Courtesy Photo
Opened: Friday, December 19, 1997
Rated: PG-13

Directed by Roger Spottiswoode

Starring Pierce Brosnan, Jonathan Pryce, Michelle Yeoh, Teri Hatcher, Judi Dench, Joe Don Baker, Samantha Bond, Desmond Llewelyn, Ricky Jay & Gotz Otto

"Tomorrow Never Dies"

In "Tomorrow Never Dies," Jonathan Pryce plays Elliot Carver, a billionaire media mogul bent on starting World War III to secure good ratings for the launch of his cable news channel.

Using a satellite to mess with the British navy's Global Positioning System, he forces a frigate into Chinese waters then attacks the ship with his own private sea-going stealth fighter, trying to start a conflict between China and the U.K.

Joyously megamaniacal and wealthy enough to buy himself even better gadgets than 007 has, this Murdockavellian madman is the best Bond villain since Auric Goldfinger. He even wears a Nerhu jacket.

Screenwriter Bruce Feirstein has infused "Tomorrow" with conspicuous elements of classic Bond. Observing tradition, he employs Carver with uber-butch, beady eyed, Aryan henchmen and thousands of armed extras who have no qualms about their boss's weird ambitions.

There are underwater action sequences with scuba-suited baddies stealing sunken missiles. There are gadgets for the sake of gadgets (007's cell phone doubles as a Tazer, a fingerprint scanner and a remote control for driving his BMW).

But while director Roger Spottiswoode embraces the Bond of yesteryear, he also continues the much-needed modernization of the franchise begun in 1995 with "GoldenEye."

Borrowing heavily from the Hong Kong school of action movies, he lets the fights and chases take over the picture (a Jackie Chan-inspired motorcycle and helicopter pursuit across the rooftops of Saigon is the best scene in the movie).

He also casts Michelle Yeoh, Chan's co-star in "SuperCop," as Bond's kung-fu counterpart, a Chinese super spy who out-gadgets, out-stunts and out-fights 007.

But Pryce gives "Tomorrow" its pizzazz. He revels in the role of Carver, stealing scenes and addressing our hero as "Mister Bond" with a hiss in his voice, as all great Bond villains do.

As always, the audience is advised to check their logic at the door. You could spend the whole picture nit-picking nonsense like why Bond would fall for the old "you have an urgent phone call" trick in the age of cellular phones. To the practiced Bond fan, that stuff is easy to forgive. More annoying is the obscenely aggressive product placement.

However, anything "Tomorrow" lacks in sense it more than makes up for in action and humor, and innuendo. In possibly the funniest double entendre in franchise history, James is in bed with a language teacher at Oxford when Miss Moneypenny calls, leading her to comment that he has always been "a cunning linguist."

As for Pierce Brosnan, he has definitely found his inner Bond. But being cast against Pryce, Yeoh and Judi Dench ("Mrs. Brown"), returning as the wonderfully dour M, gives him some upstaging to overcome. He handles it all with debonair charm and confidence -- he's James Bond, after all.

But with this immensely talented cast and the introduction of the Hong Kong element, this film will be difficult to top when Brosnan steps into Bond's tuxedo again for his contractual third turn as the world's favorite spy.

Brosnan may never stand a chance of knocking Sean Connery off his throne in the favorite Bond sweepstakes, but with "Tomorrow Never Dies" he will, for most fans entrench himself comfortably in the number two spot.

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