The World Is Not Enough (1999)

reviewed by
Stephen Graham Jones

The World is Not Enough: shaken, stirred, but never whipped

In of the trademark opening stunts of The World is Not Enough, James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) rides a rope and a prayer down like ten sheer stories, sets down lightly into the bemused sidewalk traffic, then accidentally catches the eye of a passerby. What we expect at this point is one of his signature lines to diffuse the situation--'Elevator was out' or something of that brand, something wry and John McLane-ish, downplaying whatever just went on (normalizing it, so he can re-enter the 'normal' world). But, instead of delivering that line in late-Bond (Roger Moore +) fashion, this Bond resists, just walks away, becoming part of the crowd as a good espionage agent should, which intimates early on that maybe we're finally coming full circle, getting back to the Connery-bonds, the ones everyone nostalgically remembers as 'pure,' undecadent, (Kirk vs. Picard) when intrigue was still more primal to the story than special effects, resourcefulness still more impressive than gadgetry.

Not that this James Bond isn't resourceful in the face of danger, as he establishes time and again, against wave after wave of videogame bad guy. And The World is Not Enough does have more story to it than any Bond to come along in awhile. It's just that, instead of continuing to resist that 'irresistable' line as he does at first, Bond takes the easy way out the rest of the movie, even going so far as to provoke a few groans of embarrassment here and there.

As for the story, though, it is strong, does do what we like to have done--putting Bond on the defensive. And, as the trailer gives away, this time it's personal, the problem is in-house. M (Judi Dench) even gets kidnapped. And, returning to the Moore-era, this time we even have a 'more-than-human' bad guy (Robert Carlyle). What's particularly refreshing, too, is that the bad guys' motives aren't as generic as taking over the world, holding it hostage, exacting some poetic revenge, etc. They just want to get filthy rich. And with oil, at that (as opposed to diamonds, diamonds in space, etc). And of course there's all the rampant womanizing we expect, along with the names--Elektra King (as in Agememnon and crowd, yes; Sophie Marceau) and Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards), the latter of which provides Bond with more quip-opportunities than one secret agent should ever have to deal with.

There are some touching moments, too, though, unexpectedly. Well, two: the first is a little farewell to Q (Desmond Llewelyn), which takes the form of a torch-passing ceremony to the 'new' Q--a bumbling R (John Cleese). The other 'touching' moment is late in the movie, when M accidentally sees Bond using his famed license to kill, in cold blood. It's a rare moment in the 007 series, to have the brutality of what's going on register on someone's face. The thing is, though, it's left at that, not followed through. Granted, in a series this certain of another episode, you can span two years waiting for a response, but still, it would have been nice to have a little closure on it now. At least a nod of acknowledgment from one of the primary players, something. As it is, though, the Fleming/Broccoli-formula effectively subverts any of that, and neatly spits Bond and his buxom sidekick out into yet another variation of the lifeboat on the ocean, to do what they do best. He deserves it after saving the world, right? It's not all about Queen and country . . .

(c) 1999 Stephen Graham Jones,

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