I think I’ve probably seen this film too many times to write a proper non-review, but here it is anyway: Tomorrow Never Dies.
This is my favourite Bond film, for several reasons; luckily, few of them are the right ones.
Firstly, as a consummate villain, I think Jonathan Pryce is… well, priceless. In the role of Elliott Carver, his face lit by the images of a hundred computer screens and animated by a smugly obsessive smile, he demands of an executive: “Are we ready to release our new software?”
“Yes, sir,” is the reply. “As requested, it’s full of bugs, which means people will be forced to upgrade for years.”
How did Microsoft let them get away with that?
Carver’s throwaway lines are the best: “The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success.” (This principle is illustrated for us every weekend on The X Factor.) His tone is soft but chilling, making you fear for the fate of his predecessor’s fluffy white cat.
Lying in wait for Bond in his hotel room is Dr Kaufmann, a German assassin played by Vincent Schiavelli. I can never quite make up my mind whether this character is meant to be genuinely sinister or ghoulishly comical. In any case, he seems to strike a fine balance between a world-weary Gestapo officer and Inspector Clouseau.
Playing for time, although his tone is more that of a bored onlooker, Brosnan advises him: “It won’t look like a suicide if you shoot me from over there.”
Cue Dr Kaufmann’s unforgettably deadpan line: “I am a professor of forensic medicine. Believe me, Mr Bond, I could shoot you from Stuttgart und still create ze proper effect.”
This affectionate scene is interrupted by a call from the tough guys who are trying to break into Bond’s armour-clad BMW. Kaufmann answers his phone with an apologetic sigh. “Did you call the Auto Club?” he asks them.
There are so many more things to love about Tomorrow Never Dies… Jonathan Pryce touch typing single-handedly on a portable keyboard, his gaze riveted on a huge computer screen above his head (his typing speed is at least 100 wpm, which must look good on his CV); Geoffrey Palmer’s grumpy portrayal of a Naval Commander who feels the sharp end of Judi Dench’s wit; and Michelle Yeoh, who smashes the mould of former Bond girls and withers Carver with a single look when he ridicules her kick-boxing moves. If he wasn’t scared, he should have been.
All very watchable, without too much fear of anyone getting hurt. Pryce’s description of so-called chakra torture was reassuringly unconvincing, even for me. The guy who fell from a gantry into the litho press ensured that the morning papers were produced in two-colour, a quick but messy short-cut which I hope doesn’t give our own printers any ideas.
I didn’t wait for the ending… possibly just as well, because they’re usually a bit squirm-inspiring.
Would I watch it again? Fetch the Pringles!