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1 item from 1997

Film review: 'Tomorrow Never Dies'

15 December 1997 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Poor James Bond.

It's bad enough that the end of the Cold War has robbed him of some of his most reliable and colorful adversaries.

But after a year of formidable competition from high-octane action entries such as "Face/ Off" and "Air Force One", the pressure is on for old 007 to deliver more than a souped-up car and a bevy of beauties.

Unfortunately, after showing promising signs of rejuvenation with Pierce Brosnan and 1995's "GoldenEye", the world's most durable movie franchise is in serious need of a shot of adrenaline if "Tomorrow Never Dies" is to prove an accurate title.

Even by Bondian standards, this 18th entry (or 19th if you count Warner Bros.' "Never Say Never Again") is a dull, draggy disappointment, hampered by a weak script and uninspired, connect-the-dots direction.

While devoted die-hards might generate respectable opening- weekend numbers, ultimately United Artists is looking at a low interest-bearing Bond issue that will leave audiences neither shaken nor stirred.

The first signs of trouble appear early on, when the traditionally turbo-charged prologue turns out to be curiously devoid of the usual high-tension stunts or even breathtaking vistas.

Then Bruce Feirstein's script fails to deliver on its workable premise: Jonathan Pryce plays power-crazed media baron Elliot Carver (imagine a maniacal Rupert Murdoch), who, determined to launch his 24-hour satellite news service with a splash, ensures a scoop by orchestrating a naval war between Great Britain and China.

Of course it's up to Bond (Brosnan) to stop him with a little ill-fated assistance from Carver's wife and once-upon-a-time Bond squeeze, Paris (Teri Hatcher), and a more successful subsequent alliance with Chinese intelligence agent Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh).

Lacking the necessary tone-setting kick start, the picture seems to take forever to move into high gear. And although it is not without a couple of vintage Bond sequences -- one extended chase scene has 007 navigating his brand-spanking-new BMW 750 from the back seat with a Remote Control touchpad -- Roger Spottiswoode's fragmented direction lacks the necessary driving momentum.

You can't really put the blame on Brosnan, who proved himself an agreeable Bond presence the last time out. He's game but he simply hasn't been issued much in the way of a personality by screenwriter Feirstein. Those requisite groaner double-entendres hit a new level of lameness here that would make Beavis & Butt-head wince.

The usually dependable Pryce, meanwhile, in an apparent aversion to scenery-chewing, blandly underplays his villain. While that may have been a noble gesture elsewhere, it's a definite no-no for Bond bad guys.

Only Asian action star Yeoh possesses a real spark. Unfortunately, she only really appears on the scene in the second hour. Should Brosnan opt out of his contract, the Broccoli family should seriously consider her as a potential Jane Bond.

Across-the-board tech credits are solid if not spectacular. Ironically, those Bond songs, which have been somewhat of a disappointment in recent installments, rediscover their groove this time out, with Sheryl Crow delivering an effective "Tomorrow Never Dies" over the opening credits, while k.d. lang neatly captures the sultry essence of Shirley Bassey in the credit-closing "Surrender".



A United Artists release

An Albert R. Broccoli's Eon Productions Ltd. presentation

Director: Roger Spottiswoode

Producers: Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli

Screenwriter: Bruce Feirstein

Director of photography: Robert Elswit

Production designer: Allan Cameron

Editors: Dominique Fortin,

Michel Arcand

Costume designer: Lindy Hemming

Special effects supervisor: Chris Corbould

Music: David Arnold

Casting: Debbie McWilliams



James Bond: Pierce Brosnan

Elliot Carver: Jonathan Pryce

Wai Lin: Michelle Yeoh

Paris Carver: Teri Hatcher

Henry Gupta: Ricky Jay

Stamper: Gotz Otto

Wade: Joe Don Baker

Dr. Kaufman: Vincent Schiavelli

M: Judi Dench

Q: Desmond Llewelyn

Running time -- 119 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13


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