The other day Holly and I watched Tomorrow Never Dies, and I had not watched this one in a while. I remembered really enjoying it of the Pierce Brosnan Bond movies. Though there’s a soft spot in my heart for GoldenEye – it’s got to be the videogame!
I have to say that this movie has held up pretty well. It certainly shows its historical moment – with the Internet exploding out into the public (1997!) and with the level of technology. Sure, there’s a scene with fancy invented super spy tech sitting next to a floppy disc. It’s fine. It worked. And really? It’s a villain, and a plot, that could really still happen today.
So let me look at a couple of highlights of the film, and then talk about how it stands out among the Brosnan-era Bond films. Some spoilers to come!
Quick run down on the plot: a media mogul orchestrates a war between England, with her Navy, and China, with her Air Force. He does this with a stealth ship, and some good planning. And lots of time spent writing the headlines before the news actually happened… It’s a solid power-play and made for a good film.
It’s only a little bit elaborate and over the top. Really, it’s a pretty realistic villain in Elliot Carver. It’s British… were they perhaps going for Rupert Murdock? Who knows. Causing the news to happen, to make the money covering the news – well, newscasters do that today by belaboring stories that should drop, or interjecting and spending time on opinions.
The villain was smart, too – he was always sending his men to kill Bond. Granted, he also always underestimated Bond, but this made sense – he wasn’t himself a spy, or a killer. He had people for that. His people failed utterly, but by golly, he tried! And, as a media mogul, all of his monologuing also makes sense – of course he wants an audience. He wants to show that his plan is flawless. So elements that seem like flaws in other movies work in the context of this movie.
Something I really appreciated re-watching this movie is the female spy working parallel to Bond, also trying to stop Carver. Though she and Bond tend not to be at the exact same point in their investigations – using different tactics, and different methods – they still end up in pretty much all of the same places at the same time. Wai Lin is great!
And her tactics are on par with Bond:
- Fancy party where you meet the villain face-to-face? Check. Oh wait, she utterly wins that round – Carver sees through Bond, but Wai Lin plays into his hopes and he believes that she is a Chinese reporter.
- Breaking in to the villain’s base to steal his tech? Only a minute or two behind Bond, and although she sets off the alarm, she leaves Bond to be the distraction – quietly escaping unimpeded.
- And finding the villains hidden secrets (at the bottom of the ocean)? There when Bond is.
- From there, they work together, and they both kick ass. Yes, she gets captured, but in the end and for better or worse, it’s a Bond movie and he has to do some saving. Which he does – then she runs off and kicks more ass.
Looking for a good female spy in a movie? Give this one another look, for sure!
The Brosnan Era
Okay, so… strong villain, good plot, great female co-star… all of this without decreasing how awesome Bond is, and with plenty of cool tech and explosions… I see why I remember this movie fondly, and why it’s still so good.
So what about the other movies – in particular GoldenEye? Well, that movie served a very specific purpose – it was the first Bond film since the fall of the Soviet Union, and they had to figure out what the series was about again. They stick with Russia in GoldenEye – a place where the mobsters and brutes have taken over, where old Soviet tech is a danger to everyone because it’s not being held at bay like before.
But you have to move away from that – and they did a good job of that in Tomorrow Never Dies, in my opinion. And then… they completely fell apart. The World is Not Enough and Die Another Day were both pretty awful – with some similar plot elements (I remember skiing very distinctly in both), more space-based lasers, less well-realized villains and female characters. They didn’t keep their stride of doing something new, of thinking outside of the Cold War.
It makes some sense that they decided to reboot and go back to basics, changing up Bond considerably with Daniel Craig. But that feels like a post for another day! I feel like I need a Bond-worthy pun here, but I’ve got nothing, so leave your ideas for a good Bond pun or Bond title in the comments below!