Should I Watch..? 'The World Is Not Enough' (1999)
What's the big deal?
The World Is Not Enough is an action spy thriller film released in 1999 and is the nineteenth entry in the James Bond series. It is the third film to star Pierce Brosnan as 007, who this time is assigned to protect an oil heiress from an ex-KGB terrorist. It was the first Bond film released by MGM instead of United Artists and was directed by Michael Apted. The title comes from a line in On Her Majesty's Secret Service where Bond says that it is his family motto. Despite mixed reviews, the film still managed a total worldwide gross of over $360 million - a then-record for Bond films (not adjusted for inflation) - and was deliberately targeted at a younger audience. MGM signed a deal with MTV to ensure the channel broadcast 100 hours of Bond-related programming immediately after the premier.
What's it about?
An oil tycoon and a friend of M, Sir Robert King is suddenly killed by associates loyal to international terrorist Renaud, an ex-KGB operative. After a previous encounter with 009, a bullet is lodged in Renaud's brain which is slowly killing him but also makes him unable to feel pain. M believes that Renaud will target Sir Robert's daughter Elektra and assigns James Bond to protect her.
Visiting her new pipeline in Azerbaijan, Bond fends off an attack on Elektra by unknown individuals. Contacting his old friend Valentin Zukovsky, Bond discovers that Elektra might not be the intended target of Renaud's revenge. But soon, things take a dramatic twist - M is kidnapped by Elektra who is indeed working with Renaud to initiate a nuclear strike near Istanbul which would destroy a rival Russian pipeline and increase the value of Elektra's oil...
What's to like?
Sophie Marceau delivers the goods as Elektra, proving once and for all that Bond girls needn't be purely eye candy. She performs brilliantly well, even if her performance is wasted in a pyrotechnic exercise like this. But she's given much more to do than most Bond girls up until now and she really makes the most of it. The returning Coltrane from GoldenEye and Carlyle are also great value for money - maybe all Russians should be played by Scottish actors? Carlyle's Renaud is a curious villain - I get that he doesn't feel pain but surely he registers damage. After all, picking up red hot rocks is going to require some treatment, even if you can't feel it...
The action set pieces this time include a rollicking boat chase along the Thames and a fight by a flooding submarine's nuclear reactor. Once again, credit is deserved to the stunt team who provided the film with a decent set of action sequences although I admit to being nonplussed by the hanging saw blades underneath the helicopters. It just looked a bit silly, that's all. The film also contains a heart-breaking sucker-punch in the form of Q's final scene. Knowing that he died shortly after the film's release gives his final moments on screen an added poignancy that genuinely tugs the heartstrings of Bond fans everywhere. The last reminder of the old days was cruelly taken from us and even the film seems to acknowledge it.
- Llewelyn died in a car accident shortly after the film's release. The video release of this movie carried a tribute to his 36 years and 17 appearances as Q.
- The Scottish castle used as MI6's secret headquarters is called Eilean Donan Castle. It is located near the Isle Of Skye and was also used in the film Highlander, coincidentally starring former 007 actor Sean Connery.
- This was the first film to feature the Millennium Dome in London, built to bring in the 1999/2000 New Year. It is now known as the O2 Arena, one of the capital's most prestigious venues.
What's not to like?
It's impossible to begin listing the faults in The World Is Not Enough without starting at Denise Richard's unapologetic casting as a nuclear scientist called Christmas. Now whose idea was that and why weren't they fired? Her performance is almost as bad as the extremely predictable joke at the end of the film - apart from looking like Lara Croft, she contributes next to nothing to the film.
The plot does get lost amid the chaotic action scenes and it takes a long while to get going as well. But my biggest problem was actually Judi Dench as M who suddenly finds herself kidnapped and becomes another damsel in distress for Bond to rescue. Not only would such a situation never arise in real life but Dench's performance is weak compared to her debut in GoldenEye, that steely determination evaporates all too quickly. This need to have the character in peril is too implausible, even by Bond's standards, and unimaginative - M should only really give Bond his mission and that's it. It was a brave decision to try and flesh out the character but it only makes her look foolish and misguided. The gadget usage also got totally out of hand - Bond's X-ray specs is something from the 1950's and serves less purpose than Denise Richards. No wonder they thought they could get away with an invisible car in Die Another Day!
Should I watch it?
If anything, The World Is Not Enough proves that GoldenEye was nothing but a flash-in-the-pan, a false dawn that promised much for the future of 007 and instead delivered nothing but average action flicks with the character in the middle. The film lacks the humour and charm that Bond used to be about and instead settles on being your typical action thriller that has nuclear weapons, ridiculous henchmen and utterly stupid action sequences. Disappointing doesn't go far enough...
Great For: Thames river cruises
Not So Great For: Bond fans, action fans, film fans
What else should I watch?
I'm not saying that The World Is Not Enough is a bad film but compared to the likes of Goldfinger, The Spy Who Loved Me, From Russia With Love or even the aforementioned GoldenEye, it is upsetting to see 007 revert from charismatic spy to bullet-proof action hero. However, compared to Die Another Day, this film suddenly improves dramatically...
If you want a gripping action film from the 90s then I reckon Keanu Reeves is the man you should look up. Speed might lack Bond's quest for exotic locations as it doesn't get much more exotic than LA but the pulsating action, theme music, tension and humour makes this a brilliant action movie. And then there's everybody's favourite digital shooter The Matrix, the first 21st century action film that uses CG not just for pretty backdrops and ugly aliens. I challenge anyone to find me a better shoot-out than that famous lobby scene.
Dr Christmas Jones
Neal Purvis, Robert Wade & Bruce Feirstein *
Release Date (UK)
26th November, 1999
Action, Spy, Thriller
Worst Actress (Richards)
Razzie Award Nomination
Worst Screen Couple (Brosnan & Richards)
© 2015 Benjamin Cox