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Tomorrow Never Dies

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Tomorrow Never Dies

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Michelle Yeoh
Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 119 Minutes
Release Date: December 1997
Genres: 007, Action, Suspense, Thriller

*Also starring: Joe Don Baker, Teri Hatcher, Jonathan Pryce, Ricky Jay, Judi Dench, Gotz Otto, Desmond Llewelyn, Vincent Schiavelli

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Every schoolkid used to know how the U.S. got involved in the Spanish-American War. William Randolph Hearst, publisher of a right-wing syndicate of newspapers, publicized alleged atrocities which the Spanish were committing against the Cubans and, in bold headlines announcing that Spain had sun the battleship Maine, Hearst developed public support for military action. In "Tomorrow Never Dies" (the title coming from a song on the soundtrack of the 18th entry of the James Bond series), a billionaire media mogul takes this idea several steps further. As played with sardonic villainy by Jonathan Pryce, Elliot Carver, seeking to scoop the rest of the world's media, personally creates crises--having written the stories beforehand for immediate circulation. By this method, he expects his newspaper, "Tomorrow," to have an audience of one billion people and to gain exclusive rights to publish in China for the next hundred years.

In what could be taken as a sendup of the control which the media have over political developments, "Tomorrow Never Dies" displays a handsome, urbane Pierce Brosnan in the role of James Bond, now appearing quite comfortable in the part and perhaps ready to assume the identity of 007 for the next hundred as did Sean Connery in the previous period. His demeanor matches that of Roger Moore mroe than that of the Scotsman, and this would be desirable except for one thing: violence has replaced sex in the foreground, at least since Tim Dalton tried the role on for size, and therefore his particular refinement is somewhat wasted. Perhaps not knowing what to do to make Bond politically correct in concert with the times, scripter Bruce Feirstein has largely written sex and double-entendres out of the film replacing them with the more acceptable firepower. The movie, directed by Roger Spottiswoode, is solidly packed with action, has a fine array of special devices which the super-spy is instructed to use by agent Q, and fits the by-the-numbers technique which worked so well when Cubby Broccoli produced the bulk of the series. As Bond says at one point to his nemesis, Elliot Carver, "You forgot one rule: give the people what they want." Bet that the Bond fans still want the comfort of the formula which has worked so well in the past since "From Russia With Love" stirred and shook a wide audience.

Filmed largely in Thailand which at one point takes the place of Saigon and also in Hamburg, which is used as the center of Carver's media empire, "Tomorrow Never Dies" has the usual plot devices used successfully for thirty-five years. These include these details: The villain is not aligned with either of the major powers but is an independent third force. The principal miscreant dies before his supporting knave, the latter often a figure of great physical strength. The women are pliant (though not nearly as much so in today's political climate). Some stunning photography is exhibited in exotic world locales. Sexual double entendres barb the dialogue. The bad guy goes down to defeat even after capturing Bond and his associates because he talks when he should be shooting. 30,000 rounds of ammo are directed at the champion by dozens of perps without a single hit, while Bond's shots are invariably lethal. A pre-credit sequence shows Bond successfully escaping after carrying out a dangerous mission.

After fleeing from a British missile attack on a terrorist bazaar by commandeering a Russian plane, Bond is thrust into his new mission immediately, this time against a sinister billionaire who proves once again that money is no substitute for power. Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) has set up satellites throughout the world to beam his headlines to a huge audience, but he is not licensed to practice his skills in China. Using high-tech gadgetry to plunge Britain and China into war, he throws a British vessel into China's territorial waters, whereupon Chinese pilots warn the Brits to leave the scene immediately. Insisting that they are in international waters, the English admiral prepares to fight and, when Carver's stealth ship torpedoes the British, the latter believe the weaponry is coming from China. The crisis which this activity precipitates is reported immediately and exclusively the Carver's paper, "Tomorrow." When Bond infiltrates Carver's network by attending his party in Hamburg disguised as a banker, Carver sees through the scheme and sends his chief goon, the super-Aryan Stamper (Gotz Otto), to erase him with extreme prejudice. Teaming up with the Chinese agent Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh) who, despite her mere 100 pounds is a powerhouse of kicks, 007 chases and is chased by the rogues, escaping at one point on a motorcycle ride through the streets of Saigon and at another point using his heavily equipped BMW which he drives from the back seat using a remote control device. Bond's mission ultimately is to destroy the stealth battleship inhabited by Carver and his gang, thus shutting down the mogul's missiles and aborting World War III.

The sexual dialogue, however limited this time around, is effective enough as when 007 reports to his headquarters boss, M (Judi Dench) that he is "brushing up on a little Danish." Moneypenny, who has advised Bond to "pump" Carver's wife for information, replies that she always considered Bond "a cunning linguist." When Carver's wife reports that she barely knows Bond, her disbelieving husband repeats, "Barely."

There is enough mayhem in "Tomorrow Never Dies" to guarantee that the Bond series, like Broadway's "Cats," will also never succumb, particularly when support can be counted on by the wide array of products which are placed--in this case Smirnoff's Vodka, the BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Avis, and other luxury commodities representing part of what Chinese agent Wai Lin refers to as Western decadence.

Copyright 1997 Harvey Karten

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