Take 2: The World is Not Enough

"We're strictly plutonic, now."

It’s time for the nineteenth and last Bond of the millennium. At this point it does actually feel like they have been making these for 1000 years.

A wealthy businessman is killed inside the MI6 headquarters. Bond is sent to protect his daughter, Elektra King (Sophie Marceau) from the terrorists coming after her. Things turn out not to be as they seem.

Things get going on home turf with an explosion in London, in the secret service building. It’s novel and implies a genuine threat.

Otherwise, structurally, The World is Not Enough swings back to the James Bond films of old; that is to say, following 007 on his long convoluted quest to unravel a devious scheme. It’s perhaps been done to death but the franchise’s disastrous attempt to deviate off course in the last film makes this a welcome return to familiar territory.

This isn’t all good. A return to the old-style also brings back the same old problems. The story only sort-of makes sense and it’s hard to believe anyone’s motivations. At one point someone steals a submarine; a roundabout way to wreak havoc unless you are sinking ships for a living… There has to be a reason for why a crazy rich person would want to get richer (beyond just ‘they are crazy’), or more powerful. When the audience can come up with a dozen less complicated ways to achieve the same result, it’s probably time for a re-write.

Luckily enough for the film makers, at this point Brosnan is James Bond. He’s reassuringly able to pull off whatever bullshit the script throws at him, which is key if you’re going to play a suave, gadget-laden super spy that’s been around since the 60s.

There are some other decent performances in here. Sophie Marceau is well-cast as the mysterious leading lady and her scenes with Brosnan sizzle. Robbie Coltrane is brought back from GoldenEye, a welcome sight although it’s unclear what purpose he serves other than to fill out the run-time. Same with Denise Richards, who provides a welcome sight for different reasons perhaps, and equally serves no function. Actually she’s horribly mis-cast as a nuclear physicist and got a Razzie nomination for her work.

As usual, the film holds itself to a certain level of technical prowess. The stunts in particular are well executed. The early boat chase is a fine example - if you pause and go through frame by frame, it’s clear that for a lot of the time Brosnan is actually in the boat. Like the tank in GoldenEye, it gives these moments an extra polish and credibility.

Good riddance...

The pacing is more on point too. Apted never lets things get dull. This is helped by the excellent soundtrack by David Arnold who writes the title song and expertly ties it into the film. It makes the film feel like a single piece of work, binding everything together in places where it would otherwise fall apart.

It's been a while since we had a shameless bond girl picture. Good to see we're back on track.

The World is Not Enough isn’t an instant classic but fifteen years on it still feels quite modern and innovative. It’s a very solid entry into the catalogue and cements Brosnan into history as James Bond for a generation.

Michael Apted | 1999 | IMDB | Wikipedia