Film: Tomorrow Never Dies

Darling, I'm killed. I'm in a puddle on the floor...
"The difference between insanity and genius, Mr Bond, is measured only in success."
Elliot Carver

The one where James Bond beats up Rupert Murdoch.

Tomorrow Never Dies is the 18th James Bond film, from 1997, and the second starring Pierce Brosnan.

A British warship and a Chinese aircraft are destroyed off the shore of China, an incident that threatens to ignite all-out war between the two countries. The British claim that their GPS locator showed they were in International Waters, causing MI6 to suspect foul play.

The clues point towards the Carver Media Group Network, a worldwide media empire owned by Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce). James Bond is sent to investigate Carver and his organisation to find out if someone is engineering War for Fun and Profit; a task that sees him crossing paths with Chinese secret agent Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh).

After the more introspective tone of Golden Eye, TND eases back into the Connery-esque "classic Bond" formula beat-for-beat, with one-liners galore, a Large Ham villain, and plenty of action setpieces that make full use of the Theme Music Power-Up trope. Brosnan begins to carve his niche as the playful Bond.

This movie contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Wai Lin, maybe one of the best examples in the whole franchise. And for double cool points, played by Michelle Yeoh. Sadly, romance isn't one of her strong points.
  • And This Is for...: Villainous example by Stamper during the climax:
    Stamper: For Carver- (slams Bond against steel rafter) -And for Kaufman- (slams Bond against another rafter before throwing him on the overhead) -I owe you an unpleasant death, Mr. Bond!
  • Anonymous Ringer / No Celebrities Were Harmed: Elliot Carver is by admission of the writer a thinly disguised Robert Maxwell (though given how widespread such media moguls are, reviewers compared him to the Australian - Rupert Murdoch - and American - Ted Turner - equivalents). This is made very obvious at the end, when M devises a cover story for his death involving him falling off his yacht and drowning, while the public speculates he committed suicide, echoing Maxwell's death.
    • There's also significant elements of William Randolph Hearst, whose propaganda is sometimes credited for getting the US to launch the Spanish-American War. Carver even quotes him.
    • In addition to taking potshots at NewsCorp, 'Tomorrow'' bears more than a slight resemblance to Microsoft. (the script even describes "Jones" as "a young guy looking remarkably like Bill Gates", but for obvious reasons it didn't carry on screen.)
    Carver: Mr. Jones, are we ready to release our new software?
    Jones: Yes, sir. As requested, it's full of bugs, which means people will be forced to upgrade for years.
    Carver: Outstanding!
    • Carver beginning a new media enterprise by announcing a "declaration of principles" is possibly a nod to Citizen Kane. Of course, he's already similar to Kane by virtue of being similar to Hearst.
  • Antagonist Title: Tomorrow is the name of Elliot Carver's newspaper, and much of the plot centers around him writing articles covering catastrophic, attention grabbing events for future papers in advance, and then causing said events to happen.
  • Artistic License – Military: The movie mentions several times that China has "the world's largest air force" which was not true in 1997 (or in the present, for that matter). While counting aircraft is fraught with difficulties, all the data still shows that the United States is by far the world's most powerful air force in terms of both numbers and deployment ability. Depending on how you measure, China still comes in at number 2 or 3 (besides Russia).
  • As You Know: The first stealth-ship scene starts with a literal Captain Obvious reminding his men that the British will believe they're in international waters due to the manipulated GPS signal. Anyone who at this point in the operation didn't know that very definitely had no business knowing it - but then again, a penchant for summarizing and giving exposition at every possible opportunity may have been an entrance requirement for a job in Carver's corporation.
    • Of course, Carver later indulges in it himself.
  • Arms Fair/Auction of Evil: The film opens with one.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Averted, although technically speaking the PRC General Chang would be just as important to the scheme as Carver's contributions. The former is Demoted to Extra, appearing onscreen for a total of five seconds as Bond and Wai Lin are escorted past him.
  • Blasphemous Boast:
    Carver: Soon I'll have reached out to and influenced more people than anybody in the history of this planet, save God himself. And the best he ever managed was the Sermon on the Mount.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Bond's brief flirting with a Danish lady at Oxford after the prologue, who essentially praises him for his linguistic progress.
  • Bond One-Liner:
    • After shoving a henchman into a printing press: "They'll print anything these days."
    • After ejecting an attacker from the back seat of a jet into an enemy jet above them: "Backseat driver..."
    • Even Eliot Carver gets off a clever one when he thinks Bond is dead.
      "Even if they were looking for me, we're on a stealth boat! They can't see me. Or you. Or even your friend, the late Commander Bond, who is, I believe, at this moment, on his way to the bottom of the South China Sea. (beat) He's my new anchorman.
    • After punching out a Mook while offering him a light, Bond quips "Filthy habit."
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted in the case of our heroes: when Bond is escaping from the CMGN facility in Hamburg, viewers who pay attention will note he fires exactly 8 shots from his PPK (the real-life limit: 7 in the mag + 1 in the chamber) before putting it away and not using it anymore. Wai Lin near the end tosses away an empty gun and only has two shots left in the other, and shortly afterwards Bond drops his P99 after firing all the shots from it and has to reload his sub-machine gun. Played straight in the case of Carver's mooks.
  • Brick Joke: Bond's Bond One-Liner about "backseat drivers..." (see above). Later, he literally becomes one.
  • Bullets Do Not Work That Way: When Carver orders his men to Sink The Life Boats, he reminds them to use the same type of ammunition carried by Chinese fighter planes. Since the 1950s or so, fighter planes have primarily carried autocannons firing 20mm (or larger) explosive shells, which would be all but impossible to load and fire from any gun small enough for a single person to carry.
  • California Doubling:
    • Bangkok doubles for Ho Chi Minh City, referred to as Saigon in the film.
    • Also, London stood in for Hamburg for the carpark chase, among other scenes.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Carver. His entire organization is based on engineering catastrophes and profiting from them, and he revels in it.
    Elliot Carver: Good morning, my golden retrievers! What kind of havoc shall the Carver Media Group create in the world today? News?
    Newsman: Floods in Pakistan, riots in Paris, and a plane crash in California.
    Elliot Carver: Excellent! Mr. Jones, are we ready to release our new software?
    Jones: Yes, sir. As requested, it's full of bugs, which means people will be forced to upgrade for years.
    Mr. Wallace: Inspired, sir.
    Elliot Carver: And after he signs the bill, release the tape anyway.
    Mr. Wallace: Consider him slimed.
    • To sum it up:
    Elliot Carver: There's no Bad news.
  • Casting Gag / I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: M and Admiral Roebuck have known each other for quite some time.
  • Chained Heat: Bond and Wai Lin are cuffed together when they are brought to Carver. This causes inconveniences during their escape from his clutches.
  • Chase Scene: In a multi-story car park, from the back seat. Stretching for ideas to do something different? Perhaps. Quite awesome? Yes.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The remote control for Bond's car, hidden in a mobile phone that also comes equipped with a hidden taser.
  • Colonel Badass: Wai Lin's rank, as revealed in the ending.
  • Cool Boat: The stealth ship. The fact it's invisible to radar raises the stakes considerably!
  • Cool Car: Includes a remote-control in Bond's cell phone. Granted, BMW is no Aston Martin, but damn.
  • The Cracker: Henry Gupta
  • Creator Cameo: Producer Michael G. Wilson is seen as Mr. Wallace in Carver's videoconference.
  • Dead Star Walking: While Teri Hatcher was featured in the advertising campaign as much as (if not more than) Michelle Yeoh, Paris Carver is the requisite secondary Bond Girl who dies halfway through, as per tradition. In the original cut, she had much more screentime, but test audiences' reactions to her role were largely negative, so much of it was omitted.
    • Total scene count for Paris in a two-hour film: three.
  • Death Dealer: Henry Gupta (but only in deleted scenes).
  • Denied Parody: While Elliot Carver looks at first glance like a thinly disguised version of Rupert Murdoch, the movie's main writer claims he was actually based on Robert Maxwell (this is supported by the cover story for Carver's death and the public's reaction to it mirroring Maxwell's fatal boat accident).
  • Distaff Counterpart: Wai Lin is basically a female, Chinese Bond, right down to the flirting, dry wit, and holding a military rank. Fridge Brilliance kicks in when you realize that this is exactly why her relationship with Bond is so shallow.
  • The Dragon: Mr. Stamper, Carver's right hand man.
  • Dragon Their Feet: Stamper outlives his boss, and tries to kill both Bond and Wai lin for it.
  • Double Entendre: Pretty much the whole Hamburg satellite launch party scene. Here's some of the best dialogue:
    Elliot Carver: I'm thinking about getting Wei Lin behind a news desk...
    Paris Carver:' I'm sure she won't resist...Much.
  • And:
    Bond: Tell me, Elliot, about your satellites, how you've positioned yourself globally...
    Elliot Carver: They're merely tools for spreading information, Mr. Bond.
    Bond: Or disinformation. Suppose you wished to alter the course of events, governments... or even a ship...
    Elliot Carver: (staring at Bond) You have a vivid imagination for a banker, Mr. Bond. Perhaps I should commission you to write a novel.
    Bond: Oh, no, I wouldn't know where to begin. I'd be lost at sea... adrift...
    • It's so over-the-top Bond pretty much has to be doing it on purpose.
  • Evil Is Petty: It would not be an exaggeration to state that Carver is one of the most powerful people on the planet, both obscenely rich and influential. When China refuses him broadcast rights, he decides to nuke the country. There's also the Mad Cow Scare, which he engineered because a guy wouldn't honor a poker bet.
  • Expy: Stamper, of Red Grant, and he's not the first time.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Paris Carver knew her number was up as soon as she went to help Bond. She spends one last night with him, gives him the information he needs to infiltrate her husband Elliot's secret lab, and leaves, telling James not even he can protect her. The way the scene plays out, Paris seems to know she'll be dead before the day is out, and accepts it.
  • False Flag Operation: Carver's mechanism to wage War for Fun and Profit.
  • Far-East Asian Terrorists: A fugitive Aum Shinrinkyo cultist named Satoshi Isagura, wanted for the Tokyo subway attacks in 1995, shows up in arms deal monitored by MI-6.
  • Fleeting Demographic Rule: Wai Linh is another "Bond girl as Bond's equal", portrayed again as the first time ever, not counting Anya Amasova and arguably Pam Bouvier. Would be repeated in 5 years with Jinx.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • Carver's goons grab Bond and take him to a soundproof recording studio to beat him until he talks. As one of them stands watch outside, you can see (but not hear) Bond turning the tables of the fight and beating the goons with the various instruments.
    • At one point in the Motorbike/Helicopter Chase, Bond and Wai Lin crash into a house while the occupants are having sex. They go back to it as soon as they leave.
  • Gag Voice: The female voice in the BMW with the comical German accent. Perhaps a little Take That on the BMW Product Placement over a British marque.
  • Guns Akimbo: Used largely for suppressive fire, unless the baddies are pretty much at point-blank range.
  • Hairpin Lockpick: Wai Lin's earring is able to unlock the handcuffs that have her and Bond tied together.
  • Helicopter Blender: Quite a silly example, as it takes forever for it to carve through the narrow streets of Saigon to get to the cycle Bond and Wai Lin are riding.
  • Hero Insurance: A scene between Bond and Q show him actually getting hero insurance for his car.
    Q: It's the insurance damage waiver for your beautiful new car. Now, will you need collision coverage?
    James Bond: Yes.
    Q: (stares at Bond for the snark) Fire?
    James Bond: Probably.
    Q: Property destruction?
    James Bond: Definitely.
    Q: Personal Injury?
    James Bond: I hope not, but accidents do happen.
    Q: They frequently do with you.
    James Bond: (signs the form) Well, that takes care of the "normal" wear and tear. Is there any other protection I need?
    Q: Only from me, 007, unless you bring that car back in pristine order.
  • "Hey, You!" Haymaker: Bond pulls this on a thug about to shoot Wai Lin.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Averted on the stealth ship, where Bond's suppressed Walther P99 sounds probably just a little less loud that it would without the suppressor: as soon as he pulls the trigger, all the goons in the room hear it and open fire on him. Doesn't help that it's a ship and sounds echo.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: You wanted a headline, Carver? You got it, courtesy of MI6! Something about a boating accident...
  • Hurricane of Puns: If you played a drinking game with all of the one-liner's, puns and Double Entendres in this film, you'd be in the ER for alcohol poisoning.
  • Idiot Ball: The Admirals, who just witnessed the 'terrorist supermarket' with even nuclear torpedoes for sale and Gupta buying an American GPS encoder, still decide to potentially go to war with China over the Chinese apparently murdering their sailors even though M flat-out tells them someone was messing with the GPS signal. They might have been a bit more open-minded if she'd let them in on Carver's involvement, but it's still incredibly reckless.
  • Incredibly Long Note: k.d. lang's epic finish during the closing credits.
  • Irony: When Bond discovers Paris Carver dead in his hotel room, a news broadcast states that she was found dead along with an "unidentified man who apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound". It is at this point that Bond encounters Dr. Kaufman aiming at him with a gun and who tells him that story will be on the air in an hour. Of course, Bond overcomes Dr. Kaufman and turns his own gun upon him so that the crime scene does in fact appear as the newscast states.
  • Irrevocable Order: The Royal Navy launches a Tomahawk missile to destroy a terrorist arms depot. Soon after, Bond discovers that there are nukes at the camp, but by this time the missile is out of radio range, requiring typical James Bond action theatrics to remove them before the missile hits.
  • If It Bleeds, It Leads: Carver's own words sum it up best:
    There's no bad news.
  • Karmic Death: Carver meets his end at the hands of the very sea drill he used against the Devonshire to kill its entire crew.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Bond lets Carver know that starting World War III for ratings' sake is really quite insane.
  • Large Ham: Jonathan Pryce's magnificently over-the-top performance as Elliot Carver is one of the most memorable things about this movie. Same goes for Vincent Schiavelli's Dr. Kaufman, who knows he's a Bond henchman, and milks it for all its worth.
  • Like A Father To Me: Stamper says this word-for-word about Dr. Kaufman.
  • Malevolent Mugshot: Carver loves his banners. Bond gets in a good dig at his expense for it.
  • Milkman Conspiracy: Elliot Carver's Media Group blackmails a President, is implied to orchestrate global floods, riots and plane crashes, sells buggy software (to force people to upgrade it for years), sinks a British Destroyer, massacres the survivors, steals one of its cruise missiles, plans to use said missile on Beijing to set up a new Chinese government friendly to its interests (i.e. broadcasting rights) after bringing Britain and China to the brink of nuclear war, and employs terrorists, torturers and professional assassins, plus the average Carver Media Group employees, who based on the evidence, are Always Chaotic Evil and whose uniforms always come with machine guns. All for the sake of its ratings. Carver also apparently faked the Mad Cow disease scare of 1997 because a British beef baron owed him money (from a poker game, a mere £10,000) and refused to pay... then the French paid him to run the stories for another year.
  • Misguided Missile: A Tomahawk missile is launched at an Arms Fair in the Pre Titles Sequence. Bond realises there is a nuclear torpedo attached to an L-39 trainer there. When the Royal Navy are unable to self-destruct the inbound Tomahawk, he nicks the plane.
  • Mook Lieutenant: Captain Scott of Carver's Stealth Boat.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Kaufmann, naturally. (And he claims he actually does hold several medical degrees, the reason he can make a hit look like a suicide.)
  • Ms. Fanservice: Paris Carver becomes this once Bond strips her down to her black panties.
  • Mythology Gag: in You Only Live Twice, Bond says he doesn't need "Instant Japanese" at all, since he has a degree in "Oriental Languages"; in this film, however, he is completely baffled by Wai Lin's Chinese keyboard. note 
  • N.G.O. Superpower: Carver Media Group Network, which already influences most of the world. But since its led by a megalomaniac, the organization takes the extra step forward of forming a small army, build a stealth ship, and stir up a war between Britain and China.
  • Precision F-Strike: Delivered by the normally cool and in-control Carver.
    Carver: Mr Stamper, would you please kill those bastards!
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner:
    • What Carver does before offing Gupta.
    "Press the magic button, Beijing disappears!"
    • Bond also has one, seen in Hoist by His Own Petard.
    • Carver also gives one to the entire British and Chinese armadas when he, in his stealth ship, orders his men to fire missiles at both to provoke a battle:
    Let the mayhem begin.
    • As Bond is about to kill Dr. Kaufman, after he killed Paris Carver:
    Kaufman: Wait! I'm just a professional doing a job!
    Bond: Me too.
    (Bond shoots Kaufman)
  • Professional Killer: Both Kaufman and Bond claim to be such—see above.
  • Take the Wheel: Bond and Wai Lin, further complicated by the fact that they are on a motorcycle and handcuffed together.
  • Theme Tune Cameo: Amusingly, snippets on the score not of the Sheryl Crow theme, but by the k. d. lang one on the end credits (since score composer David Arnold co-wrote that).
  • "Then It Seems You Have Outlived Your Contract": After Gupta reports that the missile aimed at Beijing is ready for launch, Carver says this before shooting him dead.
  • This Is a Drill: The drill torpedo.
  • Title Drop: The film itself doesn't have one, but the Playstation video game does: After being beaten by Bond in their shootout, Elliot Carver' last words before succumbing to his injuries are ironically "Tomorrow never dies".
  • To the Pain: When Carver tells Bond about how Mr. Stamper is going to torture him, although the movie gets more mileage out of the Cow Tools presented as Mr. Stamper's torture implements than it does out of Carver's little speech.
  • Torture Technician: Dr. Kaufmann and his protégé Mr. Stamper. Kaufmann claims it's just "a hobby" of his.
  • Trophy Wife: Paris Carver is one for Elliot. And once he finds out Bond is taking advantage of her...
  • Underwater Kiss: After trapping Stamper and leaving him to his doom, Bond dives after Wai Lin to give her some air mouth-to-mouth.
  • Unflinching Faith In The Brakes:
    • Bond during his short "test drive" of the remote controlled BMW. Doubly Bad Ass because he'd never driven it before.
    • Q is standing right next to Bond, and doesn't even flinch. Just goes to show how much faith he has in 007.
  • War for Fun and Profit: Carver's primary plan, by way of False Flag Operations.
  • Weaponized Car: Bond's BMW 750iL. It has missiles and can deploy caltrops.
  • What an Idiot: Even though he's a secret agent, Bond wastes no time questioning Carver on the nature of his network activities when trying to probe him for information upon their first meeting. As soon as the talk of ships comes up, Carver wastes no time in later having the crap beaten out of him for answers.
  • What the Fu Are You Doing?: Carver does this in front of Wai Lin, making lots of karate moves and yelling "Ha!" all the while.
    Carver: *scoffs* Pathetic.
  • When Harry Met Svetlana: Significantly downplayed: the film takes place in a moment of fairly amicable relations between China and the West, and Bond and Wai Lin's task boils down to maintaining these.
  • With Friends Like These...: Bond is breaking into Carter's office, when Wai Lin breaks in at the same time, setting off the alarm. As Bond is shot at by SMG-toting mooks, he looks up and sees Lin climbing a wall while cheerfully waving at Bond as he draws off the men who'd normally be chasing after her.
  • Working the Same Case: Bond & Wai Lin initially are separately investigating Carver on behalf of the British and Chinese governments.
  • You Have 48 Hours: Invoked by name, as that's how long it will take for the Royal Navy to move to the South China Sea for retaliation, so that's how long Bond has to investigate.
  • You're Insane!: Bond to Carver. Carver shrugs it off.
    Bond: Hm. You really are quite insane.
    Carver: (stares at Bond) The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success.