Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

Roger Spottiswoode directs Pierce Brosnan, Jonathan Pryce and Michelle Yeoh in the spy action adventure where 007 faces down a media tycoon orchestrating WWIII.

The strangely overlooked Bond… even though it hits the formula neatly and delivers everything you want with excessive elan. Action-wise, TND spoils us with five standout sequences. Bond’s ticking clock escape from the illegal arms fair has to be the best cold open of the franchise. The remote controlled BMW chase gives Brosnan the chance to gleefully show off his gadgets. A handcuffed leap from a skyscraper penthouse is iconic. The ensuing motorbike chases through the streets and rooftops of Saigon is a showstopper. Bond and Wai Lin (still handcuffed together) dodging swarms of bullets and helicopter rotas while trying to gain the upper hand on the handlebars is a true marvel of the EON second unit machine. Then we get an elongated Bond destroys a secret base finale… only the base is a stealth ship fitted with drill torpedos and stinger missiles. For a lad raised on Die Hard and Commando, this feels like the first Bond to overtake the napalm and uzis of the Joel Silver / Carolco age! I’d struggle to think of any single blockbuster with two set pieces to match the arms fair escape and shackled motorbike pursuit in terms of crisp storytelling, spectacular stunts and sustained, escalating threat. OK… Terminator 2 but for a tentpole’s action to be mentioned in the same breath as Cameron’s masterwork…

This is the entry where Brosnan relaxed into the part. He was always a perfect fit for the role combining Connery’s machismo, with Moore’s sauve wink and Dalton’s more dramatic romantic. There’s no area where Brosnan lacks. I’m a broken record but it was the films that let the star down rather than vice versa. Tomorrow Never Dies is the true exception. It delivers everything you could want from a Fleming adventure while keep a pace with the modern market. The Broccolis have the precision down to a fine art here. Globetrotting, luxury, style, humour, gadgets, comic book geopolitics. Beautiful girls…

Two stand-out Bond women. Women… a rarity for the franchise. The broken hearted former flame in Paris Carver. Teri Hatcher is maturely glamorous as Carver’s wife and James’ past. After a chemistry filled pair of scenes (the actors didn’t get along on set allegedly), she is fridged. Less to drive Bond on further into the plot or “make it personal” but for a narrative ignorance as to what to do with her. We’ve already had to gloss over the idea that the villain isn’t the usual asexual tyrant we are primed for.

And we have already met Bond’s equal in Wai Lin. Chinese secret service, kick-ass but happy to team up for peace. Yeoh is one of the most enduring stars to play a Bond squeeze -she is comfortable with stunts, fighting, jokes and looking amazing. She probably is one of the best Bond girls because she isn’t just a girl. The movie’s biggest flaws are when in the explosive finale that Bond has to (HAS TO) save his capable equal a few times. Ruining the one element that could have made Tomorrow Never Dies revolutionary rather than merely rollicking.

Still the history books and critics can have Goldeneye. I know Bonds have more fun when they are ejecting co-pilots from one Mig up into another. And I didn’t even get to mention the legendary ‘cunning linguist’ pun or Vincent Schiavelli’s one scene, movie stealer assassin Dr. Kaufman.


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