In the South China Sea, a conflict is brewing between the UK and China, after a Royal Navy ship was sunk unprovoked by a torpedo. With the two countries just days away from declaring war on each other; MI6 agent James Bond is sent to Hamburg to investigate a media baron!
Tomorrow Never Dies is the 18th film in the James Bond series. Directed by Roger Spottiswoode; the film stars Pierce Brosnan in his second outing as James Bond following his debut in Goldeneye. The film also stars Jonathan Pryce, Michelle Yeoh, Teri Hatcher, and Götz Otto in supporting roles; along with many familiar bond faces such as Joe Don Baker, Judi Dench, and Desmond Llewelyn to name but a few. Tomorrow Never Dies was the first film in the series to be made after the death of long time producer Albert R. (Cubby) Broccoli, to whom the film is dedicated in the memory of.
This film sees James Bond venturing across wide country lines as he starts out in Russia, before travelling to the UK, then Hamburg, then briefly Okinawa, before venturing to Vietnam and the South China Sea. Why all this galivanting, because he is dealing with a Media Baron who has global interests. The film’s main plot focuses on the sudden and unprovoked sinking of a British ship (which just so happened to be carrying future action star Gerard Butler on board) by Chinese Fighter Planes. In actuality what happened was a that the ship was sunk by a Stealth Boat carrying a sea going drill on board which is what sunk the ship.
Now, if you’ve not seen this film before, and think that the idea of a stealth ship is a bit ridiculous, the film’s producers did base the idea on an actual vessel. Built by Lockheed in 1984; the Sea Shadow was a genuine experimental stealth boat developed the for the United States Navy.
So, with the British Navy and the Chinese Airforce now at each other’s throats, James Bond is sent in to investigate; but is first sent to Hamburg; why? Because evidence suggests that the whole thing may have been set-up by a newspaper baron who wants to make money from a major war. Step forward Elliot Carver (Pryce), who has a global media presence and is just about to launch a new news network.
So with the UK and China about to engage in combat; Bond is currently in Germany researching a newspaper baron, who does happen to have some questionable company in his employ. But things are made that little bit more tricky, when it turns out that Mr. Carver’s wife (Hatcher), is one of Bond’s ex-girlfriends.
When I was younger, I always used to think of this film as one of the weaker entries in the series. I don’t know why, it just didn’t grab my attention as much as other films in the series. I thought it was maybe a bit long, with large gaps where nothing much happened. Now though, I think it’s possibly one of the more interesting entries in the series.
The jet set life for Mr. Bond is very much on show, but it’s his time in Vietnam which gets a little more interesting, as it covers many of the film’s major plot points. But this film is not a travel documentary, it’s still a spy film, but carries the tropes and mod-cons of a crime drama. It sees Bond investigating, rather than just going full steam ahead into major action pieces. Yes it still has those, but the fact that they are dealing with someone who has genuinely thought of everything means that the crime they are trying to uncover, is very hard to prove, and with escalating issues, time is genuinely running out.
The most interesting aspect of this film I think is that of Carver. He is not your ordinary/average Bond villain. He is not out for revenge, he is not trying to create a new society, or take over the world. His intentions are slightly more humble than that, but grandiose nonetheless. He is a media baron, who wants to make money, and the best way for a news network to make money, is to report the news. But you don’t have to be a genius to see that the best kind of news to make money in, is bad news. Yes, there are times when good news is reported, but most of the time, the news is Bad! Turn on a News Channel right now, and you’ll probably see almost nothing but bad news! So, knowing where people’s attention is in the news, how do you grab people’s attention; you need a big story. So, why not make a story? In this instance we have someone who is setting out to create the biggest loudest story possible, by setting off a war between two major countries. It’s the kind of news that would grab most people’s attention!
Whilst Elliot Carver may not be your average Bond Villain, this doesn’t mean he doesn’t carry the major characteristics. He has a lot of wealth, and has thought out his plan in diabolic levels of detail. plus, he has surrounded himself with henchmen who carry out his requests without a second notice; people like Mr. Stamper (Otto), Henry Gupta (Ricky Jay), Dr. Kaufman (Vincent Schiavelli), and Captain Scott (Mark Spalding). Mr. Carver though, is not afraid to get his hands dirty!
James Bond sums it up himself by describing Carver as Insane. Now, whether he is or not is another question, but it can be argued that maybe he does not have a conscious, as:
1. He is staging a conflict between two major nations,
2. He is coldly ordering the deaths of people including his own wife.
3. He suggests one of his own henchmen tortures James Bond instead of killing him there and then,
4. He grabs one of his own employees by the head, and wrenches it back in anger!
All of these instances show someone who is devoid of most human levels of emotion, and is willing to go above and beyond to gain what he wants. It’s these moments and more which highlight a very sticky individual who should not be trifled with. And what’s more, he actually built his own stealth ship!
Elliot Carver’s character though is not the only interesting performance on the set. You still have a range of Bond characters giving their all; but one major highlight I think that definitely needs a mention is Geoffrey Palmer. There are several reasons why his short but sweet time in the film is worthy of a mention. Firstly, he does have experience alongside Judi Dench given that they both starred in As Time Goes By; so when you see them together in Tomorrow Never Dies, the arguing between the two really feels believable. His stature, and presence on the screen is incredibly enjoyable; and whilst he is only on very briefly; he looks and sounds intimidating like a secondary antagonist; but he isn’t an antagonist, just someone who throws a wrench in the situation!
Tomorrow Never Dies is a very interesting film in the series, but on the whole is actually on a much smaller scale in comparison to it’s contemporize, as it focus on a small group of individuals, instead of an army of mercenaries. Yes, it’s set across the globe, but then the final battle is on a small ship, with another ship chasing after it. It suggests it’s leading to something big, but in the end that doesn’t really occur. But it’s composure, story, setting, and top notch cast is what makes it an interesting entry in the series. It’s not necessarily the best film in the James Bond series, but it’s far from being the Worst!