Director Michael Apted
Stars Pierce Brosnan, Judi Dench, Sophie Marceau, Robert Carlyle, Denise Richards
Things You Might Like
- Classy feel, respecting the Bond canon
- Ensemble cast all given the chance to shine
- Touching send off for Desmond Llewellyn
- Brosnan improving in the role
- A little mystery to the plot
Things You Might Not Like
- Weak and dull villains
- Action suffers and feels slow
- Doesn’t hold together well as a Bond
- Denise Richards isn’t great
The World is Not Enough is a solid but underwhelming entry in the 007 franchise. A good mystery plot but not enough action to repay repeat viewings.
3 out of 5 Christmas Puns
Luke McGrath will return in Die Another Day
The World is Not Enough (TWINE) became the James Bond franchise’s nineteenth entry in 1999. At this point 007 had become the most recognisable character of twenty-century cinema, had spanned four decades and five actors. Since the poor reception of Tomorrow Never Dies, the cracks were beginning to show. Bond was starting to look like an anachronism – out of touch and ineffectual. There would be only one more film in the original continuity, with Casino Royale rebooting the series in 2006. In hindsight, TWINE would have been a better way to bow out.
Immediately attacking what was wrong with Tomorrow Never Dies; TWINE is a classier Bond – at times almost reverential to the canon – something that can be attributed to director Michael Apted. TWINE deals in characters rather than caricatures and a global threat rather than slapped-together-plan.
At its heart, TWINE is a mystery-drama rather than an out-and-out spy thriller. It’s more along the lines of From Russia with Love and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service than Moonraker. The main villain is hidden until the final act, Bond and M are fooled and a cast of familiar faces make up a smart ensemble. It doesn’t always work, Bond still needs to be Bond and some of the set pieces feel tacked-on and pedestrian. For the most part TWINE entertains well enough, perhaps at a lower key than before but the better for it.
Pierce Brosnan continues his trend of getting better at every attempt. Despite a ham-fisted attempt to humanise 007 by giving him a poorly shoulder (ahhhhh), Brosnan endows Bond with an amount of pathos and humanity he is rarely credited for. He even gets to the holy grail of 007 emotions; the chance to reflect on his murdered wife. His reaction is understated, less than Dalton but equal to Moore.
Another actor who improved with age was the peerless Desmond Llewelyn, who died shortly after the film’s release. Chances are that TWINE would have been a farewell in any event, with the writers setting up a touching, if irreverent, goodbye scene. The pay-off is good after so many years, and it’s hard to judge John Cleese in his short stint. Q will always be thought of as Desmond Llewelyn, and vice-versa. The cranky old man brought 007 down to earth, supported him when needed and made millions of people laugh at his inventions. No matter what the future holds for the role, the blueprint is pretty perfect.
Apted’s ensemble approach gives everyone a chance to shine. Judi Dench’s work as M here probably went a long way to helping her survive the reboot process. She’s given a chance to show her range and move from behind a desk for a while. Her personal connection to the mission leaves her vulnerable and her unbroken stare after a kill is heartbreaking.
Less crucial to the plot are fellow returning players, Colin Salmon, Michael Kitchen and Robbie Coltrane who also do well in slightly expanded roles. All bring a touch of class to a film that constantly harks back to the canon – the title itself was first mentioned in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service as the Bond family motto. There’s even a painting of Bernard Lee’s M in the Scottish headquarters, although a shot of the DB5 was cut during editing.
With so much good on show, it is the villains that let TWINE down. Sophie Marceau is serviceable as the ambiguous Electra King but Robert Carlyle is given nothing to do with the bland Renard. He’s an anarchist apparently, but still happy to work for King and help her get richer. She’s a master manipulator you see, comfortably explaining her power over all men – even anarchists. Renard’s physical prowess (he can’t feel pain) should have made him the most menacing henchman since Red Grant, but nothing really comes of it.
Rather weak, but not as poor as is often claimed, is Denise Richards as (yes) Christmas Jones – a name conceived purely for an outrageous pun in the closing scene. She doesn’t convince as a nuclear physicist, but then why should she? She’s a Bond girl, the best you can hope is that she doesn’t get in the way – something Richards skillfully achieves by staying anonymous for her entire role.
The World is Not Enough is a fine drama, a good mystery but only an average Bond film. While it works well, too much of the action feels thrown together – a ski-chase is almost totally bereft of tension although does contain a superb one-liner. There’s a lot of class on show, enough to have provided a fitting end to the first forty years. Sadly, they made Die Another Day next.
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