The World Is Not Enough
February 27, 2012 1 Comment
Title: The World Is Not Enough
Year: 1999. Way back in 1982, The Artist Who Will Now and Forever Be Known As Prince (TAWWN&FBKAP) declared that 1999 would be the year the planet Earth would throw a worldwide party to end all parties. Who knew Prince was a profit? The dawn of the millennium was indeed a perfect occasion to celebrate the end an era and beginning of something new. Why not party? After all, the stakes couldn’t have been lower. True, we didn’t live in George Jetson houses with robot servants but it sure felt that way. The 90’s produced unprecedented growth in America and those under 30 viewed “work” as something their parents did. The Internet made it possible to make millions by not working; simply have an idea, the implementation of that idea be damned. For those poor souls who did have a job type job, “going to work” often meant showing up to the office in sandals to conduct meetings around a foosball table. I know more then a hand full of guys, and I swear this is the truth, who worked at dot com start-ups in the late 90’s who would charge a night of coke and hookers in Vegas on the company credit card. And why not? Capitalism won. With the evil U.S.S.R. long gone some pundits were going as far as calling war obsolete. Sure, we had impeached The President but not over something as sinister as Watergate, just a simple romp in the oval office. Yes, some dude named Newt Gingrich was shutting down the government because of his bruised ego but after he left DC in disgrace we knew we would never have to hear that guys name again. Everything was coming up roses. Mayor Giuliani turned Times Sq. into a mall for tourist from Nebraska. Who were we to ask where all the homeless people went? Sluggers the size of Paul Bunyan were smacking balls into stadium parking lots left and right. Why were they bigger, stronger, and faster then ever before? Why ask why? Drink Bud Dry. Just giggle through life like Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sanz on SNL. Join Cher and “Believe” in auto-tune. What could possibly go wrong? Yes, yes, some good hearted, God fearing folks thought the world was going to end when the calendar clicked over to 2K, but we laughed at them just like we do the jack-asses who assign meaning to the Mayan’s lack of planning past November of 2012. There were some dire warnings that the “Millennium Bug” would blast us back to the stone-age but this was mostly fodder for jokes, like the one Q’s assistant makes at the close of this film. It was a time when men’s fashion said hell with it! Sure you can wear that electric blue dress shirt with a pink tie and beige kakis, as Pierce so nicely displays in the third act. It was a time to make crass jokes at our President’s expense like when Bond hands Moneypenny a cigar and she replies “I know exactly where to stick this.” After two years of X rated headlines we knew exactly what she was referring to as we smugly giggled in the theater. It was out with the old and in with new so a young up and comer like John Cleese could replace the aging Desmond Llewelyn. It was time to look forward to the 2000’s with grand projects like London’s Millennium Dome, featured in the fantastic opening of this film.
The fact that the stadium turned out to be such a colossal money suck it was renamed the 02 Arena in the hopes of erasing all memory of the boondoggle is not so much ironic as it is prolific. Indeed, in 1999 we were all at the dawn of a great new age and the world was not enough; we already had the world and we had it now with no inconvenient truths or pain in the ass consequences. But back to profit Prince who warned “two thousand zero – zero party over, Opps out of time.” In the first 20 months of the aughts we would see a presidential election stolen by an oil man’s son and experience unprecedented terrorist attacks, both of which would shake the very foundation of our democracy for at least the following decade. These two events in turn would result in two wars that would cost untold thousands of innocent lives. They would destroy our moral standing as the world learned of places like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Our economy would collapse due in no small part to military spending and the unchecked brand of “capitalism” that was cheered on by the White House. And our environment would be pushed to the brink of destruction. To this day all of the above casts a cloud of doom that hangs over our country like the think, black smoke that hung over lower Manhattan and Brooklyn in the fall of 2001. And without taking any huge leaps, all of this can be traced back, in one way or another, to what one wise man called “our addiction to oil.” In 1999 Bond foresaw the killing, the terror, and the torture behind our addiction to oil and made an action thriller for the New Millennium. Rather forward thinking for a nearly 40 year old popcorn franchise don’t ya think? But all that stuff is a drag. And besides, look! Denise Richards in a tank top! “If you didn’t come to party, don’t bother knocking on my door.”
Film Length: 2 hours and 8 minutes
Bond Actor: Pierce Brosnan. “I feel we got a good one on our hands,” announced a reenergized Brosnan at a The World Is Not Enough press event. Sporting a more closely cropped quaff, Pierce had the look of an older and wiser man. Having done two Bonds; one one of the best and the other one of the worst, he knew what both sides of the Bond coin looked like. I’m sure he was also aware that two duds in a row could prove to be disastrous, what with the budgets for these films now equaling the GNP of a small country. Brosnan knew Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) was a bummer on the first day of shooting and in saying his third film was a “good one” his instincts are again proven correct. Yes, as I pointed out in my rather piffy rant above, 1999 was all gloss on the surface, the Backstreet Boys were selling millions of records for Christ sake, but for those willing to ignore the new coat of paint, the ominous writing was right there on the wall. This movie looked ahead and saw that world dependence on a product that came largely from the world’s most unstable regions was a ticking time bomb. The filmmakers took this potential for worldwide catastrophe and expertly wrapped it in a Bond adventure. Terrorism and torture are at the forefront of this film and indeed those topics would be at the forefront of our national conversation in the decade to come. There are a lot of shades of gray in this film and Pierce is given room to explore them. But these ideas, as well as other dark elements, are so stealthy introduced that they very easily could be missed. While a lot of that has to do with the expert writing, I think Brosnan’s natural charm keeps everything from getting to heavy. Bond kicks ass a plenty but he must also use his head in this one, playing to another one of Brosnan’s strengths. 007 connects the dots before we as an audience do, so when the twist comes, it’s a genuine surprise. The entire enterprise is made even stronger by the fact there are no cheats (until the very end, and that one is almost forgivable.) Bond uses the same information the audience has to put the bigger picture together. And while I’m sure all these smart elements are what had Pierce so excited, let us not over look the action which is absolutely first rate. Without it, this may have been a heavy slog but all of the weighty ideas spin like balanced plates as just one act in this extremely entertaining three-ring circus. I thought I was past the point of being surprised by a Bond film and in his 19th go around, Bond proved me wrong. Oh and I did I mention Pierce’s hair? Perfection.
Director: Michael Apted. The concept of linking international terror as related to the world’s oil supply and economy is rather forward thinking and I would wager Mr. Apted, one of the most forward thinking directors I can think of, saw this plot point as something could hang his hat on. Not known for blockbuster action, most Americans would be familiar with Apted’s successful dramas like Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980) (Ed. Note: I love Loretta Lynn) and Gorillas in the Mist (1988) and his terrible comedies staring big name comedians like John Belushi in Continental Divide (1981) and Richard Pryor in Critical Condition (1987). But to think of Apted as the guy who made the Jennifer Lopez vehicle Enough (2002) would be like thinking of David Bowie as “that guy who puts on make up.” Indeed, Apted has been president of the DGA (Directors Guild of America) since 2003 but his crowning achievement is what is commonly referred to as “The ‘Up’ series,” a series of documentary films that are not only unique but are ongoing this very day. In 1964, a 24 year-old Apted interviewed a group of seven-year-old English children, learning who they were and what they wanted to be, for a Granada Television program. He has revisited these same subjects every seven years, checking in to see how things have progressed in Seven Plus Seven (1970), 21 Up (1977), 28 Up (1985), 35 Up (1991), 42 Up (1998), and 49 Up (2005). Will 2012 see 56 Up? We can only hope. “This is not reality TV with its contrivances and absurdities, but a meditation on lifetimes” Roger Ebert points out. Watching these people grow-up and have children and grand-children of their own makes for riveting viewing. We also, in a way, watch film grow up as the footage goes from black and white to color to digital. Additionally, we see Apted mature as a storyteller making these documents all more fascinating. Perhaps the idea of following characters as they move through time intrigued Apted when it came to Bond, a character who has changed, while not changing, with the times. The title of this film has nothing to do with the plot and everything to do with James as a man. “The World is not Enough” was reviled as the Bond family motto in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) and I think Apted was eager for the opportunity to play in a world with a character so firmly established over time. First things first, for a guy not know for action films, the set pieces in this movie are off the charts. From skiing away form flying snowmobiles (known as Para Hawks) to diving between docks that are being destroyed whirling blades to literally flying though the air while being chased by a fireball, this film ups the ante on stunts and action in a series that has made its name on both. Locations, another Bond staple, manage to be both magically exotic and lived in at the same time. With simple singular moments, like the masterful establishing shots of the Caspian Sea at dusk featuring industrial stacks climbing out of the water and belching smoke, Apted puts Spottiswoode’s Bond picture to shame. The image of the sleek, speedy, BMW knifing its way thought the baron, dead oil fields of Azerbaijan is an image I’ll never forget. Ditto a man in a white suit drowning in a tub of caviar. And was that Kuntz’s “Puppy” in the background? Indeed it was. And the open…. Oh the open. The entire film is directed with such confidence that only in the final battle did I loose my perspective, and then I would bet it was done on purpose for effect. Apted hits all the classic Bond notes and tastefully adds a few of his own. He even manages to take the stale tried cliché of a sinking sub and spin it, by putting the boat on a 90 angle to the ocean floor, and get true suspense, by having Bond swim outside the craft to reach another section. The sterile removal we felt from the last film vanishes and we are planted back in the exciting and exotic world Bond inhabits. And did I mention the open? Ohhh dear gods of cinema the open…
Reported Budget: $135,000,000 estimated. 1989’s Licence To Kill coast $32,000,000. What a difference 10 years makes. Bond budgets have entered what the Occupy Wall Street crowed would refer to as the 1% to be sure.
Reported Box-office: $126,930,660 USA and $352,000,000 worldwide. The American take wasn’t even enough to pay for the film but was good enough for #14. A quick look at 1999 shows a few cheaper films made more; the $33 million Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me made $206 (#4), the $63 million Matrix made $171 (#5), and the produced for the same price as a corn beef on rye at Katz deli Blair Witch Project made $140 million (#10). (OK OK it cost $60,000 or the same as a dozen cupcakes from Magnolia.) But this is the 21st century (almost) and it’s all about that international gross. Based on that number, EON claimed Bond 19 was “the most successful Bond yet.” One more box office footnote, Pierce Brosnan’s The Thomas Crown Affair remake came in at #31 and made $69 million which I would wager is the most successful “Bond actor side-project” to date as well.
Theme Song: “The World Is Not Enough” performed by Garbage. The jokes are just too easy with a band name like that so I’ll refrain. Truth is, I know next to nothing about rubbish, I was a little too old and set in my musical snobbery to take them seriously when they began making noise. In my eyes they were always one of those post-grunge poacher bands, which may or may not be fair but there you go. After doing a little research I guess Butch Vin and some other producers got together and tried to be Sonic Youth meets My Bloody Valentine which is exactly what producer types trying to be hip in 1995, the year of Garbage’s self titled debut, would say. Indeed, I hear none of either of those bands in this Bond theme. Too bad. It got me thinking about what a Sonic Youth/Bond theme would sounds like and I think they would have killed it. Alas, I will say lead singer Shirley Manson has some pipes and the song itself manages to avoid embarrassment even when including the films title.
Opening Titles: You know those oil rainbows you see sometimes on the street after it rains? They are odd things, both beautiful and sickening. Those colorful pools of pollution are the inspiration for these opening credits. Using a color pallet that makes the women look like New Order’s Technique album cover, the drippy thick liquidy look is both sexy in a T2 (1991) morphing way and gross in a seagull covered in gook on a Gulf Coast beach way. Oil is indeed the blood the runs through this film’s veins and if you don’t think those oil pumps like the ones you see on La Cienega Blvd when driving from LAX to Hollywood are meant to make you think of sex, well then you haven’t seen enough Bond. What, you take the 405 from the airport? Amateur.
Opening Action Sequence: There is a theory in comedy involving repetition. The classic example often sighted is the Sideshow Bob rake gag from an episode of The Simpsons.
The idea is the first two times Bob hits his face it’s funny. Then the joke keeps going until it gets old and isn’t really funny anymore and then it becomes down right annoying. Yet it keeps going “too long” and then it becomes absurd and therefore once again funny. This idea is similar to the Shooting the Moon theory I went into in the Final Thoughts on Moonraker (1979). It’s the idea of taking something so far that it goes full circle and reaches beyond what we as an audience thought was the farthest it could go to once again pull us back in. I think the open to The World Is Not Enough pulls off the Bond equivalent of the rake gag by pushing action, as opposed to comedy, too far. But first things first as we join James Bond, 007, license to kill, doing his best Clark Kent. By simply sporting eyeglass the hard core MI6 agent becomes a mild manned banker right before our eyes. We see the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and Jeff Koons’ “Puppy” in the background so we know exactly when and where we are but when Bond enters a banker’s office all the beauty and art from outside melts away to be replaced by delightfully tacky quips and innuendo. Bond is here to collect some money that was in the care of a MI6 agent when he was killed. A lovely secretary hands him the brief case as heavies in suits look on. “Would you like to check my figures?” “I’m sure they are perfectly rounded.” Bond then takes off his glasses and becomes Superman, demanding the Swiss banker give him the name of whoever killed his colleague. “I’m offering you the opportunity to walk out with the money,” “And I’m offering you the opportunity to walk out with your life.” As the heavies pull out their guns the banker notes “the odds are not in your favor Mr. Bond.” “Perhaps you fail to recognize my hidden assets.” This is all handled with tongue firmly planted in cheek and everyone in the room knows it’s just a prelude to the inevitable ass kicking. An explosion here, a judo chop there and Bond has a gun to the banker’s head. However, just before he gets the name of the killer the banker himself is finished off by a knife in the back. A second man who gets the drop on Bond is shot by another unseen killer who takes the man out with a single bullet though the window. Sometimes the Bond films can feel like cop movies or strictly action films, but here, right away, thanks to the setting and mystery (Who’s money is it? Who killed the agent? Why is Bond being protected?) this feels like a European spy thriller. It also starts super fast. At the 3 minute 30 second mark the Bond theme kicks in and we are off to the races. Bond escapes thanks to a daring leap out a forth story window and an extremely strong Venetian blind cord. Before we can blink Bond is back in England at MI6 greeting Q who is working on some kind of jet boat, flirting with Moneypenny who makes the terribly tasteless cigar joke, and drinking with M who is back behind her customary desk. M is chatting with Sir. Robert King, the oil baron who’s money Bond recovered. However, after King leaves M’s office, Bond figures out the money has been booby trapped. Bond chases King but it’s too late, the money explodes killing who knows how many and blasting a hole in the side of MI6’s headquarters. This is a neat twist because at this point we don’t know if King was set up or if he’s a suicide bomber. Bond has no time to find out as he is nearly shot by an assassin on the River Thames. Since she is shooting at him through the gaping hole blown into the side of the building, we can assume she too is in on the bombing. Bond rushes back to Q’s lab, jumps into the jet boat and like Batman flying out of the Batcave, Bond blasts out of the side of the building, on to the water, and off down the river after the female assassin he goes. A reminder, this is just the open and already we’ve done more then some films get done by the close of the third act. That said, the brisk pacing is deftly handled and while the film is moving incredibly fast, it never seems rushed. Speaking of fast, Q’s little Bat-boat, despite his claims of it not being ready, moves down the river at a rather good clip. Much of the DVD extras are given over to the boat chase on the Thames and great detail is presented on how much work the seven week shoot required. It was all 110% worth it. Seeing famous landmarks fly past as the boats chase each other is a thrill. The scope of the chase is staggering as the two play cat and mouse by ducking into coves, zooming under the London Bridge, knocking over docks, and even getting mileage out of the tried drawbridge impeding a chase gag; since we are on the water, it’s a drawbridge being lowered that causes the obstacle. Bond’s jet boat has an assortment of gadgets, which are used to great effect (but miss the target) and Bond even gets to flip the watercraft in a 360 barrel roll before he looses the assassin behind an impenetrable wall of fire. A quick look on MapQuest shows Bond a shortcut he can take to cut off the baddie further up river. The only problem is this shortcut would require Bond’s Bat-boat to climb up locks in a cannel and travel over land for a good six blocks. And this is where the Sideshow Bob rake theory comes into play. Bond soaks some ticket writing cops and smashes through a kayak rental shops to bring his boat up onto the cobble stone streets of London Town. At this point I was thinking OK, we saw boats slide over land in Live and Let Die (1973) and that worked for me. But then Bond goes down an ally, turns up a block to avoid cops, and then outruns them down another ally. Jesus that’s a bit much I thought, I mean all they had to do is add one shot where Bond hits a switch and wheels pop out of the hull and Bob’s your uncle. Then he blasts through a fish shop and I’m calling bullshit. But, by the time he crashes through a restaurant, upends several tables, and breaks out of the back window to land back on the river in front of the lady assassin, well it was just so over the top surrounded by other outrageous moments that I was back on board. It’s James Bond for Christ sake; of course he can do that! Go James! Now facing his target, Bond launches two torpedoes chasing the assassin out of her boat, up onto a dock and into the basket of a hot air balloon. Bond jumps his boat up out of the water (a four second clip that took 6 days to film, explaining at least a part of the huge budget) and he grabs one of the lines on the balloon basket as he floats up over the Millennium Dome. I can not express how exciting it is to see Bond, for the first time, doing his business in his home town of London. It’s astounding it took this long but well worth the wait. By the time the balloon explodes thanks to a suicide bid by the assassin (she would rather die then disclose the name of her employer) and Bond goes tumbling down the side of the Millennium Dome we have hit the 14 minute 20 second mark and I was on the edge of my seat for almost all of it. And somehow, some way, for all its action and Rising Arizona (1987) pre credit length, I didn’t remember a beat of this open. And once I realized that, my heart soared because it occurred to me, outside of Denise Richards trying to act, I didn’t recall any of this film at all. And wow we are off to a smashing start.
Bond’s Mission: Turns out Sir Robert King was set up, the first of many surprises in this film as I assumed he was a baddie. Bond was saved while he was in the bank so he could deliver the rigid money to the target. So, it’s murder most foul and the game is afoot. Bond attends King’s funeral while wearing a sling, thanks to the nasty fall he took on the dome. This injury threatens to sideline 007 until be goes heels to Jesus with the good lady doctor in exchange for a clean bill of health. “Promise you’ll call this time James.” Don’t count on it sister. Back on the case, Bond researches King and learns his daughter, Elektra King was being held for a ransom amount equal to the amount of money lifted off 009, the agent who’s murder we learned about in the open and now were are back to where we walked in. M confirms King was going to pay the kidnappers off, against her advice, but Elektra escaped all on her own. 009 did manage to put a bullet in the kidnappers head yet he lived and in fact has become more dangerous. So, connecting all the dots, this baddie who bumped off King is most likely his daughters kidnapper and now that the father is gone and the daughter has inherited his oil business, logic dictates Elektra could be next on the hit list. This is a lot to unpack but it’s handled briskly and logically, setting all the parts moving in a satisfactory way. And now Bond is off to Azerbaijan where Elektra is overseeing the construction of a huge oil pipeline. Our hero is official meant to babysit and act as a bodyguard as he and MI6 hope to use the girl as bait to draw out the terrorist. “Remember James, shadows always stay in front or behind, never on top.”
Villain’s Name: Viktor Zokas AKA Renard. Like the Joker or a masked Dom Deluise, Renard’s only goal is chaos. In a neat narrative choice, we learn everything there is to know about the international terrorist before we meet him. The KGB cut him loose because he was a liability which sounds a little like Steven Adler getting kicked out of GN’R for doing to many drugs. (Not to mention, NO ONE EVER LEAVES THE KGB!) We learn he set Bond up to kill the father of the woman he kidnapped. We even learn a superhero like origin story, complete with super powers, told to us as we stare at a three dimensional holographic image of his head which is four times human size. All of this effectively works so by the time we do finally meet the terrorist on screen he has become a Keyser Soze like mythic figure. For his introduction, he emerges from a cave surrounded by natural flames so it looks like something out of Middle Earth. It turns out Renard’s days are numbered (more on this below) so he plays his cards like a man who has nothing to loose. And boy is he nasty. He taunts Bond telling 007 he should have had Elektra back when she pure, before he broke her. This is rough business that backfires on the villain down the road but he is certainly one of the more bastardly baddies we have seen in a Bond film.
Villain Actor: Robert Carlyle. Fair or not, I will always think of the Scottish actor as “that guy in that movie about the dudes who get naked that I never saw because it looks so God damn terrible but was somehow popular.” So big was the Full Monty (1997) that when it came out on video my neighborhood video store plopped a larger then life size cardboard cutout of Carlyle smack in the middle of the joint to promote the movie’s releases. The actor would stare out at me from under his blond Denise Leary looking hair, freaking me out as I sifted through 50 copies of My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) only to be told all two copies of 28 Days Later (2002) are out. (Thank Tebow we no longer have video stores.) Speaking off 28 Days Later, Carlyle is super scummy in a truly great way in 28 Weeks Later (2007) and while not as good as the first, its got zombies and I am a sucker for zombies. With a shaved head, a lazy eye and scars here and there, Carlyle’s brand of creepy is used to maximum effect as the ambitious yet reserved Renard.
Villain’s Plot: The plot of The World Is Not Enough is the most convoluted yet and that is saying a lot when considering the Bond series is legendary for thick and hard to follow stories. The nut of the thing boils down to control of the worlds oil supply. We learn that most of the oil exported from Russia, Iran, Azebaijan, Turkey, and Kazakhstan is sent to the Caspian Sea via three pipelines to the north. King is in the middle of building a pipeline in the south, threatening the monopoly of the other three. It’s unclear which of the interests Renard is working for at first but once his full plan comes into view, it’s a shocker. And like every Bond villain plot worth its salt, the plan involves a nuclear bomb and 8 million innocents as collateral damage.
Villain’s Lair: The Middle Earth fire and brimstone cave is cool but it’s more of a backdrop for a creepy intro, not where the bad man truly spends his time. He’s mobile for most of the movie, what with having to steal the raw ingredients for the nuke and then hijacking a submarine, but when he finally settles down it’s at a nifty spot called Maiden’s Tower. At first it appears to be a beautiful old stone lighthouse on the coast of the Caspian Sea. The attached building is stunning with huge windows, beautiful antiques, and a fully functioning dungeon. But what pushes this joint over the edge is the secret submarine dock hidden underneath. Now I know, “a secret submarine dock, have we not seen that 20 times before” and yes you have but! This is not you average 007 villain secret sub dock. As Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky explains, (yes, that Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky so lets us all rejoice) the Soviets had dozens of safe house along the sea during the cold war where the Commies could hide subs and kick the tires and change the plutonium and do whatever other general maintenance nuclear subs need. When the Soviet Union fell these bases didn’t just go away so there are a ton of places on the Caspian anyone could use do the same. This is the cloak and dagger European spy/intrigue stuff I love. It’s like knocking on the door in an empty Brooklyn ally and giving a password to a guy who looks out from behind a sliding shutter and then being let into a grand gambling hall. Not that I’ve done that … but if I did, it would be the stuff of great stories. What’s more, the sub base is in the same style as the lighthouse and surrounding building, which is to say, old stone. This isn’t Moonraker where Bond steps through a door to go from the inside of an Incan Temple to mission control at NASA. This is an organic spot that looks real and lived in. Is it real? Damned if I know, but it is 100% consistent with the look and feel of the rest of the film. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if on the coast of Istanbul stood just such a lighthouse.
Villain’s Coolest Accessory/ Trait: Rage Against the Machine had a tune called “Bullet In the Head.” Remember Rage? They were a band in the mid 90’s that had that video with the cute bee girl? Ohh, that Rage. Anywho, a line from a “Bullet In the Head,” “I give a shout out to the living dead” kept ahem… running though my head when it came to Renard the anarchists. M’s explains in her briefing, given while MI6 VIP’s are standing around a huge holographic image of Renard’s head, that while attempting kill the psychotic terrorist 009 put a bullet in his head. “That bullet is still there.”
Indeed, there it is in the holograph, leaving a tunnel from his left temple into the middle of his brain which Bond thoughtfully sticks his finger in. Turns out the bullet has damaged the baddies noodle in such a way that his sense are dying, “touch, smell, he feels no pain,” and he can push himself harder then any normal man. “The bullet will kill him, but he will grow stronger every day until the day he dies.” How cool is that? Kind of a like zombie, no? “I give a shout out to the living dead” indeed. This also gives us the ticking clock scenario turned inside out. The baddie must finish his mission because it is he who is racing against time and Bond’s job is to catch-up. This is super cool and it’s not even the coolest bit about the baddie. Renard, for all his superpowers and anarchist tendencies, turns out to be the least of Bond’s problems.
Badassness of Villain: Bond catches up with Renard as the villain is personally overseeing the theft of a nuclear warhead. Dressed as one of Renard’s men, Bond makes his way over to Renard, grabs him in a headlock, and sticks the business side of his Welther PPK on Renard’s melon. “I don’t miss.” But the baddie keeps on talking shit because, as he points out “You can’t kill me, I’m already dead.” This is as badass as badass gets but the ex-KGB man overplays his hand. Bond is about to pop him but he keeps yapping. “Normally I hate killing an unarmed man but in this case I will feel nothing, like you.” “But then again, there is no point in living if you can not feel alive.” At that moment, Bond pauses and everything comes into focus. I complained in the last film that we saw the events unfolding well before Bond and it made him look dumb. Here, he proves why he’s the superspy and we are just along for the ride. 007 heard that exact sentence before, spoken by one Elektra King. Could she and Renard be in cahoots? Bond’s suspicion are confirmed moments later when Renard, after turning the tables and now holding a gun to Bond’s head, squeezes the agents broken collar bone causing extreme pain. How did Renard know about the injury unless Elektra told him? Unless we were really paying close attention we have no idea what Bond has learned. He is two steps ahead of not only the baddies, but the audience as well. What Bond knows, and we will learn, is that Ms. King has been playing MI6 all along and Renard is in fact her stooge.
Villain’s Asides/ Henchmen: Loyal readers know that we here at Blog James Blog enjoy watching Bond participate in Alpine sports and throwing chips around a card table above all else. (Drinking coming in at a not too distant third.) Well, the skiing sequence in The World Is Not Enough is a doozy. Yes, Bond’s skills on the sticks are impressive as ever (he even pulls a twisty backscratcher) but what makes the sequence stand out is the four biddies who give chase. As Bond and Elektra, still thought to be on the same side at this point, inspect a section of the pipeline reachable only on skis, four black “Para Hawks” appear on the horizon. Picture a snowmobile with a fan-boat back and a para-glider/ultra light parachute wing on top and you get the idea. These things are badass and their pilots even more so. Dressed in all black and wearing black helmets with black goggles they look like alien bugs piloting strange flying snowmobiles. Elektra’s personal bodyguard Gabor, played by American Gladiator John Seru, reminded me of Lobot, Lando Calrissian’s aside in The Empire Strikes Back (1981). Not so much in appearance, Lobot was a bald white man and Gabor is a dreadlocked black man, but in personality. Lobot never speaks a word but communicates with Lando through shared looks only the two of them understand. Ditto Elektra and Gabor who other then one spoken line (I’m assuming to justify Seru’s SAG card) just kind of hovers in the background until needed.
Bond Girl Actress: Ursula Andress, the original Bond Girl, once said “Bond girls don’t sweet, they just glow.” I wasn’t sure what she meant by that until I saw Sophie Marceau first appear on screen at King’s funeral. She not only glows, she radiates. Hot is one thing, beautiful is completely another, and never have I seen a woman who possess each trait quite like the native Parisian Marceau. The daughter of a truck driver, she got her big break at 14 and never looked back working as a actress, director and writer in both English language and French films. Smart, stunning and a striking screen presence Marceau can also act circles around most Bond women. She pulls off the role of Elektra King in a way where even after Bond knows she’s the baddie, a fact she never lets on and would have kept concealed successful if not for Renard’s slip by the by, she is still able to cast doubt with a few lines and an incredible convincing act of innocents. Then, once the cat is fully out of the bag, she keeps the same focus and intensity as she had previous, only now with an evil glint in her eye. She could have over played this and went full bat shit crazy as the baddie, but she lets Renard play that role, she just keeps going forward with her diabolical plan, convinced she can use her feminine wiles to talk her way out of any situation that comes up. Marceau makes all of this look effortless and gives one of the best Bond girl performances of the series. If Marceau is the glowing example of what Andress spoke then Denise Richards, the other woman in Bond’s life, is a dying florescent bulb, blinking and buzzing while casting a harsh, shrill light. Let’s start out as nicely as we can. I truly enjoyed the former Mrs. Tiger Blood Sheen in Starship Troopers (1997). While I’m not sure she’s in on what makes the film absolutely genius, her flat, vacant line reading is in perfect line tonally with the rest of the cast and fits the style of the film perfectly. I think she is in on the joke for Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999), an unsung comedy gem with a very strong cast. She plays the over confident beauty queen who can say nothing that is not incredibly offensive and shallow but since she is so pretty no one ever calls her out. You could say typecasting and I will not argue but she hits the comic notes and makes the most of the role. That’s all I got. To put this as charitably as I possible can, Mrs. Richards is wildly miscast as nuclear physicist. Being in the same film as Marceau just makes this fact all more glaring. Next to her sexy and sophisticated cast mate, Richards looks like a child playing dress-up. In press conference on the DVD extra Pierce proves how much of a gentleman he truly is when he sticks up for his leading lady saying “those who don’t get her performance are missing the mark.” I truly appreciate what Brosnan is doing here but the truth is, it’s Richards who is so far off target that her presence in the film, mercifully not coming until the second half, single handedly holds this movie back from being one of the all time Bond greats and knocks a full martini glass off the final rating.
Bond Girl’s Name: Elektra King. What’s in a name? In Greek mythology Elektra kills her stepfather and mother to avenge the death of her natural father. In Bond 19, Elektra contracts the killing of her father in order to regain control of the oil empire which was owned by her mother’s side of the family for generations, Sir. Robert got in on the action through marriage. So it’s kind of the same thing but with a modern feminist cum OPEC twist. Elektra is by far the most complex Bond girl to date. We learn of her kidnapping and escape before we even meet her. Then when we do, she is seen diverting her pipeline to save a historic church. As peasants cheer, she confidently walks among the oil drilling rough necks proving she is tough and compassionate at the same time. When the Para Hawk case ends with she and Bond huddled together under an avalanche her tough exterior cracks and her claustrophobia, no doubt brought on during her captivity, causes her to freak-out and cling to Bond like a lost girl. This further wins our sympathy; so much so that we don’t even notice all four Para Hawks chased Bond and left her alone. Bond has always had a weakness for the fairer sex and Elektra plays Bond like fiddle well before she disrobes. She matches him with her wits and seems to see though his hard exterior. “Who is afraid now Mr. Bond?” She is so sly in he misdirection that she pays-off Valentin to the tune of one million dollars in direct sight of Bond and manages to make it look like the act of a wounded woman not yet fully recovered from either her fathers death or her hostage ordeal. Even after Bond has her pegged she still manages to cast doubt, to the point where she is able to draw M right into a trap set in plan sight. This is a woman who we are told escaped the sinister Renard by seducing her guards, cutting off her own ear, and now has the man who held her for ransom working for her. This is a woman who blew up her own father in MI6’s headquarters with the hopes of killing M as part of the collateral damage. And you know what, I 100% buy that she is not only capable of pulling it off, but that she would do so without blinking. She is a ruthless shark, a woman straight out of a 1940’s film noire who sees all the angles and uses her body and brain to keep the private dick spinning in circles. She is the most fully realized Bond Baddie and Bond girl rolled into one package. It’s a work of quantum physics on a level that would confound Stephen Hawking that she could possible occupy the same film as Dr. Christmas Jones, who is as much as physicists as Dr. Demento. From the moment Jones emerges from a mine and steps out of a jumpsuit wearing green tank top, short shorts and displaying perfectly manicured nails its like we’ve been warped to an episode of “Archer.” This could have been a sly tongue in cheek joke but Richards is actress incapable of pulling such a complex idea off. Then, to make matters worse, she opens her mouth. Listening to Richard read lines is like hearing a second grader read the Gettysburg Address out loud in front of the class. She can’t even pull off the lowest form of humor, the pun, without coming across as clueless and crass. I literally groaned out loud at “I have to get that plutonium back or someone is going to have my ass.” Even Brosnan looks like he has no idea how to field that one. And man she looks just scared shitless up there on the big screen. Her eyes are always wide and blank, as if it’s taking all of her energy to concentrate on hitting her next mark. I don’t think I can overemphasize how out of place this character is in this film. Picture Rachel Maddow running for Vice President on the “Santorum 2012” ticket and your not even in the ballpark. It’s just beyond all reason that this woman would be cast in this role. All that said, the thing that Jones and Bond ride thought the pipeline on is cool. See, I said something else nice about her.
Bond Girl Sluttiness: In The World Is Not Enough, sluttiness and badassness ignore Egon’s important safety tip and cross streams in an unprecedented manner. Indeed, Pussy Galore started out working for Goldfinger but after a roll in the hay with Sir Sean she helps Bond fake the gassing of half of Kentucky, more then making up for her sassy talk on the Learjet. Thinking about Goldfinger (1964) got me to thinking about how far everything has come since the 60’s. Back when Bond was a baby, the sight of Andrees in a two-piece or the name Pussy Galore was boundary pushing, shocking stuff. So was the idea that Bond, a good guy, would kill, and sometimes even enjoy it. By the 70’s Bond films relied on increasingly complex action sequences and stunts to keep audience shocked and awed. By the 80’s and most certainty the 90’s Bond had lost his ability to truly shock us. That’s not to say the films didn’t dazzle, excite, and thrill, they just no longer shocked. Hearing the name Pussy Galore was shocking, hearing the name Xenia Onatopp was cute. To bring shocking back into the Bond universe it took a cocktail of sex shaken, not stirred with violence. Elektra King is in a room in her lighthouse lair. Bond is strapped to a chair, bound by four heavy metal clamps, one around each ankle, one around each wrist, and a nasty, thick leather strap around his neck. On the back of the chair is a huge wheel looking not unlike a large wooden wheel one would find at the helm of an old sailing ship. This is attached to a large flat-headed screw that goes into the back of the chair. When turned, the screw moves forward into the back of the neck of whatever unfortunate son of a bitch is strapped to the chair, forcing his esophagus up against the large leather collar holding his head to the back of the chair. Three full turns and it’s curtains for Bond. His face is red. He’s gasping, pleading, spitting and all together struggling to breathe as Elektra walks slowly around the chair, each pass tightening the screws. Her walk is seductive and she is clearly getting off on holding Bond’s life in her hands. Throughout the film, Elektra makes a point of let everyone know she is not above using her body to get what she wants, but you never get the sense she enjoys the sexual encounters. But here, with Bond bound, she’s truly getting a sexual rise on the power she has over this man’s life. At one point she straddles Bond while he’s on the chair and while it never said, it’s clear she now is using his body, thanks to erotic asphyxiation or hypoxyphilia. Sexualized torture in a Bond film? Indeed, and it’s shocking as shit.
Bond’s Best Pick-up Line: Since pick up lines are not Elektra’s style, we will go bizarro for the next two categories and make them “Bond/Bond girls WORST pick up line.” Without further ado, we give you Bond while trying to score with Dr. X-mas Jones in the former Ottoman Empire. “I always wanted to have Christmas in Turkey.”
Bond Girls Best Pick-up Line: “Why don’t to unwrap your present?” And if you not gagging yet, a Worst pick-up lines bonus round! Post coitus Bond remarks “I though Christmas only came once a year.”
Number of Woman 007 Beds: 3, all of which have been covered in one way or another by now so we will keep it brief. The MI6 doctor, who not only gives 007 a clean bill of health but notes his stamina, wink wink. (I also greatly appreciated the cutaway to a man playing bagpipes.) Elektra King in a between the sheets encounter that, at the time, seems out of place following a comment about how Bond couldn’t afford to play her high stake reindeer games. However, in retrospect I think this horizontal mambo was yet another calculated move on Elektra’s part. She saw her fish slipping way, so she set the hook and reeled him in. And finally Dr. Christmas and while the two participants display no dignity in the act, John Cleese, of all people, does when he pulls the plug on MI6’s infrared spy cam.
Number of People 007 Kills: 22, give or take. Despite all the shooting and exploding and boat-on-land driving and Millennium Dome tumbling, only a single soul is lost by Bond’s hand in the open, that of a stooge in the Swiss Banker’s office. Bond takes out all four Tie-fighter pilot looking Para Hawk dudes; two by collision with tree and two by collision with each other. Bond shoots Davidov, an Elektra and Renard go between, as guards with dogs patrol nearby. The dog got me to thinking; the proud tradition of Bond fighting everything from tarantulas to sharks to tigers to snakes to out-of-control horses has fallen by the wayside in recent entries. I say get wild life back into the picture, I miss Bond vs nature stuff. Bring on a pack of wild dogs. Have him go mono a mono with an angry ape. Hell, I’d pay to see 007 go 5 rounds with a boxing kangaroo. I want to see Bond killing something with fur or scales stat! Anyway, he shoots three of Renard’s nuke thieves in a tunnel, the second being a miraculous shot from behind a moving train car. At Valentin’s caviar harvesting facility Bond takes down two helicopters which I will assume had a pilot, a co-pilot and two dudes to operate stuff like guns and four story spinning buzz saw towers so let us say that counts as eight kills. Bond shoots Elektra’s dreadlocked bodyguard leaving the lovely lady exposed. She runs to the top O the lighthouse (in heels and a long dress, this woman can do it all) and even when Bond sticks a gun in her face she is still trying to work her magic. Standing next to a bed, she puts on her best come hither look as guards are heard preparing to move in. Bond hands Elektra the radio and orders her to call em off. When he sees this is not sinking in with the lady, he give her a look of his own, one that says you had me for a while, but sister, the act is getting old. “Call em off!” he screams and her face crinkles, she realizes he means business but this is a woman who has had an ace up each sleeve all her life and she makes one last play. “James, you couldn’t kill me” and she might even believe it as she shouts an attack order into the radio a split second before she gets a bullet in the head. (There’s that song from the bee girl band again!) M watched as one of her double O’s killed an unarmed woman and you can see in this moment, out from behind the desk and in the field, M learns to appreciate her #1 agents all the more. (Have we discussed how Judy Dench has taken the M character and completely transformed her?) There is a submarine battle for the climax in which Bond kills two guys and uses one as a human shield.
Most Outrageous Death/s: A loose translation of Deus ex Machina would be the machine blowing a gasket at the exact right time and that is literally what happens at the climax of this movie. Bond is trying to stop Renard from inserting the last rod into a gizmo which will make the nuke go boom. As the baddie slllooooowwwwwlllllyyyyy pushes the rod into place a pressurized hose bursts loose right in front of Bond. Also in front of Bond are several holes one could hook this steam shooting hose up to. Bond plays eenie meenie miney moe to find the exact right plug-in at the exact right second to put the exact right amount of air pressure into the exact right tube sending the rod exactly into Renard’s right ventricle.
Miss. Moneypenny: Samantha Bond needs to call her agent. After an excellent introduction in GoldenEye (1995) she has been reduced to making awful Monica Lewinsky jokes. Open letter to Michael Wilson, Moneypenny and Ms. Bond deserve better.
M: Judy Dench on the other hand gets the most involved and satisfying M plot yet in any Bond film. After nearly getting killed in the MI6 bombing, she reviles to 007 that “against all instincts as a mother” she recommend against paying off Renard for Elektra’s safe return. This is fascinating not only because it sets up a neat little morality play for M but it reveals she indeed has a life and family outside of MI6. That said, I do think the idea that Elektra went bad because M didn’t rescue her is a bit over played. “You made her this way,” Renard tells M at one point but I don’t buy it; M made her a man hating killer of her own father who is hell bent on controlling the world’s oil supply? That’s just a bridge to far. None the less, it is great to see M question herself and MI6’s policies. I’m also not so sure M would jump on a plane and walk right into what is so obviously a trap but perhaps she was feeling guilt when it came to the whole “let Elektra rot in a cell” thing. (Yes, she did send 009 to rescue her and all that but let’s stay in the moment shall we.) M is warned by Bond that Elektra is up to no good but by the time she herself sees the plot it’s too late. M is indeed imprisoned by Elektra in what is supposed to be a shoe on the other foot moment but M is way to smart for that. She immediately goes about plotting her escape, using her brains in contrast to Elektra using her body. It was very enjoyable to watch these two smart women matching wits and there is even a moment where M admits Bond is her best agent, although she would never tell him that. All of this enriches the M character and goes miles to explain the close yet distant relationship between she and Bond.
Q: There are countless studies that show when people retire they increase their chances of dying. No one knows why but the prevailing theory is if you have something to live for, a reason to get out of bed in the morning, it keeps you living longer. Desmond Llewelyn, who was born in Newport, Wales in September of 1914, did a lot of living. The son of a coal mining engineer he got his first taste of show biz working as a stagehand in high school. Upon graduation he wanted to be a cop but failed the eye exam. In his later years he would say it was in fact the test administrator who was not seeing straight thanks to a hangover. He went on to study ministry but after a week-long retreat he realized he no longer heard the calling. Next it was off to the Royal Academy for the Dramatic Arts where he found his groove only to be interrupted in the mid 30’s by the Second World War during which Llewelyn served with distinction in the British Army. At one point he and his unit held off a division of German tanks until “eventually, the tanks broke through and many of us jumped into this canal and started swimming down it to the other side, figuring that our chaps were still over there. But the Germans were the only ones there.” Second Lieutenant Llewelyn was captured and held as a prisoner of war for five years. According to IMDB at one point Llewelyn and some other prisoners “had dug a tunnel and were planning to escape the next morning. Llewelyn was down in the tunnel doing some maintenance work in preparation of the escape when the Germans found out about the tunnel and caught him down in it, a crime that earned Llewelyn 10 days in solitary, which Llewelyn called ‘a blessing of sorts. After spending every day of several years sleeping in a room with 50 other people, the quiet and privacy was rather nice.’” I have visions of Q as the Steve McQueen character in The Great Escape (1963), throwing a baseball against the wall. All I can say about this is rock star. After the war, Llewelyn returned to London where he rejoined his wife, Pamela Mary Pantlin who he married in 1938 and who was with him till the day he died. As Major Boothroyd, Llewelyn has appeared in more Bond films then any other actor. Introduced as “Q” for quartermaster in From Russia With Love (1963) Q appeared in every Bond film save Live and Let Die (1973). His absents from Moore’s first film caused such a fan uproar producers were forced to bring the character back. For his part, Llewelyn, who regularly admitted that gadgets and technology were fields he knew nothing about, was also confounded by the popularly of his Bond persona. As he delighted in pointing out, his total on screen time in 17 films was less then 30 minutes. 84-years-old at the time the 19th Bond film was being produced, Llewelyn planned on The World Is Not Enough being his last. Indeed, Bond steals and destroys his retirement fishing boat in the open. I’m not sure what Q was planning on catching with all that weaponry; perhaps he was going to join Chief Brody and Capt. Quint on their quest for Jaws? (Not him, the other one.) In announcing his retirement, Q hands over his duties to his successor, R. For the last shot of Q on screen, we see him sinking into the floor, giving advice to Bond. “Always have an escape route.” The World Is Not Enough was released on November 19, 1999. On December 19, 1999 Desmond Llewelyn was driving home from a book signing to promote his autobiography in East Sussex when his car collided head-on with another. I always thought that as I got older I would grow more cynical, but a strange thing has happened. I’ve actually gotten more romantic and sentimental. I will miss Desmond Llewelyn and his Q greatly. He was as much a part of the Bond films then the music and the opening gun barrel shot. Brosnan described Q as “the Merlin” of the Bond films, which I think is spot on. The next time I have a martini, I’ll toast to Q.
List of Gadgets: Bond meets up with Q at the MI6 headquarters in Scotland which is inside a castle, naturally, where the gadget guru introduces “the young fellow I’m grooming to follow me.” Monty Python vet John Cleese is one of the funniest men on the planet and I can see the allure of making R an absentminded professor type. We will hold off judgment on this choice until the next film where R will, presumably, take center stage. In the meantime, R has a very funny bit where he is displaying the new ski jacket to Bond. “Watch closely please 007. The right arm goes in the right sleeve thusly” and “the lower part of the zipper and insert it into here like so…” until Q hits the button and the jacket becomes an inflated ball trapping R inside. As for this weeks BMW it has “the very latest in intercepting countermeasures, titanium armor, multi-tasking heads up display and 6 beverage cups holders. All in all rather stocked.” Bond gets two sets of glasses this go around; the Clark Kent glasses from the open also function as a detonator and a second pair have X-ray vision. Making a return is the credit card skeleton key and his watch has a light bright enough to illuminate Las Vegas Blvd. Finally, Bond has a program on his computer that can instantly convert dollars into pounds, it’s amazing what these desk tops can do.
Gadgets/British Government Property Bond Destroys: Pretty much all of the above, the jacket, the glasses, the boat, and the car which is sliced in half prompting Bond to lament “Q’s not going to like this.”
Other Property Destroyed: After Bond uses some window blinds and a table to escape an office in Spain, the Swiss banker will need to make a trip to IKEA. Not five minutes later Bond blows up 3 million pounds, all be it inadvertently. Thanks to 007’s complete disregard for no wake zones there is some riverfront property on the Thames that’s going to need some work including a kayak rental kiosk, a fish market and a swanky seafood restaurant. The would be assassin’s boat also has a few leaks. 007 recklessly shoots up a nuclear bomb storage faculty including a train car which is cut in half. He has a chance to disarm a bomb but says ahh screw it at the last second and takes out a good 50 yard section of a mercifully empty pipeline. Then there is the Caspian Sea caviar factory, which has to be in the top three most inspired locations to hold a shoot out. The facility itself is a series of wooden shacks and storage houses built on pillions in the middle of the sea. These buildings are connected to each other and to the near-by shore by a series of wooden docks and walkways, some large and strong enough to support vehicles and other simply two foot wide pedestrian bridges. Bond drives his BMW out to one of the buildings and goes inside where the floor has several cut outs giving free access to the water below. In some of these cut outs are large vats of freshly harvested fish row. Then the two helicopters show up, one of which has a pole with six or seven huge whirling saw blades hanging under its belly. This device’s out of the box purpose is to trim the top of tall trees but it’s also good for reeking havoc on wooden docks and warehouses. Bond swings, dives, swims and shoots doing battle with these two choppers while splinters fly everywhere in a truly fantastic action sequence that works because there are no cheats. It also delivers enough explosions to give Jerry Bruckheimer a woody. At the end, when Bond blows up the chopper with the saw blades, the saws come flying every which way imbedding themselves into walls and floor boards just inches from several of Bond allies. Bond also sinks a sub in a sequence that makes no sense and is full of cheats, the Deus ex Machina leading to Renard’s death not least of which, but somehow still almost works. Almost…
Felix Leiter: Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky and his limp return and we here at Blog James Blog say hell yah! I absolutely adore the Valentin character and here his role is much expanded upon from his debut in GoldenEye. It appears the Russian gangster is trying to put a ligament face on his criminal empire and has opened a casino. Since literally every single person in the joint is carrying a concealed firearm, I’m not so sure we can say his desire to go legit has been successful. When Bond makes his way into Valentin’s office (after threatening Dennis Rodman at gun point) he finds the ex-KGB man sitting behind his desk feeding caviar to two women, one on each knee. “Bond, James Bond! Meet Irnia and Varuska.” This guy gets all the lines. Bond visits Valentin to get the low down on Renard but it also turns out Valentin is doing business, as far as he knows independently, with Elektra King. The $1 million she drops in his casino is payment for what Valentin thinks is a “smuggling job.” Little does he know that his nephew, a submarine captain in the Russian Navy, is being set up to deliver and detonate a nuclear bomb. Bond puts it together eventually and confronts Valentin at his caviar factory. “I’m a slave to free market economy.” They are, of course, attacked by all of King’s men and the big battle ends with Valentin, in an all white suit, drowning in a pool of oily black fish eggs. As they say in those credit card ads, priceless. Did I mention Valentin’s number two, Mr. Bouillon, looks just like Dennis Rodman? Anyway, he’s also a little punk like Rodman and he sells Valentine out and tries to kill him. Valentin escapes and makes his way to Elektra’s lighthouse only to discover his nephew has been killed and Bond is strapped to a torture chair. Elektra then shoots him and with his dying breath, he shoots Bond free with the gun he has hidden in his cane. I was bummed to see him go but his dying act is to be applauded.
Best One Liners/Quips: Bond makes his way into the nuclear bomb cave by impersonating a famous nuclear scientist. He is doing well until he gets busted by Dr. Christmas Jones. “I talked to him, but he is not a nuclear scientist.” Neither are you sister.
Bond Cars: BMW Z8. The sporty convertible looks great, especially slicing though the oil fields of Azerbaijan. While poking around the internets I learned that Brosnan, in addition to whatever seven digit salary he was receiving for the films, got to take home the featured BMW for the last three Bond outings. So, in his garage he’s got the BMW Z3 from GoldenEye (1995), an 8-series BMW (instead of the 750iL) from Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), and the Z8 from The World Is Not Enough. This is a super smart call on both EON and BMW’s part. After all, Brosnan is Bond and it simply would not due to have him tooling around London in a Fiat. This way, he gets a great car and every time he leaves the driveway he’s promoting his films as well. The jet boat featured in the open has a V8, which is insane; the tiny boat is not much larger then a V8. This sucker can reach up to 80MPH, go as shallow as 4 inches of water, and turn on a dime. If I were Brosnan I’d insist on hooking a trailer to the Z8 with this little baby on board.
Bond Timepiece: Omega Seamaster Professional. This is the same as the Tomorrow Never Dies Omega in that it’s automatic as opposed to the quartz number 007 had in GoldenEye.
Other Notable Bond Accessories: When Bond visits Elektra at the oil field he is already sporting a full ski outfit, he just needed to grab the sticks and go. This I can understand. However, later, when he is impersanationg the nuclear scientist, he is about to get on board a helicopter that will take him to the nuke sight. One of the baddies asks if he has “it.” Bond hands over a gym bag containing sneakers. This is good to get him onto the helicopter. I have no idea why and from the look on Bond’s face, neither dose he, but he simply roles with it. That’s why he gets paid the big bucks.
Number of Drinks 007 Consumes: And once again, Bond’s borderline alcoholism pays off. As he sits with M in her office about to drink some bourbon, he notices a fizz coming from the glass. This alerts him to the bomb. How? Turns out that when he handled the money he got whatever explosive residue (you know, the stuff they swab your laptop for at the airport) on his fingers and that in turn reacted with the ice. So as always, drinking is not only good for you, it could save your life. A personal bourbon note, I was just in Louisville (pronounced by natives as Luh’vulll) for work recently and being Kentucky there was more good bourbon to be had then you could shake a stick at. That said, if you ever come across a creature called Kentucky Bourbon Ale I suggest you belly up and buy a pint. It’s one of the more incredible beers I’ve ever had in that it tastes like beer and bourbon in equal parts. Simply delightful. At Valentin’s casino Bond orders a martini, shaken not stirred, to steady his nerves after nailing a baddie to the bar with a knife staked into his tie. Bond then pays for the drink with the baddies gun. While lounging in bed with Elektra the two share some Bollinger.
Bond’s Gambling Winnings: Jimmy B walks around Valentin’s casino but decides not to play. Perhaps the fact that everyone is armed dissuaded him from tossing a couple of chips around. Ms. Elektra King on the other hand has quite a bit of gamble in her. She strolls into the casino drawing the immediate attention of Valentin who is happy to extend her the same line of credit given to her late father who apparently enjoyed Blackjack. She declines but then for no (apparent) reason decides to put $1 million on the turn of a single card, high card wins. Bond, still tasked as her bodyguard, first attempts to protect her by making sure the first three cards are burned. Then, he tries to talk her out of this rash act. “You don’t have to do this you know.” “There is no point in living, if you can’t feel alive” she replies while drawing the Queen of Hearts. Got to feel pretty good about that one, only Kings or Aces can beat her with the other 3 Queens pushing the bet. In other words she is trying to avoid 11 cards out of 51 giving her a 78 and change percent advantage making her slightly better then three out of every four times a winner. She seems not a bit phased when Valentin draws the Ace of Clubs. Bond takes this as another act of a women completely damaged by recent events but he’s still on the ball enough to tuck the whole “no point in living” comment into his back pocket.
List of Locations: EON return to Pinewood for the first time since 1987’s The Living Daylights which explains why MI6’s home base of London is featured more spectacularly then ever before. The return to home base may also explain why this is one of the better looking Bond in terms of sets we’ve had in quite some time. All the locations are presented in a way that makes them both exotic and real, not an easy balance. As mention previously, MI6’s Scotland headquarters is in a castle and while I’m sure the interiors were soundstages the look quite castley. We also already pointed out the fantastic use of Bilbao, additional Spanish locations of Bardenas Reales and Las Majadas served as stand-ins for Kazakhastan and Azerbaijan but the striking oil field location actually was Azerbaijan. The fields were owned by the state in 1847 when a tobacco man drilled a well and this sight became the first ever oil filed. As seen in this film the landscape looks absolutely alien and demonstrates how our quest for oil has been raping the land for the first. The Istanbul Caspian Sea locations are real places and the skiing bits were shot in the French Alps in the same valley that hosted the First Winter Olympics in 1924 and is said to be where “Mountaineer” sports were born.
Bonds Special Abilities Displayed: This is the most physical Bond I can remember. The sequence in the nuclear bomb storage tunnel alone qualifies Bond for a spot on the Olympic decathlon team. Bond is just getting warmed up in the open when he flies around the Thames in a boat that is not done being built and he’s never driven while bouncing it over land. His outer limits skiing haven’t seen any decline in skill but all of this is to be expected. It’s later in the film where James truly outdoes himself when he runs up to the top of a lighthouse, pausing only to shoot a perfect shot to hit the lock on M’s cell door, and reaches the top without even break a sweet. Then, after he kills the lady he swan dives out of the top of the tower getting a 9.6 from the judges after the Russian’s 6.4 was thrown out. He also has to swim from one section of a sinking sub to another and holds his breath for what I think is about a half hour, give or take.
Final Thoughts: Timothy Dalton has often complained in his post Bond years that the audience didn’t accept his take on the character because it was too dark. I would argue this film is 10 times darker then anything Dalton attempted and 100 times more fun. In some ways this movie reminded me of Octopussy (1983) and not just because 009 gets wacked in both films. I found them similar in so much as they both work despite a convoluted plot that falls apart under any scrutiny. Because the action is so good and the characters are so well define and the individual moments work so well and the goings on are so fun and funny, I was willing to forget the big picture in both cases and just enjoy the ride. But the two films are also very different in that Octopussy had not a thought in it’s head where as The World Is Not Enough is one of the smartest Bond films to date. The big twist works because of the superb set up despite it also being absolutely ludicrous. In order for Elektra’s grand scheme to work she not only needs to be seeing 20 moves ahead on the chess board, but everyone one of those moves must go her way or the entire plan collapse around her. And you know what, I was fine with this because it was so smartly executed and it stuck to its own logic. Each event played on what happens before and after making a logical, tight and wildly entertaining story. Bonus points for giving us incredible insight into M and Bond’s relationship, the most complex Bond girl and baddie rolled into one character, and twisty-turny misdirection throughout. On top of that, it tackles heavy themes like terrorism, torture, and petroleum politics in the Trojan horse of an expertly executed Bond film. All super smart indeed. I think much of the credit needs to go to Apted who brings both a grace and a light touch that allows these characters to breath where we want them to but then when called for, he tightens the screws and bring the action-oriented “wow!” I love seeing Bond get hurt, I love seeing Bond navigate the shady underground, and I love seeing Bond match wits with intelligent women who are his equal, and we get it all here. This movie plays like a character driven spy thriller and rewards the viewer at nearly every turn. The elephant in the room is of course Denise Richards. At one point she and Bond are racing through the pipeline on a speeding platform they want to slow down. But they can’t because as Richards tells us “the controls are jammed.” Have you even been unable to stop anything from moving because the controls were jammed? Ever? What the hell does the controls are jammed even mean? While this film does so much so well every single time the Richards character, named Dr. Christmas Jones in case you forget, is on screen she acts as an anchor pulling the film into tried cliché. The worst part, her character is 100% superfluous. We could have gotten all the same info/hit all the same story points without suffering through “could you translate that for those of us that don’t speak spy?” She is this film’s Kryptonite. Back to Brosnan’s previous outing, I liked Tomorrow Never Dies a whole lot less than I thought I would. The other side of that coin; I liked The World Is Not Enough a whole lot more then I anticipated. The 19th Bond was a surprise in the best way possible and when placed in the Bond canon I think it fits squarely in the bottom of the upper halves middle.