"I have a problem... with a banker."Tomorrow Never Dies brings us up to date. Goldeneye, full of New Labourisms marks history. Tomorrow Never Dies tells us something about the future.
That future is now. Sure, Carver is a cipher for a Rupert Murdoch-a-like (Robert Maxwell's demise overboard of his private yacht is also invoked at the end), the presiding personality over one of the biggest news scandals of this year. But the gambling culture that Bond's banking cover story represents has matured just over a decade later as an greater ongoing scandal. In fact, this narrative has translated to more of a threat than the seemingly rather prescient terrorist arms bazaar - and the trigger-happy mentality of the military - with which the film opens.
All this is couched in Brosnan's most comfortable outing in the role. The rather frenzied re-booting of Goldeneye has settled down into a typically lumpen dovetailing of the traditional tropes and new action cinema idioms. The Q-in-the-field humour of For Your Eyes Only and Licence To Kill is an odd but reliable rubber stamp of this, literally a dis-establishing of Bond. For all that the film's plot borrows heavily from For Your Eyes Only's maritime disaster and the rather clunky sea-faring of The Spy Who Loved Me - not to mention an entire location and junk reprised from The Man With The Golden Gun. It's also a film pertaining to the great tradition of a Bond film that ends on water.
There are high points. It does have two of the (self-consciously) cleverest one-liners of the series with the 'cunning linguist' and 'edifice complex' gags. It also has a superb cameo scene from the late Vincent Schiavelli as the 'Allo 'Allo-style assassin Dr Kaufman.
The action sequences, though rather stock have their twists - a car chase without Bond actually at the wheel, a bike chase with Michelle Yeoh's pillion passenger handcuffed to Bond. Indeed the unusually but necessarily chaste coming together of British and Chinese secret agents acts to help move the film along where it might otherwise cloy. What does gum a little is the clunky double act of Jonathan Pryce's calculatedly guignol Carver and Götz Otto's 2D Teuton-henchman Stamper. Pryce doesn't go so far as to mock his own role (my reaction to his performance on the film's release) but he isn't at home here.
What's left, on screen, in memory is a strangely plastic film. It's entertaining enough by the old standard and, in hindsight, a solid action film in the new (pre-Bourne) mould. Competence supercedes any novelty. And so, bizarrely, the extremity of what novelty there is - the fantasy of the story - is that which is most present with us today.