As the 19th entry in the James Bond film series, The World Is Not Enough is a disappointment. Directed by Michael Apted, this 1999 picture is the first 007 film to be released officially by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as opposed to United Artists. It is the third film to star Pierce Brosnan and sadly the last to feature the late Desmond Llewelyn as the unmatched Q.
The Bond series has been at its best when it manages to find the right balance, delivering its cocktail of sexy Bond girls, kooky gadgets, sly one-liners, malevolent villains, exotic locales, and over-the-top-action with just the right twist. Unfortunately, The World Is Not Enough stumbles with most of the aforementioned elements and ultimately comes up short.
The film opens with James Bond (Brosnan) hunting down money for a British oil tycoon only to have the whole thing go bad in a hurry. The tycoon winds up dead. After an extensive chase sequence along the Thames, 007 turns up the identity of the villainous Renard (Robert Carlyle) and discovers a plot that seemingly targets the tycoon's daughter, Elektra King (Sophie Marceau).
In protecting Elektra, Bond works to stop Renard. Along the way, he comes in contact with American nuclear physicist Christmas Jones (Denise Richards) and finds himself in one pickle after another. The true natures of certain characters are revealed and Bond must navigate the tortuous seas to stop the bad guys from sabotaging an oil pipeline via a nuclear explosion that would level Istanbul.
Bond movies are renowned for following a certain simple formula and The World Is Not Enough tries to pitch as many of the elements into the mix as possible. There are double-crosses and befuddling backstories that only add obstacles to the main plot, but Apted speeds the story along in hopes that audiences will neglect the particulars.
There's something to the simplicity of the approach, but those looking for things like continuity and tension will have difficulty finding it. The plot seems to exist solely for the purposes of linking up one location to another, from a skiing sequence designed to check out the pipeline to a trip to a caviar factory on the docks. Villains always show up, of course, which leads to the mandatory action scene.
The villains are among the dullest in the Bond series, with Renard's lack of feeling never living up to its potential. He doesn't appear until about 50 minutes into the film; he is slowly dying, but makes little use of the "benefits" granted by the bullet stuck in his brain. When it's revealed that he's teamed up with the expected character, things deepen somewhat and Renard's sad situation becomes more significant.
After an impressive pre-credits sequence (the longest in the series to date) and the Garbage theme song, The World Is Not Enough fails to recapture the tension and excitement. Apted staggers when it comes to exemplifying how characters spatially relate to each other in action scenes, which is especially problematic during the dizzying, inexplicable sequence on the docks.
As Bond girls go, Richards has to be one of the worst. Her delivery is predictably stiff and her chemistry with Brosnan is non-existent. There is a decent one-liner at the end of the film, but the fires don't flare. Brosnan fares slightly better with Marceau, but her character's pulp of confusion makes her hard to care about.
The World Is Not Enough is one of the lesser films in the Bond canon. Although it's notable for its pre-credits sequence and the final appearance of Llewelyn as Q (in his 17th Bond picture, no less), there isn't much else to cling to in this 007 misstep.
Operation: BOND will return with Die Another Day.