James Bond – The World Is Not Enough (1999) REVIEW
Director: Michael Apted
Producer: Michael G. Wilson & Barbara Broccoli
Writer: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade & Bruce Feirstein
Based on: James Bond by Ian Fleming
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Sophie Marceau, Robert Carlyle, Denise Richards
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It has been a very long time since last watching The World Is Not Enough (four long years in fact), and truthfully, I held some reservations moving forward with the franchise after Tomorrow Never Dies. Obviously you can read my review for that film here, and I won’t be treading on old ground, but needless to say, when I did eventually move forward and pop The World Is Not Enough in the blu-ray player, I was pleasantly surprised.
Before Michael Apted was ever offered the directors chair, Producer Barbara Broccoli had two others in mind. Gremlins director, Joe Dante, was at one point considered, but another was more favoured. Heavenly Creatures was enjoyed by Barbara, and offered Peter Jackson the chance to direct The World Is Not Enough. However as the talks turned serious, The Frighteners was screened in advance to give her a better understanding of the director. Unfortunately, Barbara wasn’t particularly fond of his latest film, and chose instead to pursue Michael Apted.
Leading up to the release in the press, a big deal was being made of a primarily drama director Michael Apted by selected. Producers were adamant that after the action heavy Tomorrow Never Dies, a more character driven take on the Bond formula was needed. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were brought in to write the screenplay, while some uncredited work was done by Dana Stevens before the script was finally handed over to Bruce Feirstein. While this would be Feirstein’s final work in the Bond cinematic franchise, Purvis and Wade would stick around for many years to come. This is both a good and bad thing…but more on that next month.
The plot of The World Is Not Enough gave us a twist that no Bond film had ever attempted before or since, and would’ve completely changed the third act had it not worked.
Bond is sent on a mission to retrieve money for a British oil tycoon and friend of M, Sir. Robert King. After returning the money, King is assassinated by a woman. Bond gives chase in Q’s fishing boat, but the woman would rather die than turn against her boss and kills herself instead of giving Bond information.
Via some investigating, Bond figures out the woman was working for Renard, who also happened to be behind the assassination and even the kidnapping of King’s daughter, Elektra King years past. M assigns Bond to shadow Elektra fearing Renard has returned for her.
While protecting Elektra, who is continuing her father’s oil pipeline work, Renard makes an attempt on her life. After some romance with vulnerable woman, Bond eventually discovers Renard is working for Elektra King, who fell in love with her kidnapper during their initial encounter. She plans to destroy opposing pipelines to drive the price of oil from her own pipeline up. Elektra also plans on killing M who, along with her late father, she holds responsible for not paying the ransom during her initial kidnapping.
Bond of course saves M and prevents nuclear disaster, with the help of nuclear physicist, Dr. Christmas Jones and Bond fans the world over either cried in pain or laughter over some ridicules heavy-handed innuendo.
Let it be known right now, The World Is Not Enough really surprised me, in a big way. Leading up to this month, I was apprehensive because the Brosnan era had never really done much for me apart from GoldenEye, but this month, I was sold.
The World Is Not Enough not only made me change my mind, but I’ve come to realise that it is a far greater movie than I originally ever gave it credit for. Don’t get me wrong, coming off the back of Tomorrow Never Dies, anything in the franchise is better, but The World Is Not Enough is a better made film with more love and care having gone into it.
I remember when it was released in Australia late November 1999. I was just finishing year 10 in high school and me and a few friends decided to watch it after exams. We were all big Bond fans and after actually seeing the film, only two of the five enjoyed it. The latter three weren’t sold on it’s over use of drama and lack of action. I fell into the latter. However this viewing made me change my mind. Now I can understand and really appreciate The World Is Not Enough a whole lot more.
Michael Apted was chosen as director for his strong use of character driven dramas before this. Tomorrow Never Dies suffered many things, but lack of action wasn’t one of them, and for The World Is Not Enough, producers clearly wanted to go a little more to the roots of the character and actually develop them a little. The film is shot and lit perfectly at all times. We get some amazing location shooting and spectacular shots especially during the ski scenes. Even the underground moments in the silo are great to look at with some clever use of lighting to show the depths and despair James Bond finds himself in. As I said, I never gave The World Is Not Enough much of a chance before.
Another improvement for Tomorrow Never Dies, was David Arnold’s score. It was a generic mix of techno/electronic and classical previously, and although the electronic mix is carried over here, the over reliance on the Bond theme has thankfully been taken care of. Arnold gives a more confident score to the film and isn’t afraid to really go all out during the pre-credit sequence. A musical piece I can listen to over and over and over again. The rest of the film follows swift and contains some of the best music in the Brosnan era.
Not much can be said for Pierce Brosnan, except that with The World Is Not Enough, he isn’t trying as hard to carry the film on his own. He feels more confident and owns the character at every moment. The better script (finished even) helps a great deal here too. Brosnan looks badass on skis, although I’m sure his stunt man was actually on film a whole lot more, and handles the scenes opposite Elektra perfectly. But proving this man is Bond for a whole new generation has to be Brosnan actually piloting the Q boat during the pre-title sequence. And being ever so brave as to do it without a windshield, and even allow himself to be hit in the face with copious amounts of water. Any other person wouldn’t look as cool, but Brosnan pulls it off. The man even take the time to fix his tie underwater, you can’t beat that.
Villains of the piece now, and there is no sense in breaking this one up. Renard and Elektra King, played by Robert Carlyle and Sophie Marceau, are a one/two punch and deserve to be spoken of as such. First off, Robert and Sophie give excellent performances throughout the film. Sophie especially in the later half when the truth of her character is revealed. It was a brave choice by the producers to have her go from love interest, much like Tracy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, to the mastermind of the entire film. Throughout the first half of The World Is Not Enough, we as an audience are led to believe that Renard is pulling all the strings. It is even played up as much in his scenes, but once the twist occurs, Sophie lets that inner demon out.
It actually answers a lot of my questions for how Elektra turned Renard in the first place in the events of her initial kidnapping. Obviously she charmed him enough so they worked together, and in turn both fell in love with each other, yet I can’t help but feel that once it is all revealed, Elektra never really loves Renard. It actually comes over like she is just using him to fulfil her plan. For me, it just felt like Renard was being played, even though he loved her.
I am a fan of the reveal, yet can’t help but think how it would’ve had a greater impact if nothing was hinted at before hand. In the early stages, Renard is an absolute death machine showing no fear or emotion for the most part. This makes him a real threat until all that is lessened once he basically plays the henchman role. As I said, I like the twist and it definitely does wonders for Elektra’s character, however by the end, Renard is nothing but a loyal puppy.
Next up is Dr. Christmas Jones, played by the beautiful (annoying) Denise Richards. I remember leading up to the release, Denise Richards was at the height of her career. Starship Troopers and Wild Things helped get her noticed and had most men and women ogling her. I was one of them. And when word came out she was staring in the next James Bond, everyone went nuts. It was quickly pointed out how Denise was playing a smarter Bond girl and how she was drawn to the fact this was a different type of Bond girl. Smarter and able to take care of herself. None of that is true.
Dr. Christmas Jones is nothing but a painful spot in this film. Denise Richards was cast only for her body and shame on the producers for doing that. I know they would often cast models in the past opposite early Bond actors, but times have changed and the James Bond franchise made a big effort when Brosnan took over to push that. Yet here she is, with a ridiculous name and casting that frankly I don’t take serious. For everything right this movie does, Christmas Jones drags it down a few points. I’m fairly convinced Denise was cast for the wet shirt scenes in the final moments, and the name Christmas chosen for the final line by Bond. It is obnoxious and childish to think that one wrong choice in cast could lower my thoughts on the film. I don’t like her character, or the portrayal Denise brings to the film. Not a fan at all.
And if you think I’m harsh his month on the choice of Denise Richards being cast, wait until next month.
For the first time in the franchise, M’s role in the film is increased drastically. With an actor such as Judi Dench, there’s no questioning why role was more prominent here. Previously in the Brosnan era, M has been a strong figure-head of MI6, and although it doesn’t change much, her maternal side is more front and centre. This was a change to the Bond formula I both welcomed and enjoyed. It was pleasing to see M out of her office and in the field alongside Bond. Even proving just how smart she really is.
I’d like to take this moment to lament over Desmond Llewelyn’s passing. Only weeks after the release of The World Is Not Enough, Desmond was driving home after a book signing and was involved in a fatal car accident. He died shortly there after. This was deeply saddening for all Bond fans as Q, whom Desmond played since From Russia With Love onwards, played a minor but important part in each film. Maybe due to his age, Q was given a replacement, R, and deserving farewell dropping out of frame while sharing a friendly conversation with Bond. Looking back after his passing, the scene takes on a whole new meaning with not only the actor retiring from the role, but getting a perfect sendoff at the same time. His commitment to the role will forever be remembered in cinema history.
The World Is Not Enough really did surprise me, and for good reason. I never gave it much praise originally and lumped it alongside the worst in the Brosnan era. But truth be told, the film does a lot right. The opening sequence is spectacular with a thumping soundtrack by David Arnold. The action always looks so perfectly filmed with the quieter moments between characters getting just as much care as the bigger scenes. The direction is focused and consistent throughout with producers understanding, you need a good director. And finally, the twist with Elektra being the first and only female villain, is a major highlight here.
I fell in love with The World Is Not Enough on this viewing, and I’m positive that given the time, it could be looked even more favourably. Minus Denise Richards, you’ve got a wonderful James Bond film.
James Bond will return in Die Another Day