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The World is Not Enough
Directed by Michael Apted
Starring Pierce Brosnan, Denise Richards, Robert Carlyle, Denise Van Outen, Sophie Marceau, Robbie Coltrane
Runtime: 128 minutes

Those watching the new James Bond film, The World is Not Enough, might be surprised when the opening scene ends after only a few minutes of fighting and one fifty-foot drop. The opening set piece is one of the hallmarks of any Bond movie, so it's a little unusual for M to be interrupting James's flirting with the secretary only five minutes into the film. Ah, not so fast. The conversation with his superior is merely a short intermission, and soon that pre-credit scene is off and running, or should I say "boating," as Bond pursues a voluptuous villain down the Thames, a scene which ends in a spectacular explosion over England's Millennium Dome.

That a brief break in a scene qualifies as a genuine surprise shows how predictable the Bond franchise has become. And while the familiar structure is firmly in place--big opening set piece, spectacular credit sequence, conversations with M and Q about gadgets and the like, Bond girls, sleeping with Bond girls, more chase scenes, silly nuclear subplot--the movie has enough chemistry, style, and spectacular action sequences to carry the day.

The story, such as it is, focuses on James trying to protect the daughter of a recently murdered oil baron from a terrorist. To protect the girl, Bond travels the globe--skiing in the Caucasus mountains, gambling in a fancy casino, visiting a nuclear missile site deep in Russia. Along the way, he has to track down a nuclear bomb that's missing. Of course, his oh-so-debonair nature is charming the women at every step of the way.

Pierce Brosnan (Thomas Crown Affair, Tomorrow Never Dies), turning in his third turn as 007, has settled nicely into the role. His oh-so-debonair nature is stylish and believable, he handles the action scenes well, and his comic timing is serviceable, even if it can't hold a candle to Connery's Bond. Even the hint of forehead wrinkles gives Brosnan's superagent an attractive air of vulnerability.

One of the interesting things about The World is Not Enough is how it reveals our culture's current obsession with business and finance. In past Bond films, the villain's goal was always taking over the world. Sure, money was nice, but power was the real obsession. In this movie, though, it's all about the cash. There's the standard atomic bomb subplot, but that's in the service of high finance, rather than the other way around. Even the jokes and puns revolve around the balance sheet. The rare line of sexual innuendo is far outnumbered by jokes about "reversal of fortune," "putting your money where your mouth is," and "predominance of assets."

The best joke in the movie, though, is the casting of Denise Richards (Wild Things, Starship Troopers) as an atomic scientist. Richards, who's better known for her physical assets than her acting ability, makes a memorable entrance halfway through the film by crawling out of a space suit wearing short shorts and a halter top. Suitable attire for a premier scientist, I'd say. In fact, Richards serves only two purposes in the film--explaining the intricacies of a nuclear bomb and filling out a tight t-shirt--one of which she accomplishes admirably.

The rest of the cast is surprisingly strong, however. Sophie Marceau (A Midsummer Night's Dream), who plays the daughter turned oil heiress, is both sultry and smart, and knows when each is called for. Robert Carlyle (The Full Monty) plays the terrorist who has nothing to lose with an admirable amount of subtlety and attention to character. And director Michael Apted (Nell), who knows what a treasure he has in Dame Judi Dench, gives M more screen time than in the past. The only casting misstep is John Cleese (Monty Python) as Q's assistant, who's given nothing to do and surprisingly can't even bring that off.

Of course, moviegoers don't go to a Bond film for the scintillating acting. They go for the action. And in that respect, the movie delivers. The skiing sequence, which is prominently featured in the preview, is spectacular. But even better is a dock-side battle between Bond's BMW and a knife-wielding helicopter (it makes sense when you see it). And the final confrontation between James and the villain avoids most of the usual cliches (long, drawn-out exposition of the fiend's plans; Bond escaping in unlikely fashion) with a tight story and genuine tension. While believability isn't a pre-condition for this sort of film, it was a nice not to have to leave my brain at the door. Kudos go to director Apted, his stunt crew, and the costume department (check out a red dress halfway into the film) for reinvigorating the Bond mystique. It may not be the most innovative idea around, but in the world of action movies, this one's enough. 

J Robert Parks 12/17/99

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