The World is Not Enough (1999)

James Bond film #19 (Pierce Brosnan Bond)

The World is Not Enough (1999)

 Pierce Brosnan returns as James Bond for 1999′s The World Is Not Enough (19), the last Bond of the 20th Century. The action is kicked into overdrive for the 19th Eon Production, the story shirked in favor of big action set pieces and double crossings. In it, Bond goes up against Renard, a Soviet terrorist who can’t feel pain because of a bullet slowly making its way through his brain. Don’t worry, if that’s not unrealistic enough for you, you still get to watch Denise Richards try to play a nuclear physicist. The World Is Not Enough (19) is a roller coaster ride of action scenes that moves so fast you might get lucky and not realize how inane it is until it’s all over.

Beginning with the longest pre-credits sequence in the history of the series, TWINE has a mystery sniper, an assassination via explosion, a motorboat chase scene and an exploding hot air balloon all before Daniel Kleinman’s credit sequence sets the stage for the oil-centered story. Or at least what story the writers bothered with. The explosion assassination of Sir Robert King is explained away name-checking lots of chemical compounds, Valentin Zukovsky from GoldenEye (17) is shoehorned into the plot, and the woman who betrays MI6 keeps M imprisoned in a senseless subplot that causes the film’s only downtime. Bond films aren’t known for putting a lot of emphasis on their stories, but we’ve reached a point where plot is being written as an inconvenient connector between cool action scenes.

These scenes, propped up for the story to lean on, vary in quality. There’s a classic ski chase with paragliding snowmobiles, but it’s forced into the story and its resolution is unspectacular. The final sequence aboard the sunken submarine is pretty riveting, especially when Bond gets trapped in a torpedo chamber, but it similarly ends in disappointment, with Bond pressing some buttons and pulling a lever to impale Renard. Denise Richards is in two sequences involving explosions in tunnels, there’s a helicopter with some crazy buzzsaw attached underneath, and Bond gets put in a garrote. Everything happens in rapid succession and no one gets a chance to breath. This film’s sole purpose is to provide two hours of entertainment, and it succeeds to that end, if not in quality then at least in persistence.

Amidst all the explosions and backstabbing, the Brosnan films continue to delve deeper and deeper into comedy. John Cleese shows up as Q’s heir apparent, “R”, and while Q always came equipped with his sardonic quips and put-downs, R is quickly turned into a slapsticky sideshow. Gadgets and technology continue to get more focus, sometimes to provide extra comedy, like when James gets X-ray vision glasses to check out women’s undergarments in Zurevsky’s casino. There’s even a hologram to show Renard’s brain bullet situation. The Bond films finally exist in a world where their technological fantasies aren’t that far off from reality, and the filmmakers eagerly take advantage of that fact.

Unfortunately, for all its gadgetry, jokes and explosions, The World is Not Enough is little more than a feast for the eyes. It’s essentially a Bond film on steroids, never slowing down enough to catch a breath  and eschewing any attempt to stay rooted in reality.  The relentless pace is actually pretty impressive, but if you’re looking for anything more than big blockbuster entertainment, you won’t find it here.

Final rating: 6.5/10

–James A. Janisse

Stray Observations:

  • This was the final appearance of Desmond Llewelyn, who’s played Q in every single Bond film except for Dr. No (1) and Live and Let Die (8) – 17 films altogether, more Bond movies than any other actor. Llewelyn, 85 years old, had said he was willing to play the role as long as the producers wanted him back, but he was sadly killed in a car crash shortly after The World is Not Enough premiered. In a weird kind of convenience, his final appearance included training a successor and mentioning his retirement, giving Bond some final words of advice before exiting through the floor.
  • There’s no real need to include him, but one of the best parts of The World is Not Enough is Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid!!) reprising his role of Valentin Zukovsky. Zukovsky had a great scene in GoldenEye (17) and his role is greatly expanded here. His final crack shot is pretty dumb, but up until his death throes he’s a pleasure to have around.
  • The script was written by three people (Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Bruce Feirstein), which probably explains the veneer of a plot in the movie. I’m guessing they passed the script all around, each one trying to one up each other in twists and explosions, until it was time to shoot the movie.
  • The Bond Girl who could act (Elektra King, played by Sophie Marceau) was interesting, a victim of abduction that refuses to live in fear. I don’t know about the whole Stockholm Syndrome twist, or the childish teasing she was giving Bond about him not being able to kill her, but she definitely put Bond through the ringer.
  • That was one crappy Russian accent, Brosnan. For shame.
Bond Girl Fate

Dr. Christmas Jones

(Denise Richards)

Main Bond Girl: A nuclear physicist who winds up helping Bond and banging him under some fireworks.

Elektra King

(Sophie Marceau)

Backstabbing Bond Girl:Daughter of the blown-up billionaire and former captive of Renard. Bangs Bond after he “saves” her from an attack. Backstabs him because she’s actually in love with Renard. Gets killed by Bond after teasing him that he won’t kill her.

Dr. Molly Warmflash

(Serena Scott Thomas)

Bond Girl, M.D.:MI6′s resident physician, agrees to give Bond a clean bill of health in exchange for some sex.

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