Bondathon #19: The World Is Not Enough (1999)

Posted: April 9, 2016 in Movie Review
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World Is Not Enough (1999)

Director: Michael Apted

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Sophie Marceau, Robert Carlyle, Denise Richards, Robbie Coltrane, Judi Dench

Even fossil fuel will have become a thing of the past by the time James Bond embarks on his final mission. By the end of the 20th century, Bond had outlasted SPECTRE, survived the Cold War, foiled the plans of many megalomaniacs, exacted vengeance, averted World War III on countless occasions, traveled the world and the seven seas, and even left the Earth’s gravity. Through it all, he’s sustained countless physical injuries. Being a secret agent, it comes with the job description. But if we’ve learned anything about Bond, we know that the real reason that 007 has lasted this long is that he’s limited the number of people he’s allowed to get close, friends and lovers alike. It always seems to take a terrible turn when he does.

When a booby trap inside MI6 kills Sir Robert King, oil tycoon and longtime friend of M (Judi Dench), the assassin elects to kill herself rather than accept James Bond (Pierce Brosnan)’s offer of protection, believing he would ultimately fail. As a result of his battle with the assassin, Bond suffers an injury to his shoulder. Bond feels responsible for King’s death, as it was he who had retrieved a stash of money (which was part of the booby trap) for King. He could not have been blamed, because the lapel pin that King was wearing had been switched out for one which served as the bomb’s activation device. The real culprit was the anarchist known as Renard (Robert Carlyle). MI6 had previously ordered one of its agents to put a bullet in Renard’s brain. The deed was done, but it didn’t kill Renard… at least, not yet. The bullet is slowly deadening all of Renard’s senses but, in the meantime, his inability to feel pain is an asset to him.

Fearing for the life of King’s daughter, Elektra (Sophie Marceau), M assigns Bond to her protection detail but orders him not to say from whom she is being protected. Elektra had been abducted once before by Renard, who held her for a ransom which M advised her father not to pay. Bond finds Elektra in Azerbaijan where she is assuming the family business, personally monitoring the construction of a new oil pipeline. They are attacked while up in the snowy mountains. As Bond and Elektra flee on skis, you’re forgiven if you start to hear John Barry’s theme from “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” in your head. “The World Is Not Enough” could have benefited greatly from a John Barry score.

Despite M’s advisement about providing a vertical shadow on this mission instead of a horizontal one, Bond enters into a physical relationship with Elektra. A visit with Valentin Zukovsky (Robbie Coltrane) at his casino reveals that Elektra’s personal head of security is working for Renard. Leaving Elektra behind, Bond kills the bodyguard and assumes the identity of a Russian scientist, boarding a plane for Kazakhstan. Once there, Bond meets nuclear physicist Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards). Bond’s cover doesn’t last long, as Jones sees right through his fake accent. Inside the silo, Bond finds Renard removing the weapons-grade plutonium from a nuclear bomb, as well as its locator card. Bond moves to kill him, but Jones shows up and fingers Bond as an impostor. Overpowered, Bond is startled by Renard’s use of the phrase, “There’s no point in living if you can’t feel alive,” a sentiment which Elektra had previously shared with Bond. Additionally, Renard squeezes Bond’s injured shoulder.

Bond takes his newfound misgivings about Elektra’s true nature to M, presenting the locator card as evidence. An alarm goes off, and it is up to Bond and Jones to enter the King pipeline to try and stop an inspection rig containing the nuclear bomb from reaching the terminal. When Jones notices that half of the plutonium is gone, Bond decides to let the bomb explode after Jones removes the remaining half. This allows Elektra to go through with her plan to kidnap M, believing Bond to be dead. At Zukovsky’s caviar factory, Bond learns of the Russian’s deal with Elektra to borrow a submarine. Bond and Jones finally have all the pieces to the puzzle: Renard and Elektra plan to put the plutonium from the bomb into the reactor core of the submarine, the resulting detonation destroying Istanbul and making the King pipeline the go-to source of oil in the region.

One thing Bond hadn’t reckoned was that, when Elektra was kidnapped by Renard, it was Elektra who turned her captor to her cause… not the other way around. Bond and Jones both get nabbed, after which Jones is sent to Renard in the submarine. Elektra’s henchmen hook Bond up to a garrote, an execution chair to which the victim is bound and a metal band locked around his neck. A few turns of a wheel, and the victim is dead. Elektra is just about to turn the wheel for the final time when Zukovsky barges in. Elektra shoots him but, just before dying, he uses his cane gun to free Bond. After freeing M, Bond goes after Elektra. The chase ends with Bond ending Elektra’s life with a single bullet to the chest. It’s the first time he’s ever had to kill an unarmed woman, especially one he’d cared for. But you don’t piss off James Bond and expect to live. Down in the submarine, Bond puts a stop to Renard’s plans, impaling him with the plutonium rod, and escaping with Jones. Before killing his enemy, Bond manages one incredible feat: In revealing Elektra’s death to Renard, Bond proves that there remained one method by which Renard could still feel pain.

“The World Is Not Enough” is often a source of grief from a loud segment of the James Bond fan community. While certainly nowhere near Bond at his best, I actually see it as an improvement over “Tomorrow Never Dies.” Some knock it for the wacky science that explains Renard’s condition. Many more criticize the character of Christmas Jones and the quality of Denise Richards’ performance. Again, not the worst Bond girl ever… especially not in the looks department. For Christmas Jones to be the worst Bond girl, her inclusion in the film’s plot would have to have absolutely no point to it, which is simply not the case. As for her acting skills… yeah, she’s no Diana Rigg or Honor Blackman. This, I will grant you. “The World Is Not Enough” gets points for not only making one of its Bond girls evil but turning her into the film’s lead villain. Yes, you heard me. Renard is nothing more than the henchman. He gains nothing by carrying out the plan to increase the value of the King oil pipeline, especially since he is slowly dying. Everything that happens in this movie happens because Elektra manipulates it to her liking. Simultaneously, if “The World Is Not Enough” is actually enjoyable (and it is), it is because the chemistry between Pierce Brosnan and Sophie Marceau wills it to be that way.

  1. Sylvia Williams says:

    Another nice intro paragraph! Several things amuse me about the plot, but I don’t think any death could be more creative than getting impaled by a plutonium rod. Also, I loved the bit about the vertical shadow versus the horizontal one. Ha!!

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