Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Film Review: The World Is Not Enough

The World Is Not Enough
  • Publisher: MGM
  • Studio: Danjaq / EON Productions
  • Director: Michael Apted
  • Producers: Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson
  • Writers: Neil Purvis, Robert Wade, Bruce Feirstein
  • Genre: Action
  • Release: 19 November 1999 (USA), 29 November 1999 (UK)

The Girls: Elektra King (Sophie Marceau), daughter of British oil magnate Sir Robert King, whom she has killed. In the backstory, she was kidnapped by Renard, only to escape on her own. She swore revenge after, under MI6's guidance, her father refused to pay the ransom money. Shot by Bond. 5 out of 5. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards), nuclear scientist. She has gained a reputation as one of the worst Bond Girls because, let's be honest, Denise Richards isn't known for playing "smart" roles. The word straight from the horse's mouth is that she took on the role as it was "brainy", "athletic", and "had depth of character, in contrast to Bond Girls from previous decades"1. And you know what, I can't argue with that logic. So to give my honest opinion, and I have no intention of doing otherwise, I don't think she's quite as awful as she's made out to be. Her sassy demeanor reminds me of Tiffany Case at her best, and at least she doesn't experience a nervous breakdown like Stacey Sutton. 2 out of 5.

Other Allies: Valentin Zukovsky (Robbie Coltrane) returns from Goldeneye, this time with a few serious industries under his belt. Shot by Elektra, but frees Bond from a deathtrap before dying. 5 out of 5. We also have R (John Cleese, Monty Python franchise), an apprentice in Q's lab. If there was ever a place for such a humourist in James Bond's world, then the Q lab is the most appropriate place for it - and what a humourist we have on our hands. 5 out of 5. This scene is also notable for another reason: just after the movie's premiere, Q's actor, Desmond Llewelyn, would die in a car crash. In the movie's universe, Q was set to go on a retirement holiday, perhaps indicating that the character was set to be finished, but still, you can't tell the exact moment and circumstances in which you will die. (Unless a Death Note is involved.) This brings extra poignancy to the last lines Llewelyn says on-screen:
James Bond: You're not planning on retiring anytime soon. Are you?
Q: Now pay attention, 007. I've always tried to teach you two things. First, never let them see you bleed.
James Bond: And the second?
Q: Always have an escape plan.

The Villain: Renard (Robert Carlisle, 24: Redemption), a freelance terrorist. After Elektra's kidnapping, agent 009 shot Renard in the head, but he lived. As the bullet moves slowly through his brain, it is killing off his senses, including the ability to feel pain, until it does kill him. In practice, this is more of an informed (dis)ability, until you consider the fact that the plutonium rod he handles at the end myst be blazing hot. Funny what a little scientific education (or reading the words of others with such an education) can make you realise. Impaled with said plutonium rod by Bond. 5 out of 5.

Other Henchmen: Bullion (Clifford Joseph "Goldie" Price), Zukovsky's bodyguard. Wears gold jewelry and tooth caps since he doesn't trust banks. Apparently cowardly, but there's a reason for that: he's secretly working for Elektra and Renard. Shot by Zukovsky. 2 out of 5.

The Gadgets: A BMW Z8 with anti-air rockets. It gets cut in half by a buzz-saw helicopter, to which Bond quips, "Q's not gonna like this". It's about time you started realising that, buddy. He also uses a speedboat with jet boosters and torpedoes, a fake gun with a flash-bang grenade, a pair of X-ray glasses, and a grappling hook in his watch. 4 out of 5.

The Locations: Spain, United Kingdom (England, Scotland), Azerbaijan (skiing scenes filmed in France), Kazakhstan (filmed in Spain), and Turkey.

The Theme Song: Performed by Garbage. The lyrics have a theme of greed, with the title phrase followed by "but it is such a perfect place to start", and other lines like "No one ever died from wanting too much". Kinda not a wise thing to espouse in a Bond film; isn't that what happens to every villain in the series? Well, guess what: it's supposedly from the point of view of Elektra. This theory gets driven home in the full version, which contains the line "There's no point in living/if you can't feel alive", her/Renard's catchphrase. 5 out of 5.

The Opening Credits: Features oil motifs, as per Elektra's occupation. Not some of the most appealing colour combinations - think a shallow oil slick on the road, what with all those muted rainbow effects. 3 out of 5.

The Novel: None of the Ian Fleming novels were directly involved in the conception of this film. The title comes from James Bond's family motto, which was revealed in the book and movie of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and is "Orbis non sufficit", or Latin for "The world is not enough".

The Plot: Our story starts out at a Swiss bank in Spain, where 007 is retrieving some money for Sir Robert King, an old college friend of M's. He asks about the 00 agent who was killed over it, but the cigar girl kills him before he can talk. Bond nonetheless escapes with the money and returns it to King at MI6 HQ, but as King handles it, his lapel pin, which had secretly been switched, detonates a bomb hidden in the money. At the scene of the crime is none other than the cigar girl from before, whom Bond follows on a boat chase on the Thames river. The chase ends when whe blows up a gas tank on a hot-air baloon, killing herself. Cue opening credits.

At this point I'd like to call a time-out to discuss what we've just seen, or rather read about. First of all, a Fun Fact: The World Is Not Enough hosts the longest scene before the opening credits, at around 14 minutes. The original plan was to run the credits after the bank scene instead, but the test audiences deemed this to be too dull of an intro. So let's look at what this change has brought upon us: the man whom 007 did a mission for was killed in a sneak attack within MI6's headquarters, everyone responsible for it whom 007 confronted so far killed themselves, leading him with no leads, and to top it all off, he broke his arm falling onto the Millenium Dome. And I, for one, appreciate the tragic tone, which contrasts with the miracle-maker he's made himself out to be in the openings to films like Tomorrow Never Dies.

Moving on. At MI6's backup HQ in Scotland, 007 pieces together the clues, and suggests that Renard, an independent terrorist who had kidnapped Elektra in the past, was involved with the attack. He meets Elektra in Azerbaijan, where her company is building an oil pipeline, and warns that Renard might take revenge on her. They take a ski trip together to survey the pipeline's route, but are beseiged by some of Renard's troops. That night, Bond visits his old friend Valentin Zukovsky, now the owner of a casino in Baku, and asks about Renard. Elektra also pays a visit, losing her father's US$1 million credit in a quick hand.

Meanwhile Davidov, Elektra's chief of security, meets with Renard and takes the place of Mikhail Arkov, a Russian nuclear scientist. 007 abandons Elektra to shadow Davidov, kills him, takes his place in turn, and joins Renard's unit en route to a decommissioned missile silo in Kazakhstan. Upon meeting Renard, the man lets slip some clues which 007 interprets as proof that he and Elektra are still in cahoots. He is unable to stop Renard from stealing the plutonium from a nuclear warhead, but escapes with Christmas Jones, yet another nuclear scientist. They head back to meet M at the King Pipeline's control centre, where he gives her the locator card, which one of Renard's men took from the warhead, along with his suspicions about Elektra.

Then an emergency situation develops - terrorists sent a nuclear bomb through the pipeline. When Bond and Christmas try to defuse it, they discover that half the plutonium was taken out, rendering it impotent. Christmas takes out what's left of the plutonium, but Bond lets the bomb go off, making Elektra think they died. Elektra shows her true colours by telling M that she had her father killed, and then by kidnapping her. Bond's next stop is Zukovsky's caviar factory, where he tries to interrogate him about Elektra's dealings. After surviving a raid from Renard's buzzsaw-equipped helicopters, Zukovsky divulges that her casino losses were payment for a nuclear submarine. Together they head to a Russian safehouse in Istanbul, where they work out the evil plan: when Renard loads the remaining plutonium into the sub's reactor, it will cause a meltdown, preventing the King Pipeline's rivals from shipping oil through the area. Meanwhile, M activates the locator card, and 007 tracks her to Maiden's Tower, in the middle of the bay.

But Bullion, Zukovsky's bodyguard, leaves a bomb at the place and takes Bond and Christmas to meet Elektra. As Bond is tortured with intent to kill, Zukovsky leads a raid on the place. Elektra shoots him, but he frees Bond with a dying shot. Bond goes after the submarine, freeing M and killing Elektra in the process. In the sub, he frees Christmas, seizes the controls, forcing the sub to crash into the sea floor (he meant for it to rise to the surface...), and catches Renard trying to load the plutonium rod into the reactor. They fight, ending when Bond pushes the plutonium rod back into Renard's chest. He and Christmas escape from the sub before it blows up from the hydrogen gas buildup, and hide out in Istanbul together. You are now free to turn off your TV.

...Man, this was a complicated plot, made all the more tougher to understand since so much of it relies on backstory delivered through exposition dumps, rather than events that directly transpire on screen. Where this film shines is in the role of Elektra King. Did Renard's influence during her kidnapping turn her evil? Or did she turn him, using him as a tool to gain a monopoly on her market and take revenge on her father for not bailing her out? This debate has been going back and forth within the fandom, and my decision on it is...? It's your call. Have fun! 3 out of 5.

The Call: 65% (C)

IchigoRyu will return in
Die Another Day
[1] Thomas, Rebecca (19 November 1999). "One girl is not enough". BBC News. Retrieved 24 September 2012.

No comments:

Post a Comment