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Review: 'The World Is Not Enough' (1999) Dir. Michael Apted

Pierce Brosnan, Sophie Marceau, Robert Carlyle, Denise Richards, Robbie Coltrane, Judi Dench, Ulrich Thomsen, Colin Salmon, Samantha Bond, John Cleese and Desmond Llewelyn


As the 21st century beckoned and the world panicked over the 'Millennium Bug', it seemed 007 was the only number people could still rely on...

After MI6 is attacked by international terrorist Viktor “Renard” Zokas (Carlyle), M (Dench) feels her past has come back to haunt her. James Bond (Brosnan) is informed she was involved with the escape of kidnapped oil heiress Elektra King (Marceau), with M advising her ransom not be paid.

Travelling to meet Elektra, as it was her father killed in the MI6 attack, Bond discovers Renard was the man behind her kidnapping and she is still a target. Bond makes it his mission to protect her at all costs as the attempts on her life continue.

Learning that Renard has stolen plutonium and intends to cause a nuclear meltdown at the heart of King’s oil pipeline, Bond enlists the help of nuclear physicist Dr Christmas Jones (Richards) to help him stop Renard. But it soon turns out the real threat is much closer to home than expected…

Pierce Brosnan, the last James Bond of the 20th Century, takes us into the new millennium with plenty of those check-list expectations from his 007 era - big explosions, gorgeous girls, intense action, gadgets galore and enough innuendo to make even the late Sir Roger Moore blush.

Boasting the most exciting, and longest, pre-title sequence for decades that races across the River Thames and on the (then) Millennium Dome, Brosnan and director Michael Apted take even more risks to bring the action closer to home and inject a new sense of danger, excitement and celebration of all things Bond. That’s not to say we don’t get to globe-trot, taking in the beautiful natural sights of Azerbaijan, Istanbul and Scotland. But he story doesn’t factor in the technological worries and doubts of a new millennium, but instead resorts to good old fashioned terrorism thanks to Robert Carlyle’s villain Renard, teasing us with a classic Bond villain ailment – this time a bullet lodged in his brain that is killing him but renders him impervious to pain

Carlyle may not be intimidating in stature or frame, but he conveys a soulless, frail and brazen man with nothing to lose and nothing to gain. He’s dangerous, but not all he seems.

Support comes in the form of Sophie Marceau as Elektra King, oil heiress and weaving a complicated web that snares Bond and MI6 within, unsure of where her true motive lies. Marceau has an inner fire that is great to see as her character develops, bouncing of Brosnan’s vulnerable Bond in more ways than one. On the other side of the coin we have Denise Richards doing her best Lara Croft cosplay whilst trying to speak the lingo and look the part as a nuclear physicist.

Now that’s not to say someone who looks like Denise Richards couldn’t BE a nuclear physicist, but if you’re going to try and act the part, at least try to act it well. Very little she does can convince you that she knows anything except what the script tells her to know.

Thankfully, the good old MI6 crew are back to expand Bond’s world and add more dynamic relationships. Judi Dench gets her biggest role of the time as M, and Michael Kitchen and Colin Salmon are back as Bill Tanner and Charles Robinson.

Yet it’s Desmond Llewelyn who steals the show with his small appearance as Q, but more so for the fact this was his last appearance in the Bond franchise due to him sadly being killed in a car crash just weeks following the release. Even with comic John Cleese waiting in the wings to take some of the load from Llewelyn as the new Quartermaster, the loss of Llewelyn in that establish universe was like losing one of the beating, familiar hearts that made the franchise.

Entertainment wise, it ticks the boxes once more with the action-hero Brosnan Bond jumping out of multi-storey windows on a piece of curtain rope, racing past Big Ben in a high-power jet boat, evading parahawks on the snowy peaks of Azerbaijan, evading razor blades on helicopters across a caviar factory and battling to the death within a sinking nuclear submarine. Is there anything else they won’t throw at this man? The action certainly goes bigger and bolder, and it pushes some of the tolerance of your belief with hints of CGI being used now to up the ante and increase the thrills. At least Apted knew when to stop.

David Arnold is also back to repeat the success of ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ with those classic 007 riffs and James Bond themes spliced with original music and contemporary instrumentals to make this another very modern Bond film.

There is humour in the return of Robbie Coltrane’s Valentin Zukovsky, and there is heart in the guise of M, Bond and Elektra. The story tries to inject some humanity into proceedings, letting Brosnan show a little more fragility and vulnerability as 007 than before. It also shows him struggle to know the line between serving Queen and Country, and his own vendetta.

Brosnan is a capable actor and a great Bond, and this was the real last good story he got his teeth into before the series went off on a tangent it would never recover from.

'The World Is Not Enough' is an EON Productions production

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