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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!!!

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