Our review of James Bond Ultimate Edition (Volume 1), published May 14th, 2007, is also available.
Ah, the famous Bond wit. Well, half of it, anyway.
1999s The World Is Not Enough is the venerable film series' 19th official installment and Pierce Brosnan's third crack at James Bond, agent 007.
This time out Bond is acting as a bodyguard to Elektra King (Sophie Marceau) a beautiful oil heiress. Bond has a personal stake in this assignment as he feel partially responsible for the death of her father, Sir Peter King. Elektra was once kidnapped by a terrorist called Renard (Robert Carlyle) and Bond knows Renard is the one who had her father murdered. Also very heavily in the mix is M (Dame Judi Dench). Turns out M is a close friend of the King family and she was the person who advised Elektra's father to not pay Renard's ransom demands during the kidnapping. Using Elektra as bait, M wanted a way to draw Renard out so MI6 could take a shot at the terrorist known as "the Anarchist."
While investigating around the King pipeline Bond finds himself knee deep in Renard's plan, the theft of weapons grade plutonium from a Russian missile silo. This also brings Bond into contact with Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards), an American nuclear physicist. Is that someone laughing I hear?
What does Renard want with weapons grade plutonium? Why is former KGB agent Valentin Zurovsky (Robbie Coltrane) lurking around? Which of the Bond women are not what they seem?
Those and many more questions are answered but who really cares? Its a Bond movie.
Sit back and enjoy the ride.
There are quite a few things that I like about The World Is Not Enough. First off I am enjoying the fact that the producers are bringing in fresh voices in the form of a different director for each new Bond movie. Different directors mean a new spin on material that has been done to death. This time out it is Michael Apted (Gorillas in the Mist, Coal Miner's Daughter) who has the center chair. Known more for dramas and documentaries, Apted is a surprising choice. To his credit the film is much quieter than its predecessor, Tomorrow Never Dies. Under Apted's direction, characters that would be considered cardboard are given time to develop and breath. Brosnan, in particular, benefits from Apted's approach.
While Tomorrow Never Dies was a wall to wall action fest, The World Is Not Enough spaces it set pieces out, allowing the story to take center stage. This is not to say the movie does not pack it's usual boatload of thrills. Far from it. The opening sequence is to my mind the greatest ever done for a Bond movie. Opening in Spain and then quickly moving to MI6 headquarters in London, the sequence ends up being an extended boat chase on the Thames that finishes up on a hot air balloon in front of the Millennium Dome. The film series' longest opening action piece is thrilling stuff. It is so good in fact, I thought the film never was able to top it.
Everyone has their favorite Bond film and actor. I have always been partial to Sean Connery, with On Her Majesty's Secret Service being my odd choice for favorite film in the series. I was also one of the few people I know who enjoyed Timothy Dalton's two passes on the role of Bond. Dalton was, to my mind, the closest to what Ian Fleming wrote in his novels, which, in the end, is probably what turned so many people off.
With three films under his belt and his public statements of wanting to do 4 more, a clearer picture of a Brosnan Bond is starting to come through. He certainly has the cruel charm of Connery while maintaining the physical toughness that Roger Moore never really had. This time out though, Brosnan brings a certain emotional vulnerability to the role. While I'm not completely sure what Fleming would have thought of that, it does flesh the character out and make Brosnan's Bond more a man for our times.
If you look back at the best Bond films the one thing they all have in common is a strong villain. Robert Carlyle's (Plunkett and Macleane, The Full Monty, Trainspotting) Renard certainly has the potential for that greatness. The target of a botched MI6 assassination attempt Renard is a man living on borrowed time. Having taken a bullet to the brain, Renard does not feel pain and grows stronger by the day. With the bullet moving slowly in his head he is waiting to die, looking to take down as many people as he can. It's a great premise for a character and one I wish had been developed further. Unfortunately the film is so concerned with Bond and his relationship to Elektra that the Renard character and the film, suffers.
As Electra King, Sophie Marceau (Lost & Found, Braveheart) is quite good. Equal parts child and woman she is the ultimate manipulator. Marceau gives the character a wonderful sense of both innocence and wildness. While she overplays her final sequence, her performance as a whole works to the movie's favor.
Much has been written of Denise Richards (Drop Dead Gorgeous, Wild Things, Starship Troopers) calling her the worst Bond girl ever. I for one have to disagree. No one is ever going to confuse her with Meryl Streep but the worst ever? Take a look at Bond women past.
Jill St. John in Diamonds are Forever. Britt Ekland in The Man with the Golden Gun. Tanya Roberts in A View to a Kill. Those were really terrible Bond women. Richards is no Honor Blackman or Diana Rigg but she is far from the worst, besides she looks REALLY good in a wet T-shirt. Sorry to let my hormones show but who are we kidding here?
The World Is Not Enough also marks the first time M has had a substantial role in one of the films and while I don't think it would work on a regular basis, it is a nice change of pace. Judy Dench (Tea with Mussolini, Shakespeare in Love, Mrs. Brown) is a world-class actress and its nice seeing the series give her something to do other than bark orders.
For this movie Robbie Coltrane (Henry V, Nuns on the Run) reprises his Goldeneye role of former KGB agent Valentin Zukovsky. The movie certainly benefits from his charm. Coltrane is a marvelous comedic actor with all of his scenes having a zip and wit to them that helps keep the film moving. I was truly sorry to see his demise in the movie. With our luck we will probably get Jon Don Baker back for the next film. A major trade down as far as I am concerned.
I suppose special mention, or at least tribute, should be made of the late Desmond Llewelyn as gadget master Q. Llewelyn appeared in all but two of the series and gave the films someone they could always look to. The way his final exit is written and the timing of his death is more than a little spooky. As Q's successor John Cleese (A Fish Called Wanda, Monty Python's Life of Brian, Silverado) is cast as R. Cleese is sure to be a great comic foil for Bond but I know I will always miss Llewelyn.
MGM has done a beautiful job with the production of this disc. The picture is flawless. Colors and flesh tones are solid and natural. Blacks and shadows pop with detail and clarity. As hard as I looked I could find no evidence of edge enhancement and the master from which this was struck was in pristine shape. Kudos to MGM.
The sound is Dolby Digital 5.1 and it is one of the best and most aggressive mixes I have yet heard. Directional effects move around constantly with the dialogue moving as well. No matter how much the .1 LFE is booming away, and boom it does, what the actors are saying, always come through loud and clear.
The World Is Not Enough has a mix that I would put next to Saving Private Ryan as reference quality. This is a movie to crank up, just make sure the neighbors are not home when you do.
MGM has billed this as the "Ultimate Special Edition of The World Is Not Enough" and it does have a lot going for it. Front and center are two scene specific commentary tracks. The first is by Director Michael Apted and the second features 2nd unit director Vic Armstrong, production designer Peter Lamont and composer David Arnold. Both tracks are informative but rather subdued in a very British manner. If I had to chose between the two, I suppose I would go with Apted's track. There are a few gaps in his discussion but I rather enjoyed his perspective on the making of the film more than the other track.
Also included is an Alternate Video Option where the viewer can examine 9 special effects and stunt sequences in detail. It is a great feature that has two viewing options. Watch it during the film proper and when a 007 icon appears you click over to the alternate video or choose to watch it separately from the main menu.
There is a brief featurette with interviews that has most of the principals but it is rather bland and boring. The edition is closed out by the theatrical trailer and the music video from Garbage.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
At 128 minutes, The World Is Not Enough suffers from a problem a great many Bond adventures before it have, the movie is too long. By the time the film reaches its final act, it has simply run out of steam with the ending being a forgone conclusion. No tension, no sense of surprise. Bond wins out and gets one last quip as he nails whatever leading lady is present. I know it is the formula but in this case it just seemed more forced than usual. The film also would have benefited from more screen time with Robert Carlyle. He is one of the best character actors in the world right now and he projects a great deal of electricity, energy which the film sorely misses in spots.
All that being said, a Bond film is a Bond film. I enjoyed it but just did not feel it was one of the best. If it helps, I think that outside of For Your Eyes Only, The World Is Not Enough blows away anything from the Moore era. I just did not find it as strong as either Goldeneye or Tomorrow Never Dies. Middle tier Bond if you will.
I also could not help but be a little disappointed with MGM on the disc itself. It certainly stands head and shoulders above what they usually put out but the featurette was very lame. It certainly pales when looking at what MGM has done for the other films in the series. Running under 15 minutes it told me virtually nothing about the film or its production. That and the woman hosting it was so vapid, not even Bond would bother bedding her down. Did I mention it is really lame?
Everything that anyone would expect from a Bond film is here—the girls, the locations, the action and the gadgets, The World Is Not Enough has everything in spades, sometimes, one could say, too much. As a special edition DVD it is very good, not perfect mind you, but still a good purchase. For the causal movie or action fan, The World Is Not Enough is worth an evening's rental.
If you are a Bond fan, well, why are you even bothering to read this? You know you are going to buy it on May 16th or have already pre-ordered it.
Cast and crew are acquitted of all charges. The producers are urged to go even further in making Bond inventive again, or at least a little bit different. Maybe Quentin Tarantino would want a crack at Bond, James Bond. MGM is also released from the court with only the request that they show all the titles in their vast catalogue the same care as they do the adventures of 007.
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Scales of Justice
• Audio Commentary Featuring Director Michael Apted
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