But it is such a perfect place to start.
Hello everyone! As a prelude to the North American release of Skyfall, we here at The Shattered Lens have been reviewing each and every single James Bond film in the history of the franchise. Today we examine the nineteenth film in the James Bond franchise, and the third to feature Pierce Brosnan as the titular super spy, Ian Fleming’s James Bond. Its title? The unpretentious The World is Not Enough.
This time our cold open has Bond in negotiations with a Swiss banker for the return of a significant amount of money belonging to British Knight, Sir Robert King, who is a personal friend of M (Dame Judi Dench). Negotiations break down quickly, when Bond reveals that King was buying a report over which an MI6 agent was killed. The banker not only refuses to disclose information, but actually threatens Bond. Bond takes control of the situation in predictable fashion, offing the Banker’s underlings and capturing the man in question. However, before the banker can give up the name of the man who hired him, he is picked off by his own assistant – revealed to be a lovely young assassin (Maria Grazia Cucinotta), who disappears before Bond can do much in the way of response. With the police already on their way, Bond escapes out a window, and heads back to jolly old England.
When Bond returns to MI6 headquarters, Sir King takes possession of his money. However, Bond deduces seconds too late that the money has been trapped with a binary compound explosive that King inadvertently triggers, blowing up the suitcase of money, Robert King, the entire room he is present in, and a huge chunk of the wall of MI6 headquarters. Bond arrives just in time to see the same assassin outside in a speed boat, aiming a mounted gun his direction. Upon seeing Bond, she opens fire, but then quickly turns tail and flees the scene. Bond seizes a speed boat from Q and goes in pursuit. After a truly remarkable chase sequence (by sea, by land, and by air!) Bond catches up with the assassin, who commits suicide by firing into the tanks of her own hot air balloon rather than risk being taken alive. Bond falls and is heavily injured, and the assassin is killed.
Bond convalesces under the care of one Dr. Molly Warmflash (Serena Scott Thomas), but unwilling to actually wait for his wounds to heal, he “persuades” the good doctor into giving him a clean bill of health, the way only James Bond can. Medically cleared, he invites himself into a high level planning session with M where they trace the assassination of Robert King back to its likely perpetrator – a notorious Soviet terrorist, Renaud (Robert Carlyle). Recognizing the danger he represents, M sent 009 to kill Renaud. Although the agent got a shot in, and it struck Renaud in the head, the bullet miraculously failed to kill the terrorist right away. Instead, it slowly burrows through the matter of his brain, dampening and destroying his senses one by one. Dr. Warmflash speculates that while Renaud will eventually die from his wound, in the meantime he feels no pain, and is particularly dangerous as a result. Renaud had previously abducted and held hostage King’s beautiful daughter, Elektra (Sophie Marceau), for ransom. M believes that Renaud is attempting to strike against the King family again. Concerned with Elektra’s safety, she assigns 007 to personally see to her security.
Things ramble on quickly from there. Like Tomorrow Never Dies, there are no shortage of action pieces in The World is Not Enough. The film has a healthy dose of plot twists and is finely paced, never really descending into a lull. It has excellent set pieces, including a kind of cart racing down an oil pipeline, a battle in a caviar factory (which includes a notable cameo from our old friend Valentine, first introduced in Goldeneye [a fun role that is heartily embraced by actor Robbie Coltrane]), and even climactic showdown aboard a Soviet nuclear submarine Unfortunately, The World is Not Enough suffers from a couple of limitations that hold it back from being a truly great Bond film. Yes, that’s right folks, it’s time we talked about one of the more infamous Bond girls… Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards).
Now, I don’t necessarily hate Denise Richards, but she’s not what I’d call a paragon of acting ability. She doesn’t bring a ton of range to a character that is already a bit on the weak side. Dr. Jones, a short-short short-dress short-skirt clad nuclear physicist, is not short on brains. She’s also athletic, and able to keep up with 007’s crazy antics for the most part. She’s also a patently unbelievable character, a stretch even for James Bond, even for latter-day Pierce Brosnan James Bond. She doesn’t ever really fit into this film, and while the movie’s plot ultimately deals with a nuclear threat (as always, I won’t spoil the film’s more important plot details!) and it seems like Dr. Jones’ expertise might be useful… mostly, she just offers some rather obvious exposition, and serves as a sexual object for one important sequence in the film’s final third. So, hooray? Compared to ass-kicking Chinese secret agent Wai Lan, the main thing that Denise Richards’ character brings to the James Bond franchise is cup size. And more easy puns on her name than you can shake a stick at.
This film is also notable for being the tragic final appearance of Desmond Llewelyn in his long time role as “Q”. Although the film … “humourously” … introduces John Cleese as Q’s successor early in the film, there were no official plans to cut Desmond Llewelyn from future Bond films, and he had not announced plans to retire. Unfortunately, Llewelyn was killed in a traffic collision shortly after the film’s premiere. R.I.P.
That having been said, I still very much like this movie. For reasons which are not entirely clear, I think I’ve seen it a dozen times or so (maybe it’s just on BBC a lot?) and nothing about it ever makes me want to turn the film off. In fact, vibrant performances by the film’s villains and an energetic Judi Dench as M (more active in this film than in … probably any other) kind of bring this one to life for me. Of course, this film definitely telegraphed a possible dive off the cliff’s edge… something which we may or may not journey through together in tomorrow’s film, the much-maligned Die Another Day.
In the meantime, let me leave you with my all-time favourite James Bond theme, presented by Garbage: