Tomorrow Never Dies: (Thank Goodness!!)
a film review by Joe Parra
Rating: 3.5 out of 4
Isn't it interesting how life imitates art - or, in this case, vice
versa? In the latest opus in the 35-year-old franchise of Mr. James
Bond & Co., this is what happens (more or less). Pierce Brosnan
returns for his second outing as 007 in Tomorrow Never Dies, the 18th film
in the United Artists series. He is is good company, so to speak.
(After all, what is James Bond to do if he does not have dastardly foes
and villains to thwart?)
Elliot Carver is, to put it mildly, a media baron. The difficulty
is that he wants to be a media king! He owns several major newspapers
around the world, several television stations (as well as a major motion
picture studio), AND a satellite dish in space with the ability to control
more than just cable and dish reception. Mr. Carver - or "Ellie,"
as he prefers his friends to call him (hmmm...) - wishes to have broadcast
rights from inside China. The Chinese Marxists, however, do not wish
the megalomaniacal Mr. C to have said rights. Ellie is not a man
who takes denial very well; as he puts it: "I don't play well with others."
What is a power-mad mogul to do? Why, start a war between two superpowers,
naturally! He sends his incredibly hunky blond Deutschlander stud-muffin
out with a crew of cutthroats to steal a supposedly unknown British stealth
ship near Chinese territorial waters and to annihilate the crew.
The reason is simple: the Chinese will be blamed, the West and Russia
will all react, and Ellie then has the makings of wonderful television
news coverage B la the Gulf War on CNN (once again, hmmm....). The
Brits, they are a clever race. They smell a rat; and, rather than
poison the whole house, they decide to send in a cat -- Bond, James Bond.
All is not to be simple as pie, however. Complicating matters is
the fact that Ellie is married to an old girlfriend of Bond's, who wishes
to help James thwart her mad husband's dream of world conquest by means
of event programming. Ellie is not, as I said, one who can take any
bad news well - and, er, what is that quote from the Bible: "If thine eye
offend thee..."? The Chinese haven't been sitting back, either.
Though they have maintained that there is a lack of communications (to
say the least), they too have sent in a mole to clear out the tunnel.
Ellie sees that the stakes must be raised. After all, ratings sweeps
are coming up, and it would be nice to be the negotiator of peace between
nations and win the Nobel Prize, an Emmy, and a Cable Ace Award!!!
What is the world to do? Can two lone secret agents stop the might
of broadcast power and psychopathic adrenalin? What's worse, even
if they can, will Ellie Carver still garner top ratings???
Director Roger Spottiswoode and screenwriter Bruce Feirstein have fashioned
a wonderfully lively rock'em-sock'em, in-your-face screenplay without pandering
to the mentality of idiots. They have very carefully fashioned an
entirely plausible tale of media manipulation gone insane and then thwarted
by that man-among-men, 007. Elliot Carver is clearly an amalgam of
Rupert Murdoch, Ted Turner, and the late Robert Maxwell - with a more-than-passing
resemblance to one of modern history's first media monsters, William Randolph
Hurst. Ellie is played to perfection by the marvelous Jonathan Pryce,
whom terror genre fans will remember as "Mr. Dark" in the wonderful film
adaptation of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. He
is one of those rare individuals to whom villainy (acting-wise) is an artform.
G`tz Otto is the sexy, pyscho henchman, who is as perfect physically as
he is deficient psychologically; he conveys incredible charm while managing
to repulse at the same time. Teri Hatcher is Paris, Bond's former
and Ellie's current. To be kind, let's just say the film could have
proceeded nicely without her - and I'm not just referring to the character
she portrays. All the stories about her being difficult certainly
give cause to wonder: is all that bitching over corrected problems in the
filming merely an effort to hide a personal inadequacy? (This is
often the case in the acting profession. Was this the case here?)
James' unexpected ally, Chinese agent Wai Lin, is played by Michelle Yeoh,
star of many Hong Kong kung fu films. She is much fun and can clearly
kick ass. She is a very talented actress, as well as being quite
a martial arts persona, with a lovely sense of humor B la Jackie Chan.
Judi Densch is back as the redoubtable "M" and is, of course, excellent.
(I don't think Ms. Densch is capable of giving a bad performance.)
Desmond Llewellyn is back for his 16th (or is it 17th?) go-round as "Q"
and is as wonderfully tongue-in-cheek as ever. But what is a James
Bond film without a wonderful JB? Never fear, Brosnan's here!
Pierce Brosnan once again proves that he is indeed the worthy successor
to the Bond title. From his appreciation of things finite to his
appreciation of things infinite (as well as bashing baddies), Brosnan once
again wins, as he did in Goldeneye - proving that through him there is
still life in the JB franchise. Oh! I almost forgot a marvelous
cameo by that excellent character actor, Vincent Schiavelli, as a top-flight
assassin to whom Otto is more than a protege...
Producing movies that have been previously handled by another person
for better than 30 years is an arduous task. Michael Wilson more
than ably steps into the late Cubby Broccoli's shoes. He has hired
the very best and so achieves a wonderful movie.
So! Do yourself a favor and drink down this dry martini.
After all, it's shaken, not stirred... Enjoy!!!