Tomorrow Never Dies

Tomorrow Never Dies, directed by Roger Spottiswoode is the latest in
the seemingly endless chain of James Bond films. It is a disappointment. One of
the few pleasures that conservatives could take in the Hollywood product of the
late Cold War — that is watching an unashamed cold warrior fighting the
commies for the good old Western values of vodka martinis, cool weaponry and
scantily-clad, available young babes — now shows signs of being spoiled by a
creeping political correctness. You might have thought that, after the fall of
the Berlin wall, even the old Hollywood left would have had to start admitting
that we were the good guys after all. Instead, the doctrine of moral equivalence
lives on. For Bond (Pierce Brosnan) here teams up with the Chinese communists,
in the comely person of the martial artist Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh), who kicks
and punches her way into our hearts as British and Chinese unite to defeat what
is meant to appear as the avatar of real evil in our time, an international
media mogul called Elliott Carver (Jonathan Pryce).

Carver’s fiendish plot is to make Brits and Chinese each think they are being
attacked by the other: “The Chinese will think the British are rattling the
sabre; the British will think the Chinese are being belligerent, and the media
will provide cool objective coverage of the whole thing!” he says from his
“stealth ship” in the South China Sea. “Let the mayhem begin!” But the audience
may be left in some doubt if even an international media tycoon (whose empire is
crippled at one point when Bond merely turns off the power switch) could pull
off a deception like this. Not, of course, that plausibility has ever been one
of the chief attractions of the Bond films.

But back in the days of SMERSH, etc., we knew that the criminal geniuses whom
Bond went up against were really just reds in disguise. Now the reds have become
definitively identified as partners in peacekeeping with western nations against
a rogue capitalist, who has a private army, apparently unlimited resources, and
no compunction about killing even his own wife, Paris (Teri Hatcher) when she
shows the slightest sign of disloyalty — in this case having once, years
before her marriage, slept with Bond. And all for a good story to put in his
newspapers and on his TV network. “Words are the new weapons, satellites the new
technology,” he says, for with them — and the assistance of a few tough guys
like the big blond German called Stamper (Götz Otto) — he is going to
take over the world.

Meanwhile, the country with millions of men under arms and a history of
appalling cruelties to its own people is depicted as benevolent and
peace-loving, just like us. It is only jokingly that Wai Lin describes Bond as
an “agent of a decadent, corrupt Western power.”

Also jokingly, Bond replies, “And they say Communists don’t know how to have

“I don’t even have a little red book,” she says, coquettishly.

If this flirtatious repartee strikes you as clever, you might enjoy watching
the film for something other than the explosions and car chases — which by
now, in spite of a few new ideas, look rather routine. But real Bond fans will
go rent one of the Cold War classics and wallow in nostalgia.

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