For Brosnan's second outing as Bond, he takes on a media mogul set on world domination.
Carry On, the UK's only comparable long-running franchise, ran out of steam when history overtook it. This has never been a problem for the Bond series, which started out ahead of the century. Ever since Dr. No, they've been full of computers and microtechnology, and, give or take the odd outbreak of peace, the threat of World War III hasn't gone away in 35 years. So how do you update the series for the late 1990s? Easy. You dial "M" for Murdoch and make your villain a media mogul.
In the 18th re-run of a most enduring formula, Elliot Carver (Pryce), the head of Carver Media Global Network, plans to kick-start hostilities between Britain and China in order to land an exclusive scoop for his media empire, including a new satellite TV network and the tabloid Tomorrow. "Words are the new weapons! Satellites the new artillery!" he rants, writing splash headlines mere seconds after his own stealth ship in the South China Sea has sunk a British warship. "There is," he chuckles insanely, "no news like bad news."
Enter Commander Bond (Brosnan), whose mission is to save the world from World War III in only 48 hours, with a multi-million budget and in travelogue locations: Hamburg, Saigon and the South China Seas (he's already done a "terrorist's supermarket" high in the Russian mountains for the pre-credit sequence). Never mind New Labour, this is Old Bond: we first see him in bed with his language teacher as the script, by Bruce Feirstein, goes into innuendo overdrive ("I'm brushing up on a little Danish . . . I enjoy exploring a new tongue"). The scene is thus set for holiday brochure cat-and-mouse which, next to Con Air and the Die Hards, is medium octane but no less entertaining for it. And at least it dresses for dinner.
Carver lectures Bond that the public don't care what, when or where, just why. As far as Bond films go, it's simply a case of how. How will he get off that high building? How will he foil the henchmen with sledgehammers and get out of the underground car park? (Well, remember all the features of his new BMW 750 which Q went through at the start? It'll probably involve one or two of those). And so on.
After a ropey patch, Bond is categorically back. Goldeneye took $350 million and minted Pierce Brosnan as The Spy Whom We Loved. He looks tip-top in this (his hair withstands getting shaken and stirred) - less Connery, more Moore, with whom he shares a talent for dry delivery of post-mortem puns. If Pryce is a little subtle, Judi Dench's M compensates with a relish you could spread on toast. Fast, funny, very British and less militaristic than, say, The Peacemaker. On this evidence, we may be forced to say, Carry on, Bond.
Brosnan continues his succes in the iconic role, while Spottiswoode creates a fast and thrilling addition to the franchise.