The World Is Not Enough

The World Is Not Enough
(Credit: The New York Times)

The World is Not Enough (1999)
November 19, 1999
FILM REVIEW; Submarines, Balloons and a Guy Named Bond
Published: November 19, 1999

''The World Is Not Enough'' was directed by Michael Apted, whose insightful glimpses of the maturing process can be seen in his latest documentary, ''42 Up.'' Doggone if Mr. Apted hasn't been able to make James Bond grow up a little too. In his third and most comfortable effort to model the Bond mantle, Pierce Brosnan bears noticeably more resemblance to a real human being. He shows signs of emotion, cuts back on the lame puns and makes lifelike conversation with fellow characters. Should he ever stop posing mannequinlike with left hand in trouser pocket, or engage in a clinch without appearing to be promoting his wristwatch, Mr. Brosnan's Bond will have entered the land of the living.

This latest film, which evokes its jolliest laugh when Bond tries to work the title phrase into a conversation, seems to be populated by more noticeable people all around. Back at initial-filled headquarters, M (Dame Judi Dench) takes a more active role in this story, while the delightful Q (Desmond Llewelyn) is now made even more so by John Cleese's R. Both men are suitably aghast whenever Bond runs off with their newly designed equipment and treats it as if he were a teenager who shouldn't have borrowed the car.

The film is off to the races with its obligatory high-octane opening. This year's model features the Frank Gehry-designed museum in Bilbao, Spain, an amphibious chase through London and a hot-air balloon. And it pits Bond against a woman in tight red leather who drives a speedboat while shooting a machine gun. (Question: Isn't it difficult to do both?) The chase ends tragically, with a cryptic line of dialogue. (Question: Will anyone know what her problem was when the movie is over?)

Still trawling for plausible villains, ''The World Is Not Enough'' pits Bond against Renard (Robert Carlyle), a rabid anticapitalist terrorist who has a bullet in his head. (Question: Is the large, mobile, computer-generated hologram of Renard's skull and brain more interesting than the actual character?) Renard was once the kidnapper of beautiful Elektra King, whose beloved father (note her first name) is blown up before this film's opening credits. When a character here explains that Elektra fell in love with her captor, the phrase ''Stockholm syndrome'' is used nervously. It's as if the movie's real goals of admiring scenery and plugging products were jeopardized by such a knotty concept.

Sophie Marceau does a smashing turn as Elektra, in a mischievously sexy performance that manages to make Bond that much more interesting. While Ms. Marceau gets the slinky costumes, gorgeous ski sequence and boudoir scenes, the film's other female star fares less well. Denise Richards seemed far more clever as the teenage vixen of ''Wild Things'' than she does as a brilliant scientist whose name (Dr. Christmas Jones) is mercifully avoided in conversation. And she's the one who gets stuck talking about plutonium and flailing away on a soggy submarine.

The plot, which often sends the audience into a pleasant fog while big machines and deadly weapons are thrown around, involves the struggle over an oil pipeline (with Robbie Coltrane as an amusing Russian gangster) and sends postcards from places as diverse as Scotland and central Asia. (Question: Is it easy to rent a shiny new BMW if you're in Azerbaijan? It is if you're James Bond.)

''The World Is Not Enough'' is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). It includes violence and brief sexual situations.


Directed by Michael Apted; written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Bruce Feirstein, based on a story by Mr. Purvis and Mr. Wade; director of photography, Adrian Biddle; edited by Jim Clark; music by David Arnold, with ''The World Is Not Enough'' theme performed by Garbage and written by Mr. Arnold and Don Black; production designer, Peter Lamont; produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli; released by MGM. Running time: 128 minutes. This film is rated PG-13.

WITH: Pierce Brosnan (James Bond), Sophie Marceau (Elektra), Robert Carlyle (Renard), Denise Richards (Christmas Jones), Robbie Coltrane (Valentin Zukovsky), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), John Cleese (R), Maria Grazia Cucinotta (Cigar Girl), Samantha Bond (Moneypenny), Michael Kitchen (Tanner), Colin Salmon (Robinson), Serena Scott Thomas (Dr. Molly Warmflash), Ulrich Thomsen (Davidov), John Seru (Gabor), Claude-Oliver Rudolph (Colonel Akakievich) and Dame Judi Dench (M).


James Bond

Pierce Brosnan

John Seru