Friday November 19, 1999
"The World Is Not Enough," the 19th James Bond movie, is in the "Mission: Impossible" tradition: It presents action, adventure and romance with maximum sophistication and spectacle and minimal clarity.
Director Michael Apted and his writers admirably maintain a balance between complexity of character and special effects, only to undercut their impact with a murky narrative. This sleek, fast-paced entertainment is further evidence of a steady erosion of confidence in the power of storytelling for its own sake on the part of contemporary blockbuster filmmakers, and truth to tell, that audiences may have trouble following the plot probably won't make a dent at the box office.
A pre-credit jaw-dropping sequence is de rigueur for the Bonds, and "World" delivers big time with Pierce Brosnan's Agent 007 in a terrific speedboat chase down the River Thames that culminates with the suspect attempting to escape via balloon and Bond landing on top of London's Millennium Dome. Through a series of sequences, each one a triumph of production design and technical bravura, we gather that Bond has been sent by M (Judi Dench) to Bilbao, Spain, to retrieve a ransom payment paid by an oil tycoon, Sir Robert King (David Calder), to rescue his kidnapped daughter Elektra (Sophie Marceau) from the arch anarchist Renard (Robert Carlyle), whose only goal, it seems, is to create chaos.
But when Sir Robert comes to MI6 headquarters in London to collect his money a fiendish device blows him to bits. Bond is off to Baku, Azerbaijan, to keep a protective eye on Elektra, who is carrying on her father's ambitious and perilous task of building an oil pipeline across Western Asia to Istanbul so that, in the words of M, "the West can count on oil reserves for the next century."
As a survivor of a kidnapping, Elektra is seemingly as fearless as she is gorgeous, not welcoming Bond's presence as a protector but eager to have him as a bedmate. He tries to resist but is beguiled by this beauty who soon proves to be complicated indeed. Bond begins suspecting that she may be a victim of the "Stockholm syndrome," secretly remaining in the thrall of Renard. But what if Renard in turn has fallen in love with her? Apted is adroit in suggesting the contradictions that riddle Elektra and others that render their behavior ambiguous at best.
Similarly, he's good at evoking an aura of complicity that governs interplay between the pursuer and the pursued, revealing vulnerability in all of the film's key players, a quality that has become a must in screen heroes and villains alike. All this is to the good; Brosnan, Marceau (whose 15 movies include "Braveheart" and some prestigious French pictures) and Britain's ever-versatile Carlyle and Dench all have the talent and experience necessary in creating three-dimensional characters. But too often the filmmakers allow a concern for complexity of motivation to lapse into needless confusion.
All the elements that audiences have come to expect of Bond pictures are securely in place: fabulous gadgetry, superbly photographed exotic locales, stupendous production values, inspired action sequences, gorgeous women, considerable zingy double-entendres, a driving score that incorporates the familiar Bond theme and an overall feeling of tremendous-scale, no-expenses-spared filmmaking.
Robbie Coltrane reprises vividly bad-guy-turned-good-guy Valentin Zukovsky and John Cleese is on hand for some comic relief as R, aide to series veteran Desmond Llewelyn's Q, MI6's inventor extraordinaire. But beautiful Denise Richards draws unintended laughs for her singularly callow portrayal of a nuclear weapons whiz. "The World Is Not Enough" in fact offers not enough to add up to a fully satisfying movie.
The World Is Not Enough, 1999. PG-13, for intense sequences of action violence, some sexuality and innuendo. An MGM release of an Albert R. Broccoli's Eon Productions Ltd. presentation. Director Michael Apted. Producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. Screenplay by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Bruce Feirstein; story by Purvis & Wade. Cinematographer Adrian Biddle. Editor Jim Clark. Second unit director Vic Armstrong. Special effects supervisor Chris Corbould. Visual effects supervisor Mara Bryan. Stunt coordinator Simon Crane. Music David Arnold. Production designer Peter Lamont. Supervising art director Neil Lamont. Running time: 2 hours, 8 minutes. Pierce Brosnan as James Bond. Sophie Marceau as Elektra King. Denise Richards as Dr. Christmas Jones. Robert Carlyle as Renard. Judi Dench as M.