The World is Not Enough
directed by Michael Apted
(United Artists/MGM, 1999)

James Bond (Pierce Brosnan, back for his third go in the role) spends much of The World is Not Enough on the ragged edge of anger.

He begins the movie on a mission to recover $5 million in stolen cash. His real objective, however, is to find the person who killed a British agent in the process, and he's in no mood to be patient or nice about it. Then, the recovered money turns out to be boobytrapped, killing wealthy industrialist Sir Robert King (David Calder) in a massive explosion in British Intelligence headquarters. Of course, Bond blames himself for the death -- it doesn't help that King was a close friend of Intelligence head M (Judi Dench) -- and is badly injured in his attempt to catch the killer.

All this takes place before the title sequence even rolls. Which brings up another point entirely -- Bond film-makers have dropped the superfluous pre-title action sequence which, in the past, often had nothing to do with the movie's plot. They once served as a Bond teaser, an extra bit of excitement to introduce the character and prelude the main event, and I wish they'd resurrect the custom. Still, one can hardly complain about the amount of action packed into those opening minutes in this one.

The storyline hinges on notorious terrorist Renard (Robert Carlyle), who is slowly dying from a bullet lodged in his brain but who, as a side effect, feels no pain. Megalomaniacal villains may be tiresome after a while, but I'll take one any day over Carlyle's dispassionate performance; his unflappable calm lacked menace.

He plots with his former captive, Elektra King (Sophie Marceau), first to assassinate her father so she can assume control of the family oil business and then kill millions in a nuclear explosion that will make a vast area of Asia uninhabitable -- making the King pipeline the primary source of western oil. As plots go, it pales in comparison to some of the world domination tales of old, but Marceau at least gives a passionate performance, oozing amorality and a firm conviction in her own irresistibility. She demonstrates restrained fury very effectively.

The "good Bond girl" in this outing is Denise Richards as Dr. Christmas Jones, a nuclear physicist and Tomb Raider clone. Richards has never been lauded for her acting talents, and it's clear she was cast primarily for the visual impact -- her character wavers between hard-ass and sweetheart and she's convincing as neither, but she's there to look good in shorts and a tight t-shirt, and there's no question, she's quite good at that.

The story lags along the way, but it's a nice change to see a different side of Bond. Brosnan plays the character similarly to Timothy Dalton's take on Bond in Licence to Kill, and it works well for this story. He shows real emotion on several levels in his dealings with Elektra, an unusual slip in the indomitable facade, and he also shows unusual physical vulnerability because of his injuries.

Add Marceau's delicious performance and excellent support from Dench (taking M on a rare excursion into the field), Desmond Llewelyn in his final performance as Q, Samantha Bond as Moneypenny, Robbie Coltrane as the KGB-spy-turned-Russian-capitalist Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky, Colin Salmon as Intelligence officer Charles Robinson, and Serena Scott Thomas as the malleable Dr. Molly Warmflash, and you have another solid entry in the Bond collection.

But I still hope the next Bond film gives us one of those crazed and power-hungry villains out to rule the world....

The video version of The World is Not Enough has two bonuses at the start: a lush music video featuring Shirley Manson and Garbage performing the sensual movie theme song, plus a special video collage in tribute to Llewelyn, who starred as Q in 17 Bond films before dying in a car crash in December 1999, shortly after The World is Not Enough was released in theaters. Oddly, the movie seems to have had a foreshadowing of Llewelyn's death; not only did he introduce his eventual successor, R (John Cleese), but his final scene with Bond smacked eerily of a goodbye.

Llewelyn will be missed, likely even more than the first, best M, the late Bernard Lee.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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