For many, Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) is the forgotten middle child of the Pierce Brosnan era of James Bond movies. Neither as loved as Goldeneye, nor reviled as Die Another Day. It is the second to star Pierce Brosnan as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. Directed by Roger Spottiswoode, with the screenplay written by Bruce Feirstein, the film follows Bond as he attempts to stop Elliot Carver, a power-mad media mogul played by the excellent Jonathan Pryce, from engineering world events to initiate World War III.
The bad guy is a megalomaniac, as is usually the case in a 007 flick. There’s a twist, however – Carver doesn’t want to rule the world, he wants to rule the world’s media. Carver is launching his own cable news network and to encourage viewers to tune in, he has decided to literally make the headlines. Using the advanced technological capabilities of the Carver Media Group, he engineers a conflict in the South China Sea between two Chinese planes and the HMS Devonshire. The ship is sunk and one of the planes is destroyed. A war between China and Britain looms, with Carver having the inside story. And that’s where Bond comes in.
“Gentlemen and ladies, hold the presses. This just in: by curious quirk of fate, we have the perfect story with which to launch our satellite news network tonight. It seems a small crisis is brewing in the South China Seas. I want full newspaper coverage, I want magazine stories, I want books, I want films, I want TV, I want radio, I want us on the air 24 hours a day! This is OUR moment! And a billion people around this planet will watch it, hear it, and read about it from the Carver Media Group. There’s no news….. like bad news.”
― Carver informing his department heads of the sinking of the Devonshire
Pre-credits were a strength of Brosnan’s movies and Tomorrow Never Dies delivers with a highly enjoyable, escalating stakes romp that sees nuclear disaster narrowly averted. Bond scoping out a terrorist arms market on the Russian border as part of a joint Anglo-Russian mission and doing such a good job that the gathered military men on the other side of his satellite uplink decide to lob a cruise missile into the camp to wipe them all out. Unfortunately, these kinds of remote strikes have their downsides — like when one of the planes for sale happens to be carrying “enough plutonium to make Chernobyl look like picnic,” as the Russian military observer puts it, and the “abort missile” button no longer seems to be working.
With four minutes till total annihilation, Bond takes matters into his own hands, pausing briefly to punch out a terrorist guard who asks him for a light (“A filthy habit,” Bond mutters — Oh, James, how you’ve changed) before the carnage begins. Bond walks into an encampment of hardened terrorists who not only are carrying weapons but are there for the sole purpose of buying and selling even more weapons, and for some reason, while he turns the whole place to swiss cheese, and escapes with the plane, nobody manages to land a finger on him. We guess it wouldn’t be the first time.