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BlogalongaBond: The World Is Not Enough
Bond
timdalton007
After two highly successful films, it was clear that Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond had definitely caught on with both the public and critics alike. But Brosnan’s second film had been criticized for its lack of plot and, perhaps taking this criticism onboard, brought a change of pace for Brosnan’s third Bond film, The World Is Not Enough. Bringing onboard acclaimed director Michael Apted, better known for dramas and having not directed a full blown action film before, this film would be a more character driven but no less action packed affair all around.

The change starts with Brosnan’s 007. While Brosnan had certainly proven he could handle both the action and more “acting” moments in his previous films, Brosnan is given the chance to show his acting chops in this film. This Bond harkens back in some ways to Dalton’s Bond: a tough but vulnerable man of action caught up in a world where nobody is quite what they seem. The vulnerability is partly physical (the shoulder injury incurred at the end of the pre-titles sequence) and partly emotional as witnessed in the film’s last hour or so. Bond here is no less tough or action capable but Brosnan finds the right balance between the two, exceling throughout and proving he is more than an amalgamation of his predecessors. The result then is perhaps Brosnan’s best performance as Bond.

Far less successful is Bond girl Christmas Jones, played by Denise Richards. While Richards definitely has the looks (and indeed wardrobe) to be a Bond girl, she lacks the acting talent to pull off the nuclear physicist role believably. The character of Jones is given a ton of exposition and Richards, try though she might, simply spits them out as fast as she can as though she might forget them at any moment. It’s hard to tale if the role is badly or written or if Richards is simply the most mis-cast Bond girl since Tanya Roberts in A View To A Kill, but Richards’ Christmas Jones is the one bad spot on an otherwise good cast.

Far more successful is Sophie Marceau as Elektra King and Robert Carlyle as Renard. Marceau in particular shines throughout, given one of the best written female roles in any Bond film and quite possibly the best since Tracy three decades earlier. One imagines that, in the hands of a lesser actress like her co-star Richards, the role of Elektra and the plot twist that comes with her would simply fail to be convincing. But Marceau makes the role believable as she plays two very different versions of the same character, switching for the film’s back half. It also helps that she shares some good chemistry with Brosnan which also allows her to outshine Richards as well. Carlyle also shines as the film’s villain, the character being built up until his first appearance when the film is almost half over. But while he might not be physically impressive at first, Carlyle proves himself to be more than a match for Bond in both brawn and brain. Like Marceau, he makes an unlikely twist (his own injury) seem not only credible but cool as well.

The supporting cast is strong as well. Judi Dench’s M is given her largest role yet and is given far more of a character than either of her male predecessors. Robbie Coltrane returns as Valentin Zukovsk and is given far more screen time than in Goldeneye and he makes the most of it. Also of note are Serena Scott Thomas as Dr. Molly Warmflash, Ulrich Thomsen as Davidov and John Cleese as R. Last but not least is of course Desmond Llewelyn, making his final appearance as gadget master Q and he is given a proper send off with one of the film’s most memorable moments. The result is an overall strong cast.

Unlike the previous 007 film, which was action driven to a fault, this film is a far more character driven story. Both the script and Apted’s direction bring this out following the film’s opening credits with the film dealing with both vulnerability and trust. As a result, this film presents us a Bond who is perhaps at his most vulnerable and, as a result, more than willing to be cold blooded. The characters around him (minus Christmas Jones) feel far more fleshed out just at a script level than those in Tomorrow Never Dies. Also, the film’s plot, with its focus on oil and terrorism, is incredibly relevant thirteen years after its release and, combined with the character focusing, feels like a test run for the Craig films that were to follow in a few years’ time.

That isn’t to say that this film is any less action driven. The film’s pre-credit sequence alone contains not one but two stunt filled sequences featuring both Bond’s escape from a Swiss bankers office in Spain, a terrorist attack at MI6 and a boat chase up the Thames in its aftermath. It’s both the series’ lost opening sequence and quite possibly its best as well. From there we are treated to a ski sequence echoing On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and numerous firefights ranging from a missile silo to a caviar factory. The film ends with a fight sequence with echoes of the climatic fight from Thunderball, though not quite as memorable. These sequences, combined with the more character driven moments, makes this one of the best paced of the Bond films.

So where does all that leave this film? It features Brosnan at his best as 007, it has a strong cast for the most part and it finds the right balance between its characters and its action sequences. As a result then, The World Is Not Enough is easily the best film of the Brosnan era.