Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bond Is Forever: “The World is Not Enough”

MI6 agent James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is reacquiring a considerable amount of money for British oil mogul, Sir Robert King. Upon returning to MI6 headquarters, Bond realizes too late that the retrieved pounds are tainted, and King is killed in an explosion. The spy pursues the assassin, who evidently prefers death to incarceration, alluding to a higher power giving the kill order. Once MI6 identifies Renard (Robert Carlyle) as the man behind the assassination, Bond connects the recovered money with the kidnapping of King’s daughter, Elektra (Sophie Marceau). Elektra had escaped her captors, after M (Judi Dench) had convinced King to not pay a ransom demand. Believing that the tycoon’s daughter may be Renard’s next target, 007 stays close to Elektra while tracking Renard. A theft of plutonium leads Bond to receive assistance from a nuclear physicist, Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards), as they try to neutralize whatever combative maneuver Renard may have planned.

The World is Not Enough (1999) marked the third Bond film for Brosnan, Dench, and Samantha Bond as Moneypenny, while Desmond Llewelyn made his 17th appearance as Q. One of the film’s strongest points is the laudable performances from the cast. Brosnan and Dench are typically strong and also quite good in their scenes together. Carlyle is a remarkable villain, a man inching towards his inevitable doom (a botched assassination has left a bullet in his brain, which is slowly killing him). He’s both callous and compassionate, a vicious terrorist who is able to evoke an audience’s empathy. Marceau is superb as Elektra, a woman who may seem frail but proves to be a much more sound character. Even Robbie Coltrane is stellar as Bond’s dubious ally, Zukovsky (reprising his role from 1995’s GoldenEye).

In contrast, Richards is somewhat bland as Dr. Jones. Her mannerisms occasionally seem wooden, almost as if she is posing in lieu of acting. In all fairness to the actress, Christmas Jones is underwritten, and Richards has little to do. Some have questioned the credibility of Jones as a nuclear physicist, which is un
derstandable considering her tedious delivery. Others, however, have criticized her attire (she’s donning a tank top and shorts when she’s first shown), an objection which is speculative in and of itself by insinuating that a physicist must dress a certain way.
Though it is exciting and entertaining, The World is Not Enough does play it safe by staying true to certain Bond conventions. The spy introduces himself (more than once) with last name first, he’s armed to the teeth with gadgets, and his martinis are shaken, not stirred. Likewise, action scenes take place on a snowy mountain, in speeding boats, and inside a submarine, all of which are familiar 007 terrain. Carlyle’s Renard, with his shaved head and drooping eyelid (or ptosis, resulting from the failed assassination), almost resembles Bond’s previous three-movie nemesis, Blofeld. This does not make the movie less enthralling, but rather turns the whole affair into a relaxing guide through well known territory. It’s difficult to criticize a movie for wanting its audience to be comfortable.

This is not to say that the movie does not sometimes pull away from the series’ more traditional qualities. The narrative
is a subtle appraisal of Bond’s treatment of women. Early in the film, he seduces MI6’s female doctor so that she will sign off on a clean bill of health and allow 007 to return to his duties. This act, in part, comes into question later when Bond begins an intimate relationship with Elektra and afterwards doubts her validity as a kidnapped victim. Whereas the spy manipulates with seduction, he is also visibly angered when believing that he was exploited in a similar fashion. Another change in convention is M’s personal investment in the mission. She is not only a good friend to Sir Robert King, but was also involved in handling the terrorists’ demands when his daughter was kidnapped, which has ties to the main story.
In the film, Q appears to be turning the gadgetry reins over to R (John Cleese), a name suggested by a sardonic Bond (although it does appear in the closing credits as such). Monty Python alum Cleese is quite amusing as the bumbling apprentice (his first words to 007: “And you might be...?”), an obvious antithesis to Q. Though it would appear that Q, having been portrayed by Llewelyn in nearly every Bond film, is retiring, the actor stated in an interview that he would not be leaving the role. Tragically, Llewelyn died in a car collision a mere month after the film’s premiere. Cleese is officially called Q in the subsequent Bond film, Die Another Day (2002).

Michael Apted, in his sole Bond effort, expertly handles the film's direction.
Screenwriting partners Neal Purvis and Robert Wade made their Bond debut with The World is Not Enough (co-written with Bruce Feirstein, who co-wrote GoldenEye and was the credited writer for 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies). Purvis and Wade would handle script writing for the remaining Bond films, reportedly to include the 23rd film of the series, tentatively scheduled for release in 2012. The film’s title is, as the spy says, the Bond family motto, initially referenced in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). The movie’s title song is one of the best. It was written by composer David Arnold and lyricist Don Black and was performed by the rock band, Garbage.
Critical reception to The World is Not Enough was decidedly mixed, although the film performed admirably at the box office. I rank the movie as the best Bond outing starring Brosnan: likable villains, enjoyable action scenes (particularly the flooding submarine sequence near the end), and the always regaling Brosnan. What are your thoughts? Are there other The World is Not Enough fans?

Bond Is Forever will return next month with For Your Eyes Only (1981).


  1. Sark, I always look forward to your "Bond Is Forever" series and this review is, once again, right on the money. Although I believe I like TWINE more than you, it does indeed trek over familiar 007 terrain (i.e., it boasts a good ski chase, but not another one!). That said, the formula is expertly executed. The pre-title sequence ranks with the best in the Bond film series. TWINE includes a clever twist...I find it intriguing that most Bond films avoid plot twists. I agree that both Carlyle and Marceau give strong performances. Personally, I think Richards is OK; certainly, she's better than Tanya Roberts in VIEW TO A KILL and Lois Chiles in MOONRAKER. The theme song by Garage is pretty good--easily the finest of the Brosnan-Craig era. My only complaint is that M comes across as helpless during part of the film; perhaps that humanizes her, but it changes the dynamic of her relationship with Bond and I just didn't care for that. Otherwise, I'm a big TWINE fan and feel it's been unjustly maligned. I'm glad that you've given it some props in your well-written, first-rate review.

  2. When you enjoy a literary or film series, you look forward to its familiar aspects, smiling with the characters, props, and mannerisms like they are old friends. The same can be said for your excellent Bond profiles, Sark. "The World is Not Enough" is a solid Bond entry. I especially liked Sophie Marceau, who I first remembered from "Braveheart." Excellent and informative review, once again!

  3. Good review of Brosnan's best. I disagree with Rick29. I thought Richards was pretty bad. It might have been one of the best Bonds with a more believable heroine.

  4. The casting of Denise Richards is probably the worst case of mis-casting in the entire Bond series. Other than that, good 007 film.

  5. Excellent addition to your Bond series. I'm not as much of a Bond follower as you, Sark, but I really liked The World is Not Enough. I've always liked Pierce Brosnan, makes a good Bond, although no one can top Connery, but Brosnan has a persona and style of acting Bond that I think is great. Sophie Marceau is just one of the prettiest women ever, and she was good in her role. Denise Richards was a clinker in this, to me, and it marred an otherwise wonderful cast.

    I liked your comment about insinuating that a physicist must dress a certain way -- I'll take you one further and ask why a female physicist HAS to be a model in tank tops, why one gorgeous woman like Marceau is "not enough" (ha ha) and they couldn't just cast a woman who is smart and confident and attractive? Or ugly and hilarious would be great. Or anything but just another face and body. Obviously that's a female's perspective, but a legitimate one I think.

    I have a favorite T-shirt with a line from a famous poem "The World Is Too Much With Us." When I saw the title "The World is Not Enough", it attracted me. Yes, believe it or not, a great POEM made me want to see a Bond thriller. Weird, huh?

  6. I wish I could add to the conversation Sark, but as you know I'm a Dumb Bond. I do enjoy learning about the Bond films from your posts, though. BTW, I think Denise Richards is bad in just about everything she does.

  7. Sark, this is another great review of a James Bond movie. I really like this movie. I like the plot, the action scenes, and Pierce is a fine Bond. Caryle makes a decent villian too. I agree that Denise Richards is a waste. She just goes through her motions and reads her lines. She is not as beautiful or as talented as Sophie Marceau. One look at her and how could Bond even give Christmas another look?? I have to mention this because I notice it every time I watch this movie. I just love the earrings Marceau wears. I wish I knew where to buy some of them!! The song is great and I am a big fan of Garbage. Shirley Manson is a good singer. I own the movie soundtrack CD and loaded it on my iPod. Nicely written review and I enjoyed it.