Michael Apted, 1999
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Sophie Marceau, Robert Carlyle, Denise Richards, Robbie Coltrane, Judi Dench
Albert Broccoli once allegedly stated that he would never hire Remington Steele to play Bond. I wish he and his daughter Barbara had stuck to that statement. It's no secret that I can't stand Pierce Brosnan. Aside from GoldenEye, I have a blanket hatred for his Bond films, though I've watched them enough times over the years that I've developed a reluctant tolerance for The World is Not Enough.
This is not really a good film or even a moderately worthy Bond effort, though I'll begrudgingly admit that there are a few entertaining moments. None of those moments happen to fall during the opening credits, which are possibly the worst in any Bond film, including Casino Royale. They obviously tried to play on the political themes of the movie, using water, oil and tar in the design to a disastrous effect.
Bond hurries to Spain to retrieve a case with five million dollars from a shady Swiss banker. Things erupt in violence and Bond barely escapes with his life. The money is returned to Sir Robert King, though it is cleverly rigged with explosives and used to assassinate him. King was known for the extensive oil pipelines he built throughout Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Bond is then charged to protect Elektra, King's daughter, who already survived a traumatic kidnapping by Renard, a terrorist. Renard was almost killed by another 00 agent, but instead a bullet lodged in his brain, shortening his life expectancy, but making him nearly invincible and numb to physical sensation. Bond discovers Renard's plan to start a nuclear meltdown in the Middle East and seeks the aid of a sexy physicist to help him prevent disaster.
First of all, I don't think Denise Richards is remotely believable or enjoyable as Dr. Christmas Jones and she looks like a goddamned Pekingese. I won't go so far as to say she's the worst Bond girl in the franchise, but she's pretty bad. Holly Goodhead she is not. Fortunately she's balanced by the incredibly hot Sophie Marceau as Elektra King. Elektra actually has the potential to be an interesting character, mostly because of the obvious chemistry between she and Bond. Despite her Marceau’s flat acting, her character is meant to be a reflection of Bond in some ways and in others, she represented the consequences of his line of work. This provides some interesting tension and drama, but the film gets distracted from this at about the hour mark to its detriment.
SPOILER ALERT. I'm honestly not sure how I feel about the twist. I hate twists in general, though this is fortunately revealed about halfway through the film. Elektra has partnered with Renard to destroy much of the world’s oil supply so that her pipeline with become a monopoly. The premise is that when Renard kidnapped her and M refused her ransom, he tortured a sweet, naive girl and won her love with Stockholm Syndrome. And now they want to take over the world together. Unfortunately this doesn't explain how Elektra comes to be the dominant force in their partnership, nor does it explain why she has taken out a full scale vendetta against her father and M. As far as Bond girls go, she is interesting, but deeply flawed and, as a seducer and manipulator, brings up questions about Bond's own somewhat sociopathic tendency to manipulate women to whatever end. She needs to lose the ice cubes.
Judi Dench as M is always a treat and I have a deep love for Desmond Llewellyn's Q. This is sadly his last film in that role and there is a joke in the film that John Cleese, possibly code-named R, is going to replace him. "Ah yes, the legendary double 007 wit. Or at least half of it." As a Python junkie I'm happy to see Cleese anywhere. Robbie Coltrane puts in a good, repeat performance as cartoonish, ex-KGB/Russian gangster Valentin Zukovsky, who is Bond’s reluctant ally. Robert Carlyle is charismatic, but really can't fight through the muck of his role as Renard. He's simply another scarred, disfigured villain with a foreign accent and some sort of inexplicable power. His inability to feel pain is hardly used at all, though it is talked about a lot. In a sympathetic twist, he is obviously in love with Elektra, which gives him a more human aspect than most Bond villains.
While I think Michael Apted is a capable director (who didn't cry during Gorillas in the Mist?), I don't know if he's really up for the type of action a Bond film requires. He did a great job on HBO’s Rome, which requires some action scenes, but I really think he is too classy for the Brosnan Bond films. There are some good beginning sequences that descend into absurdity. How many times can we see a chase sequence on skis? The trademark humor is appalling and the effects are even worse. Between the x-ray glasses and the winter coat that turns into an inflatable life bubble, it's painful to watch. Even more crushing is the exclusion of my beloved Aston Martin for a BMW, which carries on throughout the Brosnan series. Why? Because they paid for it.
On a final note, the title is a translation of the latin motto Orbis non sufficit, which is the Bond family motto as introduced in the novel On Her Majesty's Secret Service. It is also the epitaph of Alexander the Great. "A tomb now suffices for him, for whom the world was not enough."
If you want to suffer through it, there's a Special Edition DVD from MGM, though I'm reviewing the two-disc Ultimate Edition, which is also found in volume one of the Ultimate Edition box set. There are a lot of special featuring, including a making of, a documentary, featurettes and two commentary tracks. The first is by Michael Apted and the second is from Peter Lamont (production designer), Vic Armstrong (second unit director) and David Arnold (composer). There is also a Blu-ray.