Media Mogul Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) sinks a Royal Navy battleship and frames the Chinese for it, thereby generating headlines for his news outlets. Bond is sent to investigate.
The franchise returns to its customary two year gap between films, and brings Brosnan back in the frame as the super spy. This is also the first film since the death of Albert Broccoli, the producer who made the franchise grow from Dr. No to where we are now.
It’s hard to explain exactly why, but the gap between 1995 and 1997 feels far too short a time to make a noteworthy film and sure enough, Tomorrow Never Dies is a rush job in many ways.
We dive into the plot head first and within the first five minutes it’s clear what Carver’s sinister plan entails. For seventeen films this moment has marked the final third of the story but here we have 110 minutes left to fill! This could probably be made to work with some care but instead Tomorrow Never Dies opts for endless running, driving and shooting.
It’s competently made of course, every car chase, bike chase, helicopter chase & boat chase is entertaining on its own merit. By now the Bond franchise knows how to film a chase. Things just get a little tedious when one segues into another, with no break or thought for what is actually going on.
The dialogue is weaker than usual too. None of these films have been Casablanca but there’s always been a certain idiotic charm to Bond’s dad jokes. Here everything is clumsy and misses the mark. Same goes with the back and forth between M (Judi Dench) and the Army General (Geoffrey Palmer). We’ve seen the two in As Time Goes By (well… some of us have), they have a proven on screen record together showing they can be funny; here they joke about balls.
On the plus side, Brosnan is really sinking into the part now and has a much more relaxed demeanour. He’s fun to watch and draws you in, making the film bearable and many of his scenes quite memorable. There’s something odd and affected about his style that sticks in your mind and makes you want to see more of him.
Jonathan Pryce is always a joy to watch, despite his poorly written character. There’s some attempt at satire here, perhaps a jab at Rupert Murdoch, but it’s too blunt and silly to really stick. Still, he does his best to light up the screen when he can.
Michelle Yeoh is another wasted talent. She’s personable and interesting, but for whatever reason Bond only properly talks to her at the end of the film. As they plan the final act together we are left wishing they’d met up earlier on.
Tomorrow Never Dies is a careless, stupid attempt to quickly make some more money off the back of the far superior Goldeneye. It’s a bad idea for a film, and it seems to make no attempt to hide this. We feel like we’re treading water until the next episode. Brosnan is the only thing saving it from being a forgettable disaster.