The World is Not Enough is the nineteenth film based on the Ian Fleming character, James Bond. You would have to be a hermit on Mars not to have at least some familiarity with Agent 007 (in Her Majesty’s Secret Service), a character as ingrained in the contemporary cultural fabric as Mickey Mouse or Lucy Ricardo or Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Bond has achieved the stature of modern myth, the ultimate escapist fantasy personality: strong, handsome, masculine, dashing, brave, smart, clever, audacious. He’s on the side of the right and good, but not beyond breaking the rules. He is independent, often disobeying orders from his boss, M (played again in this edition by the inimitable Judi Dench, who wryly warns Bond: "Shadows stay in front or behind, never on top."). He’s sexy and testosterone driven, bedding one voluptuous beauty after another.
Film historians might say Bond is a direct descendant of Errol Flynn. He’s a swashbuckler for the millennium. Moviegoers around the globe will show up in droves and add to the phenomenal profits that this character has earned for its various producers over nearly forty years. Bond pictures may not individually scale the ranks of the top grossing films of all time, but better ones easily reach world wide grosses of over $300 million.
The World is Not Enough is a superior outing for 007, with all the required ingredients of the formula in place, enhanced by plotting that is tighter than some of these adventures have been, the dialogue spiced by the expected puns and double entendres. Pierce Brosnan, in his third Bond role, conveys all the above-catalogued attributes and he is suitably aroused by Sophie Marceau, Denise Richards, and Serena Scott Thomas. (Miss Richards is notable for her complete incompetence at delivering lines, one of very few sour notes in the film.)
The now trademark-like opening of Bond drawing his pistol and shooting directly at the auditorium, along with the familiar Bond theme music, brings delighted squeals of anticipation from the fans in the audience. Even before the main titles, the film hits a high note, an extended hyperkinetic chase scene with Bond driving a jet-propelled, gadget-laden boat. Michael Apted (Gorillas in the Mist, Coal Miner’s Daughter), directing his first action-movie, manages to provide spectacular views of the Houses of Parliament and London’s new Millennium Dome as backgrounds for this chase which accelerates into a suitable climax. (There is another sequence that offers some great shots of Gehry’s wonderful Guggenheim Bilbao.)
The cold war may be well over, but the former Soviet Union remains a source of villains, in this case a former KGB agent (Robert Carlyle), now engaged in international terrorism centered on the development of the all important pipelines under construction to bring Russian oil reserves to market. No further details of the plot will be revealed here; suffice it to say that in addition to the flying boat, there will be a skiing sequence with attacking parahawks, tobogganing through a pipeline, an aerial buzz saw, and a climactic scene in an atomic submarine. Frequent fiery explosions are timed perfectly to awaken any nonagenarians who might have walked into the wrong theater at the multiplex.
Passing note might be made of the allusion to Greek tragedy – the Sophie Marceau character is named Elektra, and her father has certainly been murdered; beyond that the parallels quickly fall apart. But even the writers couldn’t have been taking this seriously. That’s not what Bond films are about. A good time will be had by all, including the awakened nonagenarians.