The World Is Not Enough (1999)

Directed by Michael Apted
Pierce Brosnan, Sophie Marceau, Robert Carlyle, Robbie Coltrane, Goldie, Judi Dench as M, Desmond Llewelyn as Q, John Cleese as R, Samantha Bond as Moneypenny, Colin Salmon as Robinson.
Music by David Arnold
Title Song performed by Garbage

The World Is Not Enough is not just the title of this movie, it is also the motto appearing on the coat of arms of the Bond family. From Ian Fleming’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Glidrose Productions Ltd):
Griffon Or broke in excitedly, ‘And this charming motto of the line, “The World is not Enough”. You do not wish to have the right to it?’ “It is an excellent motto which I shall certainly adopt,’ said Bond curtly.
It’s a strange motto for Bond to have. It is more befitting the type of evil megalomaniac that craves world domination that Bond usually battles, rather than the man himself. But if that’s what Ian Fleming decreed, then so be it.

The film, while still being hugely enjoyable is a bit of a mixed bag. The casting of Denise Richards as Dr. Christmas Jones, a nuclear physicist is it’s biggest hurdle. Richards, as with all Bond girls, is very easy on the eye, but she doesn’t have the acting range required for the role as written.

The film also lacks a good solid villain. Robert Carlyle plays Renard who starts out as an unstoppable killing machine. Unfortunately, he is motivated by his feelings for one of the female characters in the film, which means as the story progresses, Renard goes from being a hardened unstoppable killer to a pussy-whipped henchman. It changes the tone of the movie, and reduces the power and excitement of the end scenes.

The film opens in Bilbao in Spain. Bond is acting as a courier and meeting a corrupt Swiss Banker. His mission is to collect a sum of money which was payed by an English businessman in the oil industry, Robert King (David Calder) for some documents relating to Russia’s oil pipelines. The documents were fake and King wants his money back. The transaction doesn’t go well and Bond has to shoot his way out – but he retrieves the money and returns it to London.

Back at M.I.6 headquarters, Robert King meets with M (Judi Dench) to collect his money. The mission appears to have gone well, and King leaves with case. But inside, the money has been dipped in liquid fertiliser and a miniature detonator has been inserted into the bank notes. As King makes his exit, the money, which is in effect a bomb, is detonated and King is killed.

Bond is the first to realise what has happened and witnesses ‘Cigar Girl’, armed with a rifle, in a boat on the Thames beside M.I.6 headquarters. Bond, logically believing she was the trigger person for the explosion, borrows a jet powered speed boat from Q Branch and engages in a chase along the Thames. Bond finally chases down ‘Cigar Girl’, but by this time she has left her boat and now is in an ascending hot air balloon. As she tries to escape, Bond latches onto one of the mooring ropes and is lifted up as the balloon drifts away. Feeling that she is captured, ‘Cigar Girl’ chooses to put a bullet in one of the balloon’s helium tanks rather than be taken in for questioning. The balloon explodes, ‘Cigar Girl’ dies, and Bond is thrown from a great height onto the roof of the Millenium Dome, where he sustains severe shoulder damage.

Once Bond has recovered from his injuries he is assigned to protect Elektra King, who is Robert King’s daughter. She has now inherited control of her father’s oil business and it is believed that attempts will be made on her life.

Over the years the Bond universe has been subject to silly and inconsistent casting. We have had Charles Grey, Maude Adams, Joe Don Baker, Martine Beswick, Burt Kwouk and Shane Rimmer appearing in multiple films as different characters. In the days before home video and DVD, this wasn’t so much a problem, because nobody could remember the faces of the minor support players. But with the scrutiny that digital age brings, means that inconsistency and poor continuity are blatantly obvious, even to the most casual viewer. Having said that, The World Is Not Enough shows the welcome return of a few characters. The first is Robinson (Colin Salmon), a staff member at M.I.6. His is not an important or flashy role, but it does provide a sense of continuity in the films. Robinson first appeared in Tomorrow Never Dies and continued the role in Die Another Day. More noticeable in his return is the character of Valentin Zukovsky (Robbie Coltrane). Zukovsky is a Russian mafia Don and first appeared in Goldeneye.

The World Is Not Enough was also the last film Desmond Llewelyn appeared in as the gadget master ‘Q’. In this film they gave the aging ‘Q’ an assistant, ‘R’, played by John Cleese (R comes after Q in the alphabet, get it?) At the time of the films release, Cleese was inspired casting to take over from Llewelyn. Unfortunately for Cleese, in this film he is simply comic relief (and not that funny either), and in the next film he got lumbered with some ridiculous gadgets (invisible car – my arse!) Subsequently Cleese’s popularity as ‘Q’ waned. It is interesting to note that the ‘Q’ character does not appear in Casino Royale (2006) or Quantum Of Solace.

Onto the Bond girls – if you’ll forgive the clumsiness of that expression! Earlier I talked about how Denise Richards doesn’t stack up as a Bond girl (at least acting wise). Thankfully, Richards isn’t the only girl in the film. French beauty, Sophie Marceau plays the complex Elektra King. Elektra is a fascinating character, and for once – despite every actress’ ascertation that she is different to what has gone before – she actully is different. Italian actress, Maria Grazia Cucinotta has a small but flashy role as a character called ‘Cigar Girl’. She is Renard’s number one henchwoman, and as a bad girl her days are numbered. In fact she doesn’t make it past the pre-credit sequence. Rounding out the United Nations of Bond girls, representing England is Serena Scott Thomas, as Dr. Molly Warmflash (I’m not making this up – that’s her character’s name). Dr. Warmflash is the doctor who tends to 007 after he injures himself during his pursuit of ‘Cigar Girl’.

The film has an interesting, although not inspired collection of gadgets. Once again BMW supplies the car for Bond’s mission, it’s a Z8 Roadster, but it doesn’t get a full workout. The most useful vehicular gadget that Bond navigates is miniature jet boat, dubbed the ‘Q Boat’. This little beast is put to good use during the prolonged pre-title sequence. Bond races around the Thames and even cuts across land as he pursues ‘Cigar Girl’. Like most Bond vehicles, it comes with a selection of guns and missiles, with which Bond can defend himself. For the sequences in the snow capped Caucasus mountains, the villains are equipped with para-hawk gliders, which are like a snow buggy and with a parachute. They can drift from the sky and then land on the snow continuing their pursuit of Bond, all the while peppering Bond with machine gun fire.

While I find The World Is Not Enough to be an enjoyable Bond film, I still still see it as somewhat of a missed opportunity. The film has a good cast, a decent director, and David Arnold’s score is excellent, but still the film just doesn’t quite work. Even though I applaud the attempt to create multi-layered villains rather than cartoon clones of what has gone before, in this instance the duality in these characters only serves to mute the sense of threat or danger that these characters provide, and in turn weakens the film as a whole.

Put into the context of the Bond series, The World Is Not Enough also falls in between Tomorrow Never Dies – which I consider the best Brosnan Bond film but had poor villains, and the abysmal Die Another Day, which had even worse villains. Whatever strengths The World Is Not Enough may have, tend to be lost in this lacklustre period in the Bond cycle. I do not believe Brosnan was to blame. He was a good Bond; he was simply lumbered with poor scripts and miscast supporting actors. It will be interesting to see how the passage of time will treat this film – will it be seen as an interesting blip on the Bond radar, or will it be lumped with it’s surrounding Bond films as a particularly uninspired addition to the Bond canon.

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