A frequent charge leveled at the Bond franchise is that they sometimes have a irritating habit of peaking too early, placing the crown jewel of it’s various and spectacular sequences usually within the first two acts of the movie, leaving the finale to feel somewhat underwhelming compared to what came before. This Bondian phenomenon (try saying THAT ten times fast) brings us neatly to Pierce Brosnan’s third go round as 007 which, oddly, despite having a way more solid story that it’s predecessor and far better characters, makes a surprising lack of impact during the entirety of it’s run time.
After billionaire oil tycoon Robert King is killed in an audacious bombing of MI6, an injured Bond is tasked with keeping an protective eye over his daughter, Eleckra, who herself is a survivor of a kidnapping years earlier. All evidence points to the bomber being notorious terrorist Renard, the recipient of a bullet lodged in his brain which prevents him from feeling any pain, who was also behind the kidnapping. As Bond strives to keep Ekecktra from coming to harm from numerous murderous attempts on both her and her father’s oil pipeline, he begins to suspect that maybe Elektra isn’t as innocent victim as she may seem and that M (a close friend of the King family) may well be in the firing line herself. With reluctant help from nuclear scientist Dr. Christmas Jones (don’t look at me, I didn’t name her) and old enemy/ally/gangster Zarkovsky, Bond struggles to get to the bottom of this insidious plot before Renard uses some stolen plutonium to achieve his devastating ends.
Kicking off on an all time high, The World Is Not Enough sets the bar for itself insanely high by containing quite possibly the greatest Bond pre credits sequence ever committed to celluloid with an audacious scene in which the agent careens down the River Thames in an experimental mini-speedboat in pursuit of a heavily armed hit woman. For decades, the franchise has usually set it’s action beats around the four corners of the globe, so to see him finally blowing shit up in his own back yard is a rare and exhilarating treat and the use of landmarks (hello artist formally known as The Millennium Dome) is truly sublime.
Unfortunately, as I mentioned above (and a frequent problem with men Bond’s age), the film essentially shoots it’s bolt way too early (literally the opening scene) and nothing that follows can hope to even compare. The following action scenes, be it a snowy attack from para hawks or a muddled shootout in a caviar factory complete with bandsaw wielding helicopters, are clunky and workmanlike and the final confrontation with Renard in a rapidly flooding submarine lacks any weight whatsoever. It’s such a shame that a film that starts SO strong withers so fast before the credits roll and not even an interesting clutch of characters and a genuine attempt to keep Bond as a more relatable lead can raise it above being mildly diverting.
Brosnan continues to do well, rolling out a Bond this time both vunerable in body (a dislocated collar bone hampers him somewhat although he seems perfectly fit enough to ski) and in spirit as he is genuinely thrown by the effecting presence of former kidnap victim Elektra. Seeing Bond being kept on the wrong foot by having legitimate feelings for someone he’s not sure he can trust is intriguing on paper but the rather deliberate pace of the film robs any of it of landing like it should. Not helping much in those matters is Robert Carlyle’s much hyped uber-terrorist Renard, who turns out to be somewhat of a damp squib considering his disability could have pushed him into the realms of such great and stylized Bond botherers as Jaws, Oddjob and Onatopp. Despite his wasted appearance and the fact he’s being played by Trainspotting’s fearsome Begbie, Renard stubbornly remains an oddly unthreatening presence, saddled with a wonky accent and a suprising inability to take a punch despite having all the pain receptors of a bowling ball. Considering the wide range of the actor’s talent, it can only be regarded as a huge disappointment but at least you can understand why he was hired.
Denise Richards, on the other hand horrendously miscast as a nuclear scientist who dresses alarmingly like Lara Croft and laden with a name too ridiculous even for a Bond Girl, has not much else to do except explain nuclear stuff with such a lack of gravity you are legitimately stunned she suddenly doesn’t float off into the stratosphere without warning – although her subsequent marrage to Charlie Sheen may hint she has a type…
In comparison, Sophie Marceau’s Eleckra King is a far more interesting role and quite possibly be the most interesting female character in Bond’s orbit since Diana Rigg’s Tracy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Strong willed, manipulative and boasting a final act paradigm shift with Carlyle that is awfully familiar to the end of The Dark Knight Rises, she is positively spoiled for choice when realizing such a multifaceted woman in a franchise often singled out for it’s less than balanced use of the opposite sex.
Speaking of which, the film is also smart enough to finally utilize Dame Judi Dench and integrate M into the action far more than just having her stand around, openly tutting at Bond being a loud and proud shagaholic and her enhanced role brings much needed gravitas to a film sorely lacking in some much needed clout.
It’s also worth adding that this is the final appearance of Desmond Llewelyn as Q and his brief send off is suitably sweet and affecting, especially when you factor in Bond’s reaction to news he may be stepping down while grooming John Cleese (for some reason) to be his replacement. “You’re not retiring any time soon…. are you?” asks Bond, the mischievous glint in his eye finally dimming in realization.
I’m not crying 007, YOU’RE crying.
Frustratingly unaffecting despite containing some honestly good points, The World Is Not Enough starts off trapped in the undertow of it’s own fantastic opening and treads water for the duration, neither truly floating or sinking.
Unfortunately “Not Enough” is staggeringly apt.