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The World is not Enough

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The World is not Enough

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Sophie Marceau
Director: Michael Apted
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 128 Minutes
Release Date: November 1999
Genres: 007, Action, Suspense

*Also starring: Denise Richards, Robert Carlyle, Judi Dench, Samantha Bond, Robbie Coltrane, Maria Grazia Cucinotta, Desmond Llewelyn, John Cleese

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

The Bond series has as much stamina on the screen as its eponymous hero has in bedrooms from Baku to Borneo. Face it: we're addicted to Ian Fleming's character and have allowed him to get us to come 19 times to his pictures over the past 37 years. In the final note of "The World Is Not Enough," we get the message "James Bond Will Return." Trust him. The series faces just one danger, and that hazard is the opposite of the one that many viewers will point out, i.e. that we're getting tired of the same ol' same ol'. To the contrary. Like our beloved dogs and cats who favor routine in their lives, we enjoy returning to 007 just as we take to meat loaf and mashed potatoes. Bond is comfort food. We know what to expect and we savor the experience. No: the real danger is that the series, notwithstanding the formula, has of late been veering from its usual trajectory, imitating the other action-adventure movies which have co-opted the British agent. In the past, we've been delighted by what makes Bond special--his appeal to all women, villainous and virtuous alike, confirming that fair maid is ne'er won by political correctness; the fancy gadgets such as the boats that turn into planes, the autos sporting a dazzling array of options, the wrist watch that shoots up wires for its wearer to climb out of danger--given him by the old, reliable Q, still played by the dependable Desmond Llewelyn. Given the advent of such agitated pix as "Con Air," "Executive Decision," "Lethal Weapon" and the Jerry Bruckheimer assortment including "Top Gun" and "The Rock," we need 007 to be different while he remains the same. We attend Cubby Broccoli's productions because we want to hear, over and over, "Shaken, not stirred," and "My name is Bond; James Bond." These rituals are still in evidence with the current release, but with all the noise that happily envelops us, the explosions that down nasty choppers and crack sinister oil pipelines, and the exotic locations in Northern Spain, Azerbaijan, and Turkey, we're on familiar turf. "The World is Not Enough" is not different enough from the universe of action-adventure movies that bring in the fans not only in America but throughout the free world.

In his dealings with the women, Christmas Jones (Denise Richards) and Elektra King (Sophie Marceau), James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) eschews some of the political correctness he was saddled with in "Tomorrow Never Dies." Instead, he takes on a new physical vulnerability, a dislocated collar bone that he acquires in a 30-foot fall--happily not one that influences his chief preoccupation, in which he indulges with the physician giving him a clean bill of health, Dr. Molly Warmflash (Serena Scott Thomas). Indeed the very opening scene, the longest such introduction in the Bond series, is the best largely because writers Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Bruce Feirstein give 007 some clever double-entendres and puns, particularly political ones that the young 'uns may not catch. Especially biting is Bond's flippant parlance with a Swiss banker that recalls the recent brouhaha over that country's noncompliance with debts owed to Holocaust survivors and their families. "If you can't trust a Swiss banker, who can you trust?" he counsels. (The opening sequence, in Bilbao, Spain, makes use of the new Guggenheim Museum there, and Bond has gone to the area to pick up some money recovered from a murdered agent.)

From a tense boat race on the Thames that could rival any car-chase scene in John Frankenheimer's "Ronin," Bond travels imperceptibly (without luggage and with an apparently hidden array of $2,000 suits) to the Caspian Sea, taking in the tawdry scenery of the Azerbaijan oil fields and the beauty of the St. Sophia Mosque spotted through the mist from the waters of Istanbul. His principal enemy is an anarchist known as Renard (Robert Carlyle), who is soon to die from a bullet lodged in his brain that is traveling through the medula oblongata. (The doctor who failed in his attempt to remove it was executed.) Since Renard feels no pain, he becomes one of Bond's strongest opponents, and therein lies one of the cleverest concepts of this latest entry. Renard is determined for reasons made almost clear in the story line to blow up the city of Istanbul with a nuclear device, while the lovely Elektra--who may or may not be his accomplice--keeps the good guys guessing and provides a formidable match for the British agent.

Except for the dialogue in the opening scene, most of the colloquy is mere filler between episodes of frantic activity--on speedboats, in submarines, in a balloon, and on the ski trail. Michael Apted does not treat any of this agitated movement in a particularly elegant style, leaving us to enjoy principally the game of guessing Elektra's true motivations, the loyalty of caviar-loving businessman Valentin Zukovsky (Robbie Coltraine), the unusual plight of M (Judi Dench) who becomes quite directly involved in the scheme, and the comic support of John Cleese in a cameo role. Denise Richards is overwhelmingly outmatched by Sophie Marceau, the former's bearing as stiff as an oil pipeline, while Ms. Marceau, though notably sexier in William Nicholson's sudsy "Firelight," steals the scenes she's in.

The title of the movie comes from James Bond's family motto , orbis non sufficit, which surfaced in his 1969 film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service." In this case, the slogan becomes apropos as Bond is advised that he could have received the world if only he sold out and joined the conspirators. As for Pierce Brosnan himself, one of the world's handsomest men has settled in nicely to the role and this time shows that he can really act. Given the reality that we can't expect a great deal of originality in the action sequences, what we need is a lot more sparkling dialogue: More double entendres, and especially, more contemporary send-ups of the absurdities of the current world's politics, as shown so adeptly in this film's opening sequence.

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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