★★1/2 Eighteenth James Bond movie produced by Eon Productions. US release date: December 16, 1997. Budget: $110 million. Worldwide box office gross: $339.5 million (US domestic gross: $125.3 million; international gross: $214.2 million). Running time: 119 minutes.
Spying on a terrorist arms bazaar on the Russian border, James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) discovers two nuclear torpedoes mounted on a Soviet L-39 Albatros aircraft. Unfortunately, British Admiral Roebuck (Geoffrey Palmer), ignoring M’s request that Bond be allowed to complete his reconnaissance, orders the bazaar destroyed. Bond escapes aboard the Albatros with the missiles, preventing a nuclear catastrophe—but, unbeknownst to Bond or British intelligence, a GPS encoder has been obtained at the bazaar by cyberterrorist Henry Gupta (Ricky Jay) that could help provoke a war between China and the UK. The mastermind behind this brewing conflict is media baron Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) who is operating a stealth warship in the South China Sea. That ship is responsible for sinking the British frigate HMS Devonshire, shooting down a Chinese J-7 fighter jet, and killing off the Devonshire’s survivors with Chinese weaponry. Carver’s plan is to destroy the Chinese government with a stolen cruise missile, allowing a Chinese general to step in and stop war between Britain and China, but not before both sides destroy each other at sea. Once the war is over, Carver will be given exclusive broadcasting rights in China for the next century. Bond eventually teams up with Red Chinese agent Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh) to foil the psychotic scheme.
Behind the Scenes
Pierce Brosnan suffered a sophomore slump in this flight of fancy, which features the series’ most unbelievable storyline. We’ve seen Bond as Buck Rogers in outer space (Moonraker), we’ve seen Bond as a charter member of the Keystone Cops (A View to a Kill), and we’ve seen a joyless Bond impersonating a character on Miami Vice (Licence to Kill), but as lousy at times as those films were, at least they featured a credible villain. This film wants you to believe that a billionaire media mogul (Jonathan Pryce) would directly instigate World War III to increase the ratings of his fledgling cable network. It’s not Brosnan’s fault—he’s solid throughout and has a terrific action set piece, piloting a BMW 750iL from the backseat with his remote control—but he can’t make up for a story that lacks all credibility.
We’re also subjected to a number of elements that were handled better in other Bond films. Elliot Carver’s stealth ship is just a pale imitation of Stromberg’s supertanker in The Spy Who Loved Me (which was it itself a retread of SPECTRE’s Intruder spaceship in You Only Live Twice). And the pre-credits teaser, in which Bond saves the day by stealing the Russian jet from the arms bazaar, is equally stale. Where’s the ever more daring stunt we’ve come to expect from a 007 teaser? The end of the movie is just as dull as the beginning, failing to find much drama as Bond penetrates and destroys Carver’s stealth ship.
It’s the women who shine in this one. Fleet-footed Michelle Yeoh, who would later score in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), is a perfect action companion to Bond: stylish, charismatic, capable. And Teri Hatcher has a few brassy moments as the villain’s wife, and Bond’s former flame, Paris Carver—but not enough of them. Other high points include the aforementioned BMW 750iL and two unusual casting coups—magician Ricky Jay’s computer terrorist and eccentric Vincent Schiavelli as Paris Carver’s assassin. (And keep an eye out for future Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes in a small part as the UK minister of defence, whom Elliot Carver provokes into sending the British fleet into the South China Sea.) Daniel Kleinman’s opening titles were once again terrific, backed by Sheryl Crow’s soulful title song. Unfortunately, the film went downhill fast from there.
|James Bond||Pierce Brosnan|
|Elliot Carver||Jonathan Pryce|
|Colonel Wai Lin||Michelle Yeoh|
|Paris Carver||Teri Hatcher|
|Henry Gupta||Ricky Jay|
|Mr. Stamper||Götz Otto|
|Jack Wade||Joe Don Baker|
|Dr. Kaufman||Vincent Schiavelli|
|M||Dame Judi Dench|
|Miss Moneypenny||Samantha Bond|
|Charles Robinson||Colin Salmon|
|Admiral Roebuck||Geoffrey Palmer|
|Minister of Defense||Julian Fellowes|
|General Bukharin||Terence Rigby|
|Professor Inga Bergstrom||Cecilie Thomsen|
|Dr. Dave Greenwalt||Colin Stinton|
|Written by||Bruce Feirstein|
|Michael G, Wilson|
|Director of Photography||Robert Elswit|
|Music by||David Arnold|
|Title song performed by||Sheryl Crow|
|Production Designer||Allan Cameron|
|Costume Designer||Lindy Hemming|
|Line Producer||Anthony Waye|
|Second Unit Director/Stunt Coordinator||Vic Armstrong|
|Casting by||Debbie McWilliams|
|Halo Jump Coordinator||B.J. Worth|
|Stunt Double for Ms. Yeoh||Wendy Leech|
|Stunt Double for Mr. Brosnan||Wayne Michaels|
|Title Designer||Daniel Kleinman|
|Special-Effects Supervisor||Chris Corbould|
 “Tomorrow Never Dies (1997),” The Numbers, accessed July 16, 2020, https://www.the-numbers.com/movie/Tomorrow-Never-Dies.