Tuesday, August 4, 2015

#1,814. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

Directed By: Roger Spottiswoode

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Jonathan Pryce, Michelle Yeoh

Tag line: "The Man. The Number. The License...are all back"

Trivia: Monica Bellucci read for the role of Paris Carver

Pulse-pounding action has always been the cornerstone of the James Bond series, yet very few (if any) of the previous entries come close to matching the high-octane excitement of 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies. This film is thrilling with a capital “T”.

The HMS Devonshire, a UK frigate, is attacked and sunk off the coast of Vietnam. As far as the British High Command is concerned, the Chinese are to blame, and they consider this tragedy an act of war. But the sinking was actually engineered by Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce), head of the world’s largest media corporation, who, with the help of a stealth ship and a satellite transponder, lured the Devonshire into hostile waters, then tore it apart with a specialized torpedo (equipped with rotating saws). Carver’s ultimate plan is to spark a war between Britain and China, one he hopes will result in a new government taking control of the Communist country (China is the only nation to deny Carver access to their airwaves). To avoid a global conflict, MI6 assigns its top agent, James Bond (Pierce Brosnan), to keep an eye on the deranged mogul. As luck would have it, 007 was once romantically involved with Carver’s wife, Paris (Teri Hatcher), who may have some ideas as to what her husband’s next move might be. Joining forces with Colonel Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh), his counterpart in China, Bond works quickly to expose Carver’s plan in the hopes doing so will prevent the outbreak of a new World War.

As he was in Goldeneye, Brosnan is simultaneously tough and suave as the iconic lead character, combining the rugged determination of Connery’s Bond with the wit and charm of Moore’s, and he’s surrounded by a top-notch supporting cast. Jonathan Pryce does a fine job as the man you love to hate, Elliot Carver, a megalomaniac whose desire to control the world’s media has driven him to the brink of insanity, and Götz Otto is imposing as hell in the role of Carver’s henchman, Richard Stemper, a tall, blonde German who’s mastered the art of Chakra torture. Tomorrow Never Dies also delivers a pair of super-sexy Bond girls in Teri Hatcher and Michelle Yeoh (of the two, Yeoh gives the standout performance, playing one of the only female characters in the entire series who'd likely beat Bond in a fight), and Judy Dench continues to impress as “M”, maintaining the icy exterior and ballsy attitude that made her such an excellent addition to Goldeneye. Desmond Llewellyn returns once again as “Q” (admittedly looking a bit too old for the part), who provides 007 with a brand new BMW (which, aside from the usual perks, can be driven by remote control) and a cell phone that, in an emergency, can emit a charge of 20,000 volts. Also keep an eye out for Vincent Schiavelli, who makes a brief appearance as Dr. Kaufman, a professional hit man hired by Carver to kill Bond (his single scene was, in my opinion, one of the highlights of the film).

Then, of course, there’s the action, and Tomorrow Never Dies has plenty of it, from a pre-title sequence that pits Bond against a small army of terrorists to a car chase set inside a parking garage, where 007 gets a chance to test his vehicle’s remote control. There’s even a martial arts showdown (where Yeoh’s Wai Lin dukes it out with some enemy operatives) and, perhaps most impressive of all, a scene in which Bond and Wai Lin, handcuffed together at the wrist, hop on a motorcycle and try to outrun a helicopter that's chasing them through the streets of Bangkok. All this, plus the usual thrill-a-minute finale, makes Tomorrow Never Dies one hell of an entertaining ride.

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