan is still a smooth and capable Bond. Q (Desmond Llewelyn) loads him up with nifty gadgets that solve the exact set of complications he encounters. Bond remotely driving his beamer from the backseat is one of the most entertaining sequences to watch.
It’s not nearly as much fun as watching Bond working alongside Yeoh’s Wai Lin who is every bit as resourceful and skilled a spy as he is. Yeoh portrays Lin as capable, tough as nails, sometimes playful, and sexy. Bond does come to her rescue on a couple of occasions, but she’s a strong enough character that one can assume it’s good timing on his part more so than her need to be saved. It’s an excellent pairing, and one that makes me wish producers had greenlit the Wai Lin film series they considered.
In Tomorrow Never Dies, Brosnan-Bond reigns down a metric ton of destruction and witticisms on Carver and his minions with quickness and ferocity. It isn’t the best of the Bond films, but it’s one you can lose yourself in its fun, fast-paced action.