Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) (PG-13)

Once again, the Bond movies have managed to ruin what should have been an easy success. Perhaps it's just Pierce Brosnan that I have a problem with, but I don't think that's the sole reason. It's around this time in the series that the director's seat feels like a hot stove. Martin Campbell, who directed "GoldenEye", will return for "Casino Royale; but all the other directors are one-timers. The director of "Tomorrow Never Dies" is Roger Spottiswoode who seems like he knows what he's doing at the beginning of the movie; but we soon learn that he has no clue.
The script also is bad because it, like many other Bond movies, has no idea how it wants to we get a random half hour of running through corridors and shooting through glass which usually is fun enough for me to enjoy, but it just didn't cut it this time around.
At the movie's opening, which plops us back down in Russia (why is it always Russia?), Bond is staking out a terrorist bazaar. Bad guys from all over the world will come here to trade three missiles for two tanks and the like. It's essentially like the terrorist version of Halloween candy bargaining...and it's all congregated in one nice open space. One of the men present at this exchange of weapons is an American who has an encoding device, lifted from the CIA.
M and all of MI6 is watching through Bond's eyes. M is joined by a military commander who sees this as an opportunity to shoot all of his fish in a barrel. He commands that a missile be shot toward the arms dealers and he hopes that this will eradicate most of the world's problems...foolish man. What he doesn't know, and what Bond points out to him soon after the missile is launched, is that a plane present is armed with nuclear bombs. The result of the missile striking and the bombs going off would be catastrophic. Unable to abort the missile, Bond has to save the day once more; but that's only the prologue.
After the main titles, we see a British ship in the ocean off the coast of China. It is being harassed by two Chinese fighter planes who tell them that they are in too close to the Chinese coast, if they do not turn around, they will be fired upon. All of the British ship's navigational instruments say otherwise—they are well off the coastline and in international waters.
The truth is deceitful. The American present at the terrorist bazaar (their words, not mine) is using his encoding device to trick the British into thinking that they are farther out to sea than they actually are.
But there's a third observer. An undetected ship surfaces and starts messing with both the Chinese and the British. They sink the British ship and shoot a fighter plane down. Unknown to the two parties involved, the respective governments both blame the other one.
The mastermind behind is all is Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) who's just doing this for the ratings. Much like "Network", this film tries to implant the idea of digital paranoia and media control. Not much has changed since this movie's release, so the poignancy of the film remains.
I've always been a fan of Jonathan Pryce ever since I saw his incredible performance in "Brazil" and here he makes one of the best Bond villains; but that's not enough. His character is poorly written and doesn't have a strong enough motive...but those are just some of the issues.
Bond is out of his element here, which is enjoyable to see and I think Brosnan does a respectable job in "Tomorrow Never Dies". Michelle Yeoh appears and her martial arts skill are not utilized to their full potential (three years later, they would be in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon").
"Tomorrow Never Dies" has so much build up that the lack of pay-off is terribly annoying.
The film is fun because the action is still fun, but things could have gone a lot better.

Score: ★★½

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