Whilst investigating the deliberate sinking of a Royal Navy ship in the South China Sea, Bond’s attention falls on media baron Elliot Carver and his organisation.
Considering the film is fifteen years old, there’s an amazing kind of prescience to it: given recent revelations about the role of the media and their underhanded tactics to get stories, the scenario presented here (whilst overblown) is at the very least plausible. The Bond films of the 1990s all took place in a kind of heightened reality, so a desire to start a war for ratings fits in to that quite well.
Jonathan Pryce is brilliant as Carver, a total sociopath and megalomaniac willing to create a war situation for ratings and prepared to eliminate anyone who betrays him- including his own wife. I especially love his opening scene, deliberating about using the word ‘killed’ or ‘murdered’ in the headline- a man who knows the power of words. There’s also a certain amount of glee in his briefing where he sends his ‘golden retrievers’ to do his bidding and the showdown between Carver, Bond and Wai Lin in Saigon is also brilliantly played. Pryce took over the role after Anthony Hopkins dropped out of the role.
Michelle Yeoh is similarly great as Chinese agent Wai Lin who is running a parallel investigation to Bond’s into Carver. Wai Lin is a tough and proficient agent, more than capable of looking after herself (ably shown when she takes on a bunch of goons) and fully equipped with a range of nifty gadgets. Yeoh’s interplay with Brosnan is particularly good.
Teri Hatcher shines as Paris Carver, Elliot’s wife and Bond’s old flame who got ‘too close for comfort’ to 007. After meeting again in Hamburg, Paris decides to help Bond bring her husband down- and pays the ultimate price. There’s a vulnerability to Hatcher’s performance which is particularly affecting. There’s a lovely cameo by Vincent Schiavelli as Dr. Kaufmann- a small but very memorable role as Paris’ assassin. It’s a scene played with some menace but also some humour, which I think is a fair description of the script as a whole- good work by Bruce Feirstein.
There are some great action set-pieces- the sinking of the HMS Devonshire and Bond’s investigation of the sunken ship, the fight at the Hamburg printing press, the HALO jump, the motorcycle chase through Saigon and, of course, the sequence with the remote controlled BMW- all directed with flair by Roger Spottiswoode and ably supported by David Arnold’s superb score.
A triumph all round.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5