Over the last several months, members of the CBn Forums have been reviewing all the James Bond 007 films in the “Countdown Threads“. If you wish to join in on the forum discussion all you have to do is register – it’s free and only takes a minute. Now here are some selected reviews, varying in opinion, of the nineteenth official James Bond film: The World Is Not Enough…
‘The World Is Not Enough’ by Scottlee
This film turned me from being a casual Bond fan into an obsessive one. I’ll forever remember it as the picture that brightened up my otherwise depressing first year at University, first with the cinema release before Christmas, and then with the video release the following summer.
The storyline is down to earth whilst still maintaining high production values. In this respect it strikes a good balance of past Bond films, and would have made a far more suitable 40th anniversery film than Die Another Day did.
Robert Carlyle and Sophie Marceau make for good villains. Carlise plays the type of down to earth villain rarely seen in Bond films, and doesn’t once attempt to overdo his role in order to become more memorable. Look at the way he casually walks away from Bond in the silo when the army stops Bond from holding a gun to his head. I thought this was a cool touch. The scene with Elektra and Renard in the bedroom hinted at a unique and bizarre relationship never seen before between villains, except for maybe Kananga and Solitare. Did the Die Another Day script give anything like this to the characters of sleepless Graves and Frost? No.
The opening sequence is probably my favourite in the entire series. It doesn’t suffer from being overlong, and the backdrop of the Millenium Dome looks wonderful. Indeed, all the action sequences in the film are well written. The only one I’m slightly cynical about is the one in the cavier factory, which seems a bit rushed and contains too many cutaways to Christmas and Zukovsky. It does at least however have an hilarious joke regarding Q’s car being destroyed and some amusing dialogue between Bond, Zukovsky, and Christmas (Prior to the action, not when Zukovsky is bathing in cavier).
The snow sequence is gorgeous to look at and adds an interesting new contraption to the series’ gallery of vehicles. It would have been easy for the writers to just chuck in a bunch of skiers for this scene. Creativity has been attempted though, and it works. I particularly like the part where Brosnan remarks “See you back at the lodge”, only to see the victim of his line survive for another pass. It’s a unique moment for the series, and generated a good laugh around me when I saw the film in the cinema.
The climatic battle on the sub is a fitting one in the context of the film, and again goes for realism over Bondisms. The un-named baddies protecting Renard are all despatched in simple and believable ways (they are shot, knocked out, or bang their heads when the sub turns upside down) rather than by gimmicks handed to Bond by Q. The same goes for all the other bad guys in the film, as a matter of fact. Bull is shot. Davidoff is shot. Elektra’s bodyguard (I forget his name) is shot. No gimmicks, no slapstick, just direct and believiable deaths at believable times in the story. Bull’s death in particular made me chuckle.
I’m not sure why some people bash this film. In my opinion it’s by far the most satisfying of all Brosnan’s efforts. There’s so much I can praise about it and so little I can criticize. The locations are beautiful, the women are beautiful, the storyline is involving and not over the top, the M16 crew get rich roles (especially Dench). There’s also a wonderfully written farewell for Desmond Llewelyn. Top notch stuff all round. To finish with, I’ll just comment on how fab I feel when the film fades to black at the end and you are immediately hit with the booming James bond theme tune. First time the producers have done this for an awful long time.
‘The World Is Not Enough’ by Genrewriter
A major drop out of my top ten, this is one of the few Bond films that gets worse every time I see it; luckily I don’t watch it much so I still like it. Brosnan is good as usual and the action is fine but Denise Richards was horrifically miscast in a badly written role and the sub finale is a real anticlimax. Still, the first half is quite good and I always enjoy the caviar factory sequence. It was an interesting experiment but one that ended up failing rather badly in my opinion.
‘The World Is Not Enough’ by Tarl_Cabot
A terrific set up in Spain and then a boat chase on the river Thames…the film never gets any better. It really goes down hill after the credits roll. A terriblely joyless, prozac inspired song kicks off the dullest Bond film of them all. It has some good talent wasted too. Robert Carlyle is supposed to be soooo scary that the delicious Maria Gracia Cuzzinotta kills herself rather than face his wrath…we are led to beleive “Renard” is a Eastern European Machiavellian arch terrorist like ‘Carlos the Jackal’. What he really is unfortunately is a pathectic p-whipped lap dog. Short, unthreatening and irrellevant. A total waste and huge dissapointment. So, the real villian is, surprise! A woman! Woopdedoo.
Brosnan often looks bored to death;his over stacked on make-up and hammy emotionalism are embarrassing. The worst James Bond performance of any actor can be found in The World Is Not Enough and it’s too bad because that pretitle in Spain was a smash. The cheesiest one liners don’t help Brosnan in his third time is a charm film…
There are hints of glamour but it never really takes off. Watching Bond and Elektra ski to some very nice strings by David Arnold is beautiful but it gets ruined by a pointless and poorly executed action set piece. The director Michael Apted is known for chic movies and it shows throughout.
The pre-The World Is Not Enough publicity led me to believe this was going to be a smart thriller with some drama and less emphisis on explosions, ie the anti-Tomorrow Never Dies. It’s not nearly as fun as Tomorrow Never Dies. It’s pretentious, cookie cutter and just a bad James Bond film.
‘The World Is Not Enough’ by tdalton
The World Is Not Enough is easily Brosnan’s best Bond film, if not the best film of his career. He gives an inspired performance as Bond, bringing out nuances in the character that had been absent in his previous two outings.
The strongpoint of The World Is Not Enough is its intriguing plot. Usually, the Bond films have a very simple plot. The bad guy usually decides that he/she wants to either gain world domination or they want to destroy the world and/or civilization as we know it. In The World Is Not Enough, the villians only want to gain control of the world’s oil production, which is much more lowscale than many of the previous villian schemes.
Cornering the world’s oil production is only part of the film. Bond is put in an unusual situation where he is forced to act as the bodyguard for an oil heiress, Elektra King, and as he protects her, he watches the situation deteriorate right before his eyes and begins to distrust all those around him.
The supporting cast of The World Is Not Enough is quite exceptional. Robert Carlyle is a serviceable Renard, although there are certainly better actors out there who could, and probably should have, been cast in the role, but he’s not a major problem. Sophie Marceau is fantastic as Elektra King. Denise Richards is probably the only problem with the film. She is simply not believable as a nuclear physicist. She is gorgeous, yes, and would have been better cast as a Bond girl that was not a scientist, but she is completely miscast as a nuclear physicist. Judi Dench was given an abnormally large role as M in The World Is Not Enough, but she once again turns in a great performance as Bond’s boss. Sadly, Desmond Llewelyn turns in his last performance as Q, but it is memorable as always.
The major reason that The World Is Not Enough is a sucess is that the producers finally decided to go back to a more espionage based style of film rather than an action, such as the flop Tomorrow Never Dies. Sure, there are some missteps in the film, but the fact that they made a very character driven film earns it quite a few points on that fact alone.
Musically, The World Is Not Enough is a very strong film. David Arnold seems to be coming into his own as the Bond producer in his second film. The music fits the action and the drama of the film very well, and it feels very Bondian.
Garbage’s title track is also strong. Although I’m not a fan of the band, they were a good choice to perform the title track.
‘The World Is Not Enough’ by Double-Oh Agent
The world may not be enough but neither is James Bond. You just can’t get enough of 007. The World Is Not Enough makes an effort to be different, but it doesn’t fully succeed as something seems to hold it back.
Bad: Christmas Jones. As much as I looked forward to Denise Richards being a Bond girl, I was disappointed in her acting which wasn’t as polished as I expected. She is great in Starship Troopers and especially Wild Things but not so good here. Some may complain that she is not believable as a nuclear weapons expert and while that may be valid, I think it is her emoting that is the real problem. She does look great though. I also think something is missing from Robert Carlyle’s Renard character. I suppose it might have something to do with his falling in love with Elektra King. As a result, he becomes more human, and the best Bond villains are invincible machines who feel nothing. Ironically, that is exactly what Renard does feel–physcially anyway–but his emotional state weakens his character, I believe. Note to producers: no Bond villain–certainly henchman–should ever be in love. The parahawk chase is also missing something almost as if it was done by numbers and the scenes aboard the sunken submarine feel more anti-climactic than climactic.
Good: Brosnan is excellent in this film as he really nails Bond. This and Tomorrow Never Dies is probably his best efforts as 007. Sophie Marceau is a ravishing beauty and is outstanding as Elektra King. One can easily understand why Bond–and Renard for that matter–falls for her. Robbie Coltrane’s Valentin Zukovsky makes a welcome return and adds a lot of humor to the film. Maria Grazia Cucinotta is sexy and dangerous as Giulietta da Vinci aka the Cigar Girl. The pre-titles sequence is fantastic–love the Q Boat. It was nice seeing a Bond chase in London even it was on the Thames. David Arnold does a great job with score, which is my favorite, and his effort on the title song, performed perfectly by Garbage, is fantastic. It’s a great Bond song. Lastly, getting to see Q one last time is a pleasure. His exit from the film–and ultimately the series–is a poignant one and his farewell glance to Bond stirs the emotions. Thank you Desmond Llewelyn–you were simply the best.
‘The World Is Not Enough’ by freemo
It’s 20th, and will almost certainly move to 21st when the next one is released. Not for one particular reason, but for about a dozen particular reasons. Been discussed to death though, so let’s leave it at that.
Reviews for films #19 upwards will be mostly positive, such is the strength of the series. This is just the one rotten apple.
‘The World Is Not Enough’ by Turn
The World Is Not EnoughThe World is Not Enough–a film where James Bond, agent 007, turns into the Lifetime Network version of James Bond.
- See Bond guide himself through a mission by his feelings instead of his gut and instinct.
- See standard, uninspired action sequences that shouldn’t rank on anybody’s Bond top 10 list as far excitement goes (the precredits, possibly excepted).
- See locations that were exotic–35 years ago in From Russia With Love.
- See forced comedy and squeezed-in situations to satisfy an audience’s expectations instead of sticking with the intent of making a more serious spy film.
- See the villain hold hot rocks and punch a table.
- See Bond and the girl take on the main bad guy and his forces the way he did in three other Brosnan era films.
- See 20 other Bond films before this if you’ve never seen the others. You aren’t missing anything here.
‘The World Is Not Enough’ by A Kristatos
The World Is Not Enough really digs into the psyche of James Bond. Pierce Brosnan plays up this aspect perfectly. This is far and away his best Bond film. The complex plot of this movie keeps everyone guessing as to whom the real villain is, including Bond himself. Heck, she even had M fooled too! This movie marks the return to the more plot driven spy thriller format that was last seen during the Timothy Dalton era. The plot of The World Is Not Enough harkens even further back to For Your Eyes Only, a movie with a similarly realistic plot that also involved trying to pin down who the actual villain was.
The main villain turns out to be of course, Elektra King, played brilliantly by Sophie Marceau. She hires MI-6 for her protection while she builds her pipeline through Eastern Europe. The conniving way she acts has everyone fooled until it is almost too late, when it is revealed that she actually wants to corner the world’s oil market.
The remainder of the cast does an excellent job, with the exception of Denise Richards. She is not that believable as a nuclear physicist, but is not as bad as some make her out to be. Obviously, she was brought in to provide more eye candy in the movie. I do tend to believe her more than Tanya Roberts or Brit Ekland’s respective characters in their previous movies, however.
Robert Carlyle does an excellent job playing Renard, King’s partner in crime. He does have the look of the “almost” dead villain that he plays here. Robbie Coltrane returns from GoldenEye as Bond’s reluctant Russian ally, Valentin Zukovsky. And M is given the largest role of the entire series. Judi Dench is at her prime here as M. And of course, this sadly would be the final time Desmond Llewelyn would play Q, as he tragically died in a car crash just a month after the film premiered. Thankfully, The World Is Not Enough provided the perfect ending to his tenure, as John Cleese has now stepped comfortably into the role.
My only major gripe with this film is the continued overrealiance on stunts and explosions during the Brosnan era. Obviously, there are many nods to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in this film. But the most obvious one, the ski chase, from a similar romantic cue when Bond and Electra are skiing to the avalanche, was just not necessary, as it added nothing to the plot. All it served was to provide more endless explosions and noise.
David Arnold returns once again to score the The World Is Not Enough soundtrack. Again, the techno flavored cues don’t do much for me, but the more Barry flavored cues are excellent. The World Is Not Enough also contains the best title song since A View To A Kill. A lot of people don’t think much of Garbage’s title track, but I think it captures the flavor of the Bond sound perfectly, especially with its traditional sounding melody and the horns blasting in the background. This song is an underrated gem that Arnold incorporates into the soundtrack very well.
The World Is Not Enough is a gem of a movie that only misses my top 5 due to its overrealiance on elaborate stunts and explosions. Despite this, it is a true testament to this movie that the movie is pulled off so well, despite the noise. The intricate and more realistic plot, great characters that are well developed, and a great performance by Brosnan help this movie overcome any flaws it has. A true Bond classic!
‘The World Is Not Enough’ by Qwerty
Once I get into this section in my James Bond film rankings (the bottom 10 films of the series), there is almost always another Bond film or two that is game for the same position. At other times for example, I’d bet The World Is Not Enough could be as high as #11 or so.
I like this film, as I’ve said many times before on here. It’s at times a lesser James Bond film for a few reasons I’ll later go into, but it’s not all that bad on the whole. I think Pierce Brosnan looks very fit in this film. He seems to have lost a bit of weight since his last outing in Tomorrow Never Dies. I used to intensely dislike Christmas Jones, but over time, I’ve grown to find her a good bit of fun. It’s refreshing to see a Bond girl who isn’t trying to always be the female Bond, like Jinx was (over and over again). Elektra King is also a delicious villainess with some great chemistry with Brosnan’s Bond. Marceau was a terrific choice for the role and probably the standout in the film. However, characters like Mr. Bullion and Renard just seem weak and underdeveloped. They all could have probably been better if more effort had been put into them. The real shame here is that the character of Elektra could have been so much more had all the others been improved. Hey, the film grossed over $352 million – a box-office success, so that’s all that really matters, right?
There are alot of other characters in this film as well; perhaps too many. MI6 has for example pretty much the entire team: M, Q, R, Miss Moneypenny, Warmflash, Tanner, Robinson… it got tiring to see them all over the film.
The action sequences were well put together, but felt like extra weight at times. I really enjoyed the pre-credits sequence with a great chase between Gulietta and Bond – the Thames chase sequence with the Millenium Dome was an inspired idea.
The finale of the film is just rather droll though. After all these huge action sequences and everything else (whether you loved or dispised them), we’re given a small fight in a closed quarters submarine. Where’s the larger than life/grand style? There’s very little that’s exciting about it. I know we should care while Christmas and Bond desperately try to figure out a way to escape, but…
…still, it was that box-office success.
‘The World Is Not Enough’ by hrabb04
Yes, you saw it here, folks. Put down the bricks and bats. It’s not a bad James Bond movie. Not even close. Viewed as a Bond movie in the wake of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, it is an excellent movie in the series.
Pierce Brosnan absolutely nails it in this movie. He IS James Bond here. He is thrown off by the storyline, and we see Bond uncertain through the movie. He doesn’t know what to think or who to trust.
Renard is a nasty, grotesque mofo, and that is good. In a change of pace, he is the henchman, not the main villain. His death scene is a classic one, too. I love the impaling scene, although they had to be careful due to the PG-13 rating.
Sophia Marceau is a real manipulative bitch in this movie…and that is a good thing. Drawing on Bond’s memory of his wife–which should have been brought out more–she really pulls his chain in this movie, and almost leads him astray. Bond’s killing of her is brilliant and classic Bond.
Yeah, Denise Richards is pretty funny in the movie as a rocket scientist, but she is there as eye candy for our man 007…and she succeeds there wonderfully.
I like Robby Coltrane, and I wish they didn’t kill him in this movie. He was really good as Zuckovsky in GoldenEye, and could have come back for more.
David Arnold’s score starts to show signs of what will be the clanks and grinding in Die Another Day, but still has its feet somewhat firmly planted on classic Bond firma. The cue for Bond skiing after Electra is the best cue, again a tip of the hat to John Barry. The theme by Garbage is nice, too.
A lot of people dis Michael Apted, but he’s not all that bad. He’s a step up from hacks like Spottiswoode and Hamilton. The stuff with Pierce and Sophia is really good. I also like the scene with Bond and Renard in the silo.
The only things I wish they would have done was bring out Bond’s past more. If they had mentioned Tracy in the movie, that would have really lent something to Bond’s feelings for Electra, who really bore a striking resemblance to her. One scene would have been nice.
I don’t know why some people act like real babies about this movie, refusing to consider it as even a James Bond movie, while sitting through and laughing like little schoolgirls through a monstrosity like Moonraker. I guess some people just like their Bond movie a certain way, and if Moonraker is what they are after, then I don’t think we’re even on the same planet when it comes to James Bond.
‘The World Is Not Enough’ by Harmsway
See Bond wander about in the most excruciatingly dull Bond film of them all. It’s a spectacle of overacting, poor writing, and poor direction. Watch it and experience the cinematography and revel in its blandness. See Bond get in touch with his emotions. At least the Q Boat is cool.
‘The World Is Not Enough’ by DLibrasnow
It will come as no surprise to anyone on CBn that the bottom of the Bond movie pile for me is The World Is Not Enough. Not only is it the least entertaining Bond movie (even 1967s Casino Royale is more watchable), but it is also one of the worst action (and I use that term very loosley in this case) adventure movies of the latter half of the 20th century.
The action is uninspired and this is nowhere more apparent than in the tepid and boring snow and ski scene. These wrere often the highlight of a Bond movie, but this poorly edited and yawnfest of a sequence is nowhere near the heights of similar sequences in previous outings. The introduction of what could have been interesting (under the guidance of a competent director) parahawks to spice of the action a little seems not only forced, but poorly executed. Even the scenes in Extreme Ops were better executed.
The real problem with the movie (and there are so many problems) is the portrayal of the character of James Bond. Here we have an effeminite secret agent totally stripped of his masculinity and instead left weeping at television monitors and crying at the feet of the main villain. Brosnan looks a little fitter than the podgy appearance he made two years earlier, but the producers make the disasterous decision to give 007 some feelings. Here we have a secret agant who everyone knows (see Tiffany Case in Diamonds Are Forever), who races around the world saving humanity like other people change their socks, driving expensive cars and bedding beautiful women. Truly a secret aganrt is supposed to be secret and not stand out from the crowd, Bond is a fantasy figure, giving him emotions only takes away from the movie and streips away any sense of entertainment or suspension of disbelief the movie might have.
This movie also features some of the most cringe inducing overacting known to man with many of the main actors seemingly embarrassed to be associated with this drivel (as well they should be).
Tepid, drivel, boring, flat, bloated and uninspired. There are so many negative adjectives one can label this “movie” with. But its also a major dissappointment for a Bond actors third movie. Rather than another Goldfinger or The Spy Who Loved Me we are instead presented with a poor stepchild to Diamonds Are Forever.
‘The World Is Not Enough’ by ACE
ALL THIS NON SUFFICIT
An Opinion on The World Is Not Enough by ACE
Shaking The Formula
Uniquely and tellingly, the gun barrel in 1999’s 19th Eon James Bond film opens on … James Bond. Pierce Brosnan, on his way to becoming the “Billion Dollar Bond”, wearing glasses seems to encapsulate what this film tries to do: shake and stir the formula a little, utterly confident of its central star.
This PTS ends with Bond effectively delivering the bomb that kills a close friend of M and failing to apprehend one of the assassins. Bond himself falls and injures himself on the iconic Millennium Dome. In falling, Bond fails, tumbling in silhouette to the titles on a downer. What has happened to the cheer-worthy stunt ending that defined the PTS since 1977? James Bond wearing glasses is the first clue that the audience’s perception of Bond might be used against them. The formula defining the FilmBond world for the longest time might not be enough.
The Helsinki Syndrome
Neil Purvis and Robert Wade created a Bond adventure as overwrought as a Shakespearean tragedy. The history, motivation and interaction between the principal characters underpin the entire story. Firstly, then, we need to understand the rather warped Elektra King.
- 1) She believes her father, Sir Robert King, conned her mother’s family out of their oil wealth.
- 2) She was a wild, wayward, spoiled, sexually mature young lady who always had power over men (her father, her lovers, her kidnapper)
- 3) When kidnapped by Viktor Zokas aka Renard and held for 5,000,000 ransom, it was assumed that Elektra suffered Stockholm syndrome. She didn’t. It turns out Renard is following her to the point of sacrifice. She knew exactly what she was doing. She turned him and planned her elaborate revenge and power plan from this point. Hence, it was the opposite of Stockholm syndrome; Helsinki syndrome, perhaps?
- 4) The delayed ransom further stokes Elektra’s resentment of her father (see 1. above). However, Sir Robert delay is on his friend, Head of MI6’s, advice. M wanted time to target Renard. As it happens, the ransom is not paid as Elektra “escapes”. However, MI6’s complicity in delaying the ransom is factored in when Elekra pointedly uses exactly the same booby-trapped ransom amount of cash as bait (a refund for payment for a dodgy stolen oil-pipeline threat report) to lure MI6 into facilitating the death of her father.
- 5) This last action allows Elektra to control King Industries, cause her father’s death at the hand of MI6 and set her wider ambitions in motion.
I get very confused by the caper of Elektra’s wider ambitions. If you do too, get this in your head first:
- 1 The competing pipelines taking oil from the Caspian Sea go to the NORTH.
- 2 That oil is put into tankers.
- 3 The tankers go across the Black Sea to Istanbul.
- 4 Weapons grade plutonium is stolen in the decommissioning site in Kazakhstan.
- 5 An attempt to sabotage the King pipeline is staged with HALF the stolen plutonium (not enough to go nuclear in a conventional bomb so no lasting damage) in order to:
- i) throw the intelligence services off the scent of the real threat; and
- ii) make the authorities think ALL the plutonium (see 4 above) was used in the bombing of the pipeline.
- 6 An aging Russian nuclear submarine is purchased on the black market.
- 7 Said purchase facilitated by Zukovsky in a rigged card game in the Casino L’Or Noir.
- 8 Said nuclear submarine is secretly sent to Istanbul.
- 9 The aging nuclear reactor is primed with the other half of the stolen plutonium (see 4 above).
- 10 A nuclear accident is to be staged (killing Renard who is dying anyway).
- 11 Effect of accident is to irradiate the Bosporus and surrounding Black Sea for decades.
- 12 Said tankers (see 3 above) will not be able to ship their oil to Istanbul i.e. the West.
The Clever Bit.
- 13 The King pipeline goes to the SOUTH!(see 1 above)
- 14 Elektra does not need the Bosporus to transport her oil.
- 15 Her source of oil remains the only game in town.
- 16 She literally has her hand on the spigot of the world’s (non-Middle Eastern) oil supply (a line like this was in an early draft).
- 17 Elektra King becomes the one of the most powerful people in the world.
The World Is Not Enough, in particular, highlights the problems with all the Brosnan films.
- a) They have great, well worked-out plots.
- b) They do not take the time to properly explain them.
- c) They do not take the time to explain the consequences of what will occur.
- d) They do not take the time to explain the villain’s motivation.
- I) So proud is Elektra of her mother/family’s name that we never find it out
in the movie (an early draft of the script had her family name as Vavra – same as Kerim Bey’s gypsy pal in From Russia With Love)
- II) We do not know the value of the oil in understandable terms. Same early draft had a reference to trillions of dollars of oil. We GET the word “trillion”! “Bright, starry oil driven future” is not enough.
- III)It is important that the oil is not from the Middle-East – it breaks that region’s virtual monopoly on supply which is better for the West. King’s concentration of oil power is not.
- IV) Middle Eastern oil stocks are dwindling. King’s oil opens up a new future.
- V) King’s sympathies may lie with enemies of the West.
- VI) King and her family and people, long undervalued between the wars and their ravaged land will suddenly become power brokers forcing the world to reckon with them.
A Different World
It is a GREAT, Bondian plot but sorely under-explained. It has the genius of the Goldfinger “Mint-Julep-Moment” about it but for the lack of a couple of simple dialogue scenes, this is not really explained to us.
Yes, we get it upon forensic analysis, but as the saying goes KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid. We need to be told in ways we understand, in a visually stimulating way so we remember and digest the significance of the story elements.
Instead of the parahawk scene, let Bond and Elektra fly over her land (2nd Unit establishing the Azerbaijan/Baku location sorely underused), as she explains where she comes from and the meaning of her family name. We know the communists raped the land but we need to hear how Elektra feels about it. “A generation of my family perished. It was a personal holocaust for the Vavras. My people will never be treated that we again. We shall tell the world, ‘Enough!'”. There, we GET it. She needs to say “There is a trillion dollars of non-Arab oil down there in the land of my mother. The oil in the Middle East is fast diminishing. Soon there will be a new future and I alone can alleviate the oil choke hold of the Middle East.” There, we GET it.
When Bond suddenly leaves Elektra (whom he is assigned to protect) in the middle of the night, the story digresses into a missile silo in Kazakhstan. The silo shoot-out is pointless. Bond then returns to Baku as if nothing has happened! Perhaps Bond should visit the decommissioning site with Elekra (King Industries is in charge of this in an early draft). Let Renard try to take Bond out then. This would precipitate the action in the silo, get Bond to meet Dr Jones and also produce another wonderful character moment for Elektra as she has a “reaction” to seeing her kidnapper again.
Bond directors feel they do not like their villains to grandstand (hear Martin Campbell’s commentary on GoldenEye). They feel it is a bit too Pandora’s Box-ish, vulnerable to Austin Powers-ization! But, good story telling not only requires the plot elements to be in place but requires time for their significance to be understood by the audience. This suggested rewrite of The World Is Not Enough is a bit arrogant but I have spent a long, long time pondering why this excellent and prescient and original idea of a Bond movie left me feeling under whelmed. It would have taken 10 lines of dialogue.
Victor Zokas = Roy Batty
When Renard says Elektra was innocent when he first met, he is in thrall to her. When Renard quotes Elektra’s motto, he has taken her words and in his present condition, has real empathy with them. Elektra probably planned this whole scheme when she was kidnapped and afterwards. Having her kidnapper fall in love with her and being a terrorist was useful. Renard is her puppy dog lover to threaten other pipelines and scapegoat her plan. While given a wonderful Bondian tic, a bullet in the medulla oblongata, nothing is really developed from this. Given a memorable holographic introduction, Renard’s increasing strength and lack-of-sensation or pain (unused from the Tomorrow Never Dies) script) is not really exploited apart from his impervious to the molten rocks and the sinister bedroom scene with Elektra. His frustration/jealousy of Bond is underlined – they have shared the same passion and cruelty – Elektra. He is the perfect person to perform the ultimate suicide mission of manning the doomed submarine. But the finale is a bit low key. What if, while Bond and Renard are fighting it out – Bond tells him Elektra is dead? Supposing Renard just slumps down and like Roy Batty, the dying replicant in Blade Runner, and weirdly, philosophically realizes his efforts are futile. Both he and Bond were addicted to the drug of Elektra but now he can be with his love. And then Renard just dies. Of course, such and ending would seem like a cop-out and not have the requisite Bondian action satisfaction but, if handled properly, it would a have strange, unsettling, very moody and highly original quality. Robert Carlyle is OK but lacks the feral, anarchic, Begbie energy the role requires. Carlyle very good dramatically and one feels for his character. It was a bit of a thankless role – the vicious/sympathetic patsy to the real villain.
Bond really does fall for Elektra: beginning with his guilt over not saving King, her bravery at the funeral, the weight of M’s support, the way she handles the rioting villagers, the way she skis, her vulnerability post avalanche, her passion, “There’s no point in living if you can’t feel alive” – surely a motto 007 himself could use, her powerful beauty, her exquisite, Louis XV love-making. By the time he encounters Renard, 007 is hooked. He justifies her allegiance without perceiving it could be the other way round. Even when he calls her on it in his Stockholm syndrome speech, she convinces him he’s wrong. There is an essential truth (yes, I know this is a Bond film) about his relationship with Elektra that makes it the best thing in the film. Inspired by Fleming’s Tracy di Vincenzo and Vesper Lynd for Elektra King, writers Purvis and Wade with uncredited work from Michael Apted’s wife, Dana Stevens (Bruce Feirstein did a polish but did not change much) created the best female character in the series – bejeweled in history and motivation. Sophie Marceau is absolutely perfect – intelligent, spoiled, sophisticated, perverse and utterly beautiful. Her French-accented line readings are quirky yet sexy and her slinky, feline presence is graceful and malevolent.
Into this drama, a Bond film tries to emerge. Pierce Brosnan gives us a Bond all too humanized by physical (dislocated shoulder) and emotional (dislocated heart) challenges. 007, however, is still ruthless: note his cold-blooded shooting of Elektra. That this is witnessed by M adds an interesting dynamic to The World Is Not Enough. In GoldenEye, Bond was the precocious star whom the new M felt she had to put down. In Tomorrow Never Dies, she had a grudging respect for him saw the use of this relic of the Cold War. By this film, she confides in Bond and it is almost like a sequence from the Fleming story of Moonraker and For Your Eyes Only where Bond is used on a quasi-personal mission. M is complicit in the King situation which leads to her eventual kidnap. (this unnecessary twist felt like a rewrite to maximize M’s role, capitalizing of Dame Judi’s recent Oscar win). The exchange between them in Castle Thane (“Don’t make this personal” “I’m not – are you?”) where M clears the room is character progression and not seen between these characters in the series before. Brosnan and Dame Judi do superb, subtle work and when M sees 007’s licence to kill in operation against Elektra (remember, a family friend), her horrified, sad reaction is the stuff of tragedy. This sequence (to have been accompanied by the line, “The bitch is dead now.”) is powerful, combining the unique aspects of Brosnan’s Bond – his vulnerability, his emotional struggle between commitment and detachment. Brosnan is also terrific in the PTS – showcasing all his strengths as Bond: grace under pressure, an elegant brutality dressed to kill and weapon-sharp wit. Brosnan is hugely convincing in the love story. His actor-ly hand movements and hands-in-pocket traits (listen to the Campbell commentary on GoldenEye) appear to have been unchecked by Apted, so his Bond performance is more ornate than nuanced. However, clearly Brosnan relished this performance – which ushered him in as the “Billion Dollar Bond” – the trade advertisement announcing the combined worldwide gross of Brosnan’s first 3 Bond films.
The film is so dominated by the three central characters that it seems superfluous to mention Dr Christmas Jones. A slightly chippy performance from the attractive Denise Richards makes her a defensive and irate presence most of the time. Her Tomb-Raider attire is sexy but compared to Elektra, Christmas remains unwrapped – an afterthought of thin characterization. In an early draft she was a French-Polynesian nuclear physicist dismantling nuclear weapons (a topical jibe at French nuclear testing in the Pacific) who works with King Industries (who have been given the contract to decommission nuclear sites). Robbie Coltrane’s Sidney Greenstreet presence as Zukovsky is fun but the character is completely different in looks, business and location. His cane gun rescue of Bond is a cop-out. Maria Grazia Cucinotta’s Guiletta da Vinci aka the Cigar Girl is wonderfully rounded presence and she could have been a really great femme fatale had she been given more to do. It is no wonder she tested for the role of Elektra. Ulrich Thomsen’s Davidov and John Seru’s Gabor (a Fiji-an warrior henchman was in previous Bond scripts) are functional but not memorable. Goldie’s gangsta Mr Bull (aka Maurice Womasa from Somalia) is visually memorable but not given anything to do but sneer and skulk. However, Goldie is in the fine Bond casting tradition of counter-casting singers as odd characters.
At Castle Thane
MI6 is re-assembled in Castle Thane, Scotland (an unused idea from a Timothy Dalton Bond 17 treatment). Michael Kitchen and Colin Salmon team up for the first time as Tanner and Robinson respectively. Both essentially tell the dense back-story. Samantha Bond’s Moneypenny is given a good, topical joke (throwing the Clinton-esque cigar in the bin) and shows the much improved-writing and character of small female roles in Bond (see Dr Molly Warmflash squeezing Bond’s dislocated shoulder – “You will promise to call, this time”). These roles are a major improvement on their dated, corny and sexist 1980’s counterparts. Desmond Llewelyn’s presciently poignant last appearance as Major Geoffrey Boothroyd aka Q is fine but John Cleese’s Fawlty performance is undignified and distracting. Still, it is interesting that Q’s replacement is a character actor of immense standing and will not be a carbon copy of what has gone before. More Dame Judi than Robert Brown.
Michael Apted was renowned for working with (female) actors of quality in personal dramas. He had brushed with thrillers before (Gorky Park, Thunderheart, Extreme Measures) but nothing of this size. He’d even directed a Bond actor before (Timothy Dalton in Agatha in 1979). However, he places at the heart of a Bond film, a twisted, operatic, romantic triangle featuring Bond and two fascinating characters. What traditional Bond watchers assume that there is a villain and there is a henchperson and there is a woman who is romantically involved with Bond. However, the girl turns out to be the villain and the villain, the henchperson. We know Apted is apt for drama but what about action?
Well, the (inexplicably) Bilbao-based opening sequence is classic Bond: a Swiss banker – Patrick Malahide’s fine Lachaise – sets up Elektra’s revenge plot. The scene has sharp dialogue (“If you can’t trust a Swiss banker…”), a sense of danger (Bond’s mysterious guardian angel) and an element of surprise (the exploding pistol, Lachaise’s death, the window escape). The moment even withstands a hoary old knife-in-the-back routine.
A Little More Conversation, A Little Less Action
The problem is with the rest of the action. One gets the feeling that Apted left most of this to Second Unit Director, Vic Armstrong and was not capable of seamlessly integrating it into the heavy drama of his main unit. With the exception of the bank fight, all the action does not really thrill or excite. It is fun to watch but the sequences go on for too long and are effectively Bond impossibly evading gunfire. They all work on one level and feel artificially-inseminated in light of the heavy story telling and character requirements set out above. The parahawk sequence while looking great on paper but is most obviously extraneous. The shoot-out in the blast chamber and the helicopter buzz-saw assault at the Caviar factory are other examples. Incidentally, both ideas were in the original GoldenEye script and properly set up. The buzz-saw helicopters are used as deforestation equipment but this point is not clearly made in the film (a brief cut in Bond’s BMW ride to Elektra’s site). There is no cleverness or explanation to the action. The small, claustrophobic submarine finale is a very damp squib and poorly explained. When Bond shoots a gas jet and blows up a helicopter or connects a pressure hose to eject a cooling rod, this needs to be set up in the script beforehand. Rather like Zukovsky’s cane gun, these escapes are unsatisfying and feel like cheats.
Come On 007, Your Time Is Now
The PTS boat chase is too linear and suffers from too many cuts (see when Bond goes underneath Tower Bridge – this should have been an iconic shot). It feels disjointed as if each incident is being ticked off. Bond straightening his tie underwater is silly as is the gag of the boat driving on land (the real Q boat can operate in three inches of water – this explanation was cut). However, the emergence to the Millennium Dome to the sounds of the James Bond theme is a classic moment and the finale of the sequence is well handled. The journey down the historical timeline of the Thames from the modern MI6 HQ, past the mother of Parliaments through Tower Bridge and ending at the Dome is symbolic of Bond’s position as the only modern, populist, internationally-appreciated contemporary British fictional character. That journey is British history in an architectural nutshell.
A lot of the action suffers from very confusing editing. Moments are not set up correctly and the focus seems dissipated. This is at odds with the clarity of the character drama. Editor Jim Clark gives us uneven action. Adrian Biddle’s photography is fine but he is hamstrung by disjointed, anonymous locations which are all dressed to be something or somewhere else. The introduction to Azerbaijan is stunning but nothing in the film matches it. A few more establishing shots of Baku, the oil wells, the City of Walkways in the Caspian (where the Caviar Factory is set) would have given the film greater authenticity and helping to establish Peter Lamont’s sets. Lamont does his usual detailed, realistic work but at times one wishes for some swagger. The missile silo site is intriguing but lacks the drama of a large arena, the action confined to narrow pockets. The Caviar Factory set is a technical achievement but feels like a set because the role and location are unclear. BTW, Bond’s gorgeous BMW Z8 has British registration plates but is a left-hand drive car – shame! Lamont’s best work is the Castle Thane MI6 HQ with floor-projected maps, M’s predecessor in portrait (a lovely touch) and inventive Q workshop. Lindy Hemming’s costumes are forced to convey a sense of place. Her her work is good at conveying the exotic quality of Elektra, especially the Tracy-esque ski-wear. Bond looks impeccable as always.
Come Again And Again
Daniel Kleinman’s superb titles, using the oil spectrum, crude oil and derricks as a theme are marvelously clever, erotically surreal and witty although the colour palette is a bit more dull (brown and blacks) than normal. The silhouette girls formed by gushing crude is brilliant as is Bond’s entrance to the titles. David Arnold composes a magnificent Bond score. With lyricist Don Black, he writes two memorable, crafted songs: the title theme performed with a haunting modern edge by Garbage and an unused end title song sung with timeless regret by Scott Walker. The coup of getting the latter to record a Bond song has been somewhat lost by modern audiences. Time will be kind to this song which was written as a spiritual sequel to We Have All The Time In The World. Hopefully, like that song, the mournful jazz gem that is Only Myself To Blame will be rediscovered someday. The song is the thematic spine to the score and the blend of electronica and orchestra is Arnold’s strongpoint. The highlight is the theme accompanying Bond and Elektra ski-ing: a euphoric piece of music, alas, left off the CD soundtrack.
Small Change Got Rained On By A P99
The World Is Not Enough left me under whelmed. However, a Bond film should not be first seen in a small, distributor’s preview theatre with jaded journos and an atmosphere to match. Small changes and tweaks brought to the formula were blunted by the remaining adherence to said formula: lose some of the action sequences, get rid of the superfluous characters but deliver more character moments, have a genuinely different ending and explain the motiviation and action. The tone of the film shifts inconsistently between involving drama and one-note action. There are many superb things in the film but it feels too rich, too dense, too over-cooked. Perhaps, the film-makers had been too ambitious? However, it certainly laid the ground work to shaking the formula and progressing Bond. With a worldwide gross of over $352,000,000, it was phenomenal success and amazingly showed no diminishing returns for Brosnan’s 3rd 007 outing. James Bond 007 left the millennium on a popular all time high.