IT'S THE ONE WHERE
James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) participates in the recovery of a large sum of money. The money later turns out to be laced with explosives, when they're detonated inside the MI6 offices, killing Sir Robert King, an oil tycoon and personal friend of M (Judi Dench).
MI6 fears for the safety of Electra (Sophie Marceau), King's daughter, who's now running her father's company, so Bond is dispatched to protect her. He comes across a plot to sabotage an oil pipeline the company is currently building, and it turns out that the man behind the plot is notorious terrorist Renard (Robert Carlyle) as Bond suspected. But there's more to this case than meets the eye.
Of course Bond flirts with Moneypenny, the secretary. He sleeps with his doctor, to get a clean bill of health. He sleeps with Electra, because he wants to. And he he sleeps with a nuclear scientist, Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards), because he's James Bond. He also gets a cool anti-avalanche jacket from Q.
(Now a word of warning. There will be spoilers from this point on.)
THE SECRET PLOT TO RULE THE WORLD AWARD GOES TO...
Renard, the terrorist, and his mysterious friend, who turns out to be (fair warning) the very same woman Bond was sent to protect. They plan to make a lot of trouble, kill a lot of people, and most importantly, punish MI6. It's a great plan.
Danish Ulrich Thomsen shows up as a brown stain in the floor - excuse me - as a henchmen, and there are a few other assorted bad guys, but none of them manage to make an impression compared to the lead duo.
Revenge is at the heart of this 19th official James Bond movie. Though not quite in the same vein as in License to Kill. The central plot concerning the threat to the pipeline is not even that important, this is personal, and there's something far bigger at stake here. We already get that sense in the pre-credit sequence, when a forceful and slick Bond takes charge of the previously mentioned money recovery, casually killing a bunch of people with ruthless efficiency. When we learn that Electra was kidnapped by Renard, and M was involved in the situation, more revenge motives bubble to the surface. The revelation that Electra and Renard work together only raises the stakes, as we're left wondering which one of them corrupted the other.
Sophie Marceau plays the part of Electra to perfection. There's something strange and lethal hidden behind her fake smile, and for once 007 is truly blindsided by save-the-vulnerable-girl syndrome, an almost fatal mistake. Turns out that the man we thought we should fear - Renard, who can't feel pain, because he's got a bullet in the brain - is merely the muscles of the union. Robert Carlyle even manages to make us almost sympathetic to Renard's hopeless situation. Not enough to challenge our allegiance to Bond, obviously, but enough to make him human, and not just another maniac hellbent on world war.
These two are probably my favorite Bond bad guys ever.
The rest of the cast is equally good, but I believe it's time to throw a little love at the character Q, played by Desmond Llewelyn. In almost every James Bond movie since the franchise begun he's been around to supply cool gadget to Bond. This movie was his last. Llewelyn was killed in a car crash shortly after the movie opened. First, though, he gets to introduce his replacement ("I want to introduce you to the young fellow I'm grooming to follow me" - enter John Cleese as "R"), and he also gets to impart his final bit of wisdom to Bond, before disappearing into the floor with a strangely melancholic look on his face. Did he know this was his last performance? Q and Llewelyn was an integral part of Bond. He's going to be missed.
I guess we also have to address the gorgeous fake-breasted elephant in the room. I have a feeling that people would probably be a little easier on this film, had it not been for Dr. Christmas Jones. Big-chested bimbo Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist? Come on. Suspending the disbelief is nowhere near enough, we'll have to blast it into space, to buy this character. But what if they had made her a gorgeous assistant to a horny old professor instead? The professor gets killed, and she has to step in, knowing just enough about her field to be useful to Bond? Could that have made it easier to accept? Either way this character is often cited as the deal-breaker for many people.
In terms of action, though, there should be little doubt about this film's effectiveness. The speedboat chase through the English channel is a classic Bond sequence, full of great energy and over the top stunts. The moment where the boat is temporarily submerged, and Bond still finds the time to adjust his tie, is a favorite. Then there's the ski sequence, where Bond must escape flying, shooting assassins, while everything explodes around him, and let's not forget the helicopter-with-giant-saw-blades attack, or the preposterous finale aboard a nuclear submarine, which is quite exiting, and not just because Dennis Richards is wearing a tight, wet T-shirt! Now, of course none of it makes any sense, but it's such a thrill ride, and I'm literally laughing out loud and clapping my hands in excitement every time the movie launches into another crazy action scene.
The World is Not Enough has a bad reputation. That's really unfair. It's a good action movie. A fun, engaging spy mission, with an actual mystery. GoldenEye may be my favorite Bond on paper, but this is the one it takes the least amount of effort to put in the player again.
"I always wanted Christmas in Turkey!" Me too.