Tomorrow Never Dies
directed by Roger Spottiswoode
(United Artists, 1997)

There are a few accepted facts about the women, good or evil, who co-star in James Bond films. They are nearly always gorgeous. They are sexually accessible to dashing British agents. And they range from fairly helpess to somewhat competent, but they're never a match for 007 (unless they're evil, in which case they might come close; the good girls are always alive only because Bond is around to save them).

That last fact was refreshingly changed in Tomorrow Never Dies, Pierce Brosnan's second outing as the famous spy. While Teri Hatcher, as Bond's old flame Paris Carver, is fairly disposable (and is quickly disposed of), Michelle Yeoh is an exciting new breed of Bond girl.

To put it succinctly, she kicks butt.

Yeoh is Wai Lin, Bond's counterpart from China. Initially competing for the same goal, they end up cooperating (a grudging partnership, at first) and Lin quickly proves herself Bond's equal. She has Bond attitude, she has Bond gadgets and, most importantly, she has Bond combat skills. In fact, her martial arts expertise could have given him reason to sweat, had they been on opposite sides.

Her appearances in the film are far more exciting than the villain. Jonathan Pryce is media mogul Elliot Carver. His goal isn't world domination, mass extermination or even catastrophic extortion; rather, he's out to scoop the other media outlets on a really big story. To that end, he creates a really big story, pushing Britain and China to the brink of World War III. OK, so the stakes are high, but his motivation is fairly lacking.

It's appropriate, given his media role, that Pryce plays Carver with an excess of scenery chewing.

Vincent Schiavelli is deliciously sadistic as Carver's pet assassin, Dr. Kaufman. Goetz Otto is the brutish Aryan Mr. Stamper, and Ricky Jay is the lumpish terrorist and computer whiz, Henry Gupta.

Rounding out the home team are Judi Dench as M, Desmond Llewelyn as Q and Samantha Bond as Miss Moneypenny.

Despite the problem of believing a glorified journalist would start a major war simply for ratings, Tomorrow Never Dies is jam-packed with action in the grand Bond tradition. Particularly strong sequences include Bond's remote-controlled car chase, Bond and Wai Lin's flight from a helicopter while handcuffed together on a motorbike, and the final confrontation with Pryce's minions on the ominous black stealth boat.

Brosnan, meanwhile, continues to settle into the Bond role. He -- and, if we're lucky, Yeoh -- will be back for many more in the series.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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