TOMORROW NEVER DIES (United Artists, 1997)

Entry Source: The James Bond Movie Encyclopedia by Steven Jay Rubin


★★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).[1] Running time: 119 minutes.

The Setup

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.

 

The Cast
Role
Actor/Actress
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
Q Desmond Llewelyn
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

The Crew
Role
Actor/Actress
Director Roger Spottiswoode
Written by Bruce Feirstein
Producers Barbara Broccoli
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
Miniatures John Richardson
Editors Michel Arcand
Dominique Fortin


[1] “Tomorrow Never Dies (1997),” The Numbers, accessed July 16, 2020, https://www.the-numbers.com/movie/Tomorrow-Never-Dies.