What’s more outlandish – another megalomaniac bringing the world to the brink of destruction or asking audiences to believe Denise Richards is a nuclear physicist?
The World Is Not Enough (1999)
Directed by Michael Apted, with Pierce Brosnan as James Bond (for the 3rd time)
The Theme Song: “The World Is Not Enough” performed by Garbage
Garbage represents another unconventional choice for a Bond theme and the results are again impressive. “The World Is Not Enough” is actually more traditional than you’d expect, and Shirley Manson’s vocals are strong and reminiscent of perhaps the most well known Bond songstress, the great Shirley Bassey. A nice throwback, especially as the 90’s techno influence is again felt in the rather lacklustre score throughout the rest of the film.
The World Is Not Enough (henceforth known as TWINE) does a lot of lot of heavy lifting plot-wise in its lengthy pre-credit sequence (the longest to date). Bond meets a crooked Swiss banker in Spain (?), narrowly escaping with his life and millions of pounds. The money belongs to wealthy oil tycoon Sir Robert King and upon its return in MI6 headquarters a bomb is set off, killing King as Bond chases down a curvy assassin (Maria Grazia Cucinotta). The ensuing boat chase across the Thames is pretty great, featuring a wild 360 that will remind eagle-eyed Bond fans of a similar car stunt in The Man With The Golden Gun.
When the assassin blows herself up and escapes Bond’s clutches, 007 travels to Eastern Europe to protect King’s daughter Elektra (Sophie Marceau). A former kidnapping victim and now head of King’s empire (including a planned oil pipeline that’s competing with the Russians), Elektra is headstrong and more than a match for Bond. As foes like the deranged Renard (Robert Carlyle) close in, Bond must travel to Istanbul to prevent a nuclear explosion and rescue a kidnapped M (Judi Dench), who had previously used Elektra as bait and is now paying the price.
James The Fighter
Carlyle’s Renard takes the trope of Bond villain’s physical disfigurement to the extreme by sporting several prominent scares and a droopy eyelid. The former KGB agent took a bullet to the head from 009 and he’s now slowly dying while losing his senses along the way, making him dangerous and unbalanced. His personal vendetta against M adds another layer of motivation beyond the typical “crazy guy wants to take over the world”. Renard can also hold hot stones in his hands because he doesn’t have feelings! This causes issues during sex.
There’s a plethora of henchman too, including a goofy one played by British DJ Goldie. The action is plentiful to the point of becoming overwhelming, which is usual for Brosnan’s run to this point. The aforementioned boat chase is thrilling, as is a mountainside pursuit where Bond and Elektra – on skiis and unarmed – are harassed by “parahawks” (hybrid paragliders/snowmobiles). A nighttime attack by helicopters wielding vertical buzzsaws looks neat but is a highly impractical move on the villain’s part, while the final battle is a little underwhelming and basically boils down to Renard trying to put a metal rod in a reactor while Bonds lamely stops him.
The bad guys continue to have the worst aim ever and shouldn’t be allowed to operate a toaster, let alone sub-machine guns.
James The Lover
Elektra is a complex character and as the film goes on it becomes clear that she’s not suffering from Stockholm Syndrome at the hands of Renard but is in fact the mastermind that’s killed her own father and is out for revenge against MI6. She’s also got plans to get rich off her oil pipeline by having Renard detonate a nuclear weapon, although the reasoning for that is a little unclear. Sophie Marceau is a legitimately good actress (I’d say she’s almost slumming it here), making her a welcome presence and providing a neat wrinkle to the usual good girl ideal.
At the other end of the spectrum is Denise Richards as Dr. Christmas Jones, a supposed nuclear physicist. I’m not sure which part of that last sentence is the craziest. TWINE chugs along fine until the halfway point, but once Dr. Jones is introduced (in a tank top and short-shorts no less), Richards threatens to sink the whole film single-handedly even as the movie winks at the audience by having her say “Don’t make any jokes, I’ve heard ’em all”.
I suspect Richards (who was fine and well-suited to her iconic role in Wild Things) was hired for her looks and not her acting skills, but it’s clear that Bond producers have made the single biggest casting mistake in the history of the franchise when she vacantly mangles lines like “It’s a tactical fission device, half the plutonium’s missing.” She is, in short, the worst Bond Girl yet and maybe ever. At least the movie, which is punny in the Moore-tradition, gets a lot of mileage out of her name.
- Pour a shaken-not-stirred martini out for the character of Q (and actor Desmond Llewellyn who passed away shortly after filming), as this is his last appearance. It’s bittersweet to see him pissed off at Bond one last time as Llewellyn’s Q was an all-time great and one of the few remaining links to earlier movies
- Bond uses a watch grappling hook, x-ray glasses (with hella 90’s purple lenses) and another remote controlled BMW
- Bond is not above sleeping his way to a clean bill of health as he hits on his doctor (“Let’s skirt the issue”)
- Robbie Coltrane returns as his GoldenEye character Valentin and dies saving Bond
- The title of the film is Bond’s family motto, in case you were wondering
- The whole movie is basically one incredibly long and elaborate setup for the final joke. Bond and Christmas Jones are in bed, enjoying some post-coital banter when 007 drops this bomb: “I thought Christmas only came once a year.” BRILLIANT! INSANE! CHEESY! Bond. Cut to black. Movie over.
TWINE is half decent and half atrocious, making the end result mediocre but not without its absurd charms. Carlyle and Marceau are legitimately good in their roles while Richards is basically the opposite. The tone varies wildly, though this is probably the funniest Brosnan Bond yet as it’s absolutely packed with double entendres and sexual puns. TWINE feels closest to Roger Moore’s Bond, for all the good and bad that entails. It lacks seriousness and threatens to veer into parody, but there’s still flashes of life. It doesn’t bode well that Brosnan’s Bond is running out of steam three films in, though it helps that M has a bigger role.
- From Russia With Love
- Dr. No
- The Living Daylights
- The Spy Who Loved Me
- You Only Live Twice
- Live and Let Die
- For Your Eyes Only
- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
- Licence to Kill
- The Man with The Golden Gun
- The World Is Not Enough
- A View to a Kill
- Tomorrow Never Dies
- Diamonds Are Forever
James Bond will return in Die Another Day (brace yourself)…