After the assassination of an oil tycoon, James is sent to protect the tycoon’s daughter from being murdered by the same man who kidnapped her years prior.
Bond, James Bond:
This is Pierce Brosnan’s penultimate performance as the famous British spy, and, whether due to what his character is given, or because of his performance, he does not make much of an impression in this movie. This will probably end up being the shortest section I’ve ever written about James Bond, and it’s just because I don’t really have much to say. He isn’t particularly bad, it’s just he is outdone by so many other great performances, to the point I don’t remember much of what he does.
The one good thing I do remember is a small bit of frustration that he shows after a henchperson he thought he had killed ended up being able to parachute to safety. It’s a nice little piece of facial acting.
There is a negative moment that comes to mind as well, and it’s a bit of a follow-up to a complaint I had for the character in the previous film. After he kills Elektra King, who I’ll discuss in a bit, he, yet again, kind of awkwardly lingers over her corpse. Again, I guess we’re supposed to believe that he’s upset that someone he cared for has passed away, but it’s all very uncomfortable to see, and I feel like there could be a way to do this that doesn’t involve draping himself over their corpse.
After the disappointing, and somewhat strange decision to bring Sheryl Crow onboard for the previous film, alt-rock band Garbage takes over theme song duties on this film. It’s yet another strange choice, but at least it leads to an entertainingly weird and unique sound for the franchise, instead of someone clearly being out of their element trying to be more run of the mill. The lyrics seem to be from the point of view of our primary villain, Elektra King, and her ability to know how to play the game and how to get people on her side. This is especially apparent on lines like “I know how to hurt, I know how to heal/I know what to show and what to conceal/I know when to talk and I know when to touch.” At the end of the day, the weird feel of it does more damage than it goes good, but it at least does give it the edge over the previous film’s attempt.
Similar to For Your Eyes Only, our primary villain is introduced to us as a presumed friend. This time, it is oil heiress Elektra King, portrayed by Sophie Marceau. King had been kidnapped years before, and when MI6 instructed them to ignore the ransom request, she realises that she needs to survive on her own. She uses her sexuality to cozy up to her kidnapper, causing him to actually start working for her. Marceau plays the character excellently, playing whatever role King needs to play perfectly. She plays damsel when she needs Bond to think he’s rescuing her, and then plays hurt lover when she finds out that Bond is using her as bait just as her father and MI6 had years before. Even as she begins taunting Renard and Bond, she plays the evil side of King wonderfully. In general, thanks to her performance, and the film’s writing, the character’s role switch works world’s better than it did in For Your Eyes Only and leads to a much better and more interesting villain. In fact, she’s probably my favorite villain in the Brosnan years, and that may extend even beyond that. She really is great.
The thing is, even if Elektra wasn’t the film’s primary villain, I think our presumed villain would be in just as high of standing. Renard, played by Robert Carlyle, has a bullet lodged in his brain, making it impossible for him to feel pain. As amazing as this sounds, and the film really could play it as such, the skill basically is just a delayed death sentence, and it means he cannot feel anything positive either. Carlyle plays the sadness of this excellently, especially whenever he is confronted with his mortality or lack of sensation. The only times that base sadness isn’t present is when he needs to appear as a threat, including when Bond has him at gunpoint. The mocking smiles are excellent, especially when you consider that it is probably all just a show. Carlyle also plays his character’s complicated relationship with Elektra really well. He genuinely seems to care for her. Before their plan reaches its fruition, which essentially hinges on him being willing to blow himself up for her, he looks into her eyes and tells her “The future is yours, have fun with it.” The delivery of this single line is what Teri Hatcher could have done in the previous film; understand the bitter reality of your fate as you see your love for the last time. Combine that, with Carlyle’s sad smile after he is impaled, finally being free from his “life” (his motto of “what good is living if you can’t feel alive” said in the lyrics of the song and a couple times throughout the film), and you have yet another great villain performance.
This is easily the worst part of this movie. Denise Richards plays a nuclear physicist named Dr. Christmas Jones. In case you are wondering why a movie character would be named Christmas, it’s so the movie could make sex jokes (the film’s last line is “I thought Christmas only comes once a year” and even knowing it was coming, I was so very angry). And if the performance or character was worthwhile otherwise, then maybe thea absurd name wouldn’t be the worst. Guess what, both are awful. Despite being a nuclear physicist, the character does very little with nuclear weapons. She theoretically disarms a nuclear bomb, but it mostly feels like she just unscrews a couple of screws and then removes a container, which could have been done by anyone. And Richards is just way over head. She’s weirdly bounces back and forth between obviously trying to act like a strong female character, instead of just feeling like a strong female character, and then just straight up not acting. Her line deliveries are often utterly emotionless, as are her facial expressions. There are a couple occasions when death is all around her, either because of rapid gun fire or an explosion, she her face betrays absolutely zero emotion, as if she’s saying “Guess I’ll die.” It really is an awful performance.
This film is kind of weak on henchpeople. King has a close right hand man, but he just kind of exists in the background, to the point I don’t even know his name. The next closest thing is Bullion, played by rapper Goldie. His gold grills lead to his name, and basically make him a kind of play on Jaws. But he isn’t nearly as interesting as Jaws, nor is he even given the opportunity to try. He’s originally associated with Zukovsky, kind of randomly changes sides, and then eventually gets murdered by Zukovsky. The noteworthy things in that sentence all take place in about five minutes of screentime.
As suggested above, Robbie Coltrane returns as ex-KGB agent Valentin Zukovsky, and he’s still a joy to watch. Coltrane plays the character with an appropriate joy that does not feel overplayed in any way. It’s a great little performance, and it allows the relationship between he and Bond to feel many years old, despite the fact this is only the second time we’ve seen him. After Elektra fatally shoots him, Zukovsky is able to use his cane gun to free James from the torture instrument that Elektra had him tied up in, and the little knowing smirk he gives Bond, just seconds before dying, is a great moment, and a nice capper to a great foil for Bond.
This is Desmond Llewelyn’s last film as Q, and the script gives him a little bit of a goodbye, which is kind of sweet to see. He introduces James to his likely successor (jokingly referred to as R, played entirely for comedic purposes by John Cleese), and Bond looks at him with a little sadness and asks if Q will be retiring soon. Llewelyn then tells James to remember the two things he’s always (never once, in actuality) told him. “Never let them see you bleed, and always have an escape plan.” After he gives the second reminder, he quietly sinks into a trap door in the floor. It’s a small but wonderful moment and goodbye, even if the writers never could have predicted how tragically Llewelyn’s end would really be. Despite his advanced age, Llewellyn ended up dying shortly after this film’s premiere in a car accident as he was driving home from a local event.
Judi Dench returns as M, and she is given a lot to do in this film, which is a welcome surprise. Her relationship with King’s father gives her a personal tie to Elektra, allowing her to play with a bit of a motherly role. She even gets to in the field for a bit to stay close to Elektra after Bond goes a little bit rogue. Although it seems odd to me that the head of MI6 would go in the field, considering that something could easily go wrong (like, being kidnapped by an oil heiress out for revenge. Hypothetically, of course) and then the organization would no longer have a leader, it’s still fun to see Judi Dench get to do a little spy work. Also, the fact we get to see some pretty epic side eye when her captors visit her in her cell, and that she gets to slap Elektra full on in the fact, makes the weirdness of her in the field all the easier to stomach.
Samantha Bond returns as Moneypenny and, yet again, is basically just there to throw innuendos in Bond’s direction. She delivers the lines well enough, making the most of the nothing that she is given, but it’s disappointing that one of the most significant characters in the franchise (she has been in every single film) is basically just there to want to have sex with James.
This is another fairly gadget light film, with the only real noteworthy gadget actually being a vehicle for the second consecutive film. This one is a speedboat that is under construction during the cold open, but James is able to take out into the river and completely understand how it functions. It’s a fairly cool little stunt (if a bit overlong), and it’s an interesting looking boat. The reveal that the boat is actually intended to be Q’s fishing boat for after his retirement makes it seem a little strange, just because this does not look like a fishing boat, nor does it seem like the boat that Q would ever use, but whatever.
The crux of this story is built on the eventual reveal that the woman who had been Bond’s primary love interest is actually not only in league with our villain, but seems to be the true leader of the plan. The plan itself ends up being a pretty standard monopoly plot, which has been done in this franchise before (Goldfinger comes to mind most readily), as has the friend turned foe, but the film handles them both well enough that it’s not a real issue. I think the story fails a bit just with the Bond of the whole thing, which, you know, is kind of an important part of the movie.
Miscellaneous Spy Business:
-During the first major scene in the film, Bond escapes a third or fourth floor room by using the wire from the blinds as a kind of repelling wire. I have no idea why this movie thinks blind wires are like forty feet long. Or strong enough to hold a human.
-Also the cold open of this movie runs over twenty minutes long, meaning it is basically 1/6 of the entire film.
-There’s a scene in this movie with bagpipes and I so badly want the opening credits song in Bond 25 to be done on bagpipes.
There are so many good characters and performances in this movie. Marceau, Carlyle, Coltrane and Dench all give really strong performances that lead to memorable villains, sidekicks and M. Q gets a nice little send-off, even if it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense because those statements have never been said before. The friend-turning-into-a-foe story is worlds’ better in this than it was in For Your Eyes Only. But Brosnan is so blah in this one, and everything about Denise Richards/Dr. Christmas Jones enraged me on such a deep level, and a lot of what makes me mad is so backloaded that I just remember having a bad taste in my mouth. This is probably the weakest of the Brosnans so far, even with the strong stuff around him. I’ll call this a 005/0010. Don’t forget my ratings are garbage.
TJ At The Movies Will Return With: Die Another Day
References The World is Not Enough Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_World_Is_Not_Enough "The World Is Not Enough" Lyrics https://genius.com/Garbage-the-world-is-not-enough-lyrics Photo Credits Cover Photo https://cdn.empireonline.com/jpg/80/0/0/1000/563/0/north/0/0/0/0/0/t/films/36643/images/4xAb2zAe5Pmno928hBQqff4RVwr.jpg Brosnan http://livingincinema.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/wold-is-not-enough.jpg "The World is Not Enough" Credits https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LzvNDR5OrqM Elektra https://thehollywoodprojects.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/elektra1.png Renard https://vinnieh.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/renard.jpg Guess I'll Die Meme https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Cs5Dg1NXgAAAZon.jpg Christmas Jones https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/jamesbond/images/6/6f/Christmas_Jones_%28Denise_Richards%29_-_Profile.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20130513145338 Q http://www.007museum.com/dl031.jpg Q Boat https://78.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mcbo8fmoVf1r9uvs1o1_500.jpg