007 Mission Files: ‘The World is Not Enough’
MGM remained dedicated to their plan of releasing a new Bond movie every two years, and somehow The World is Not Enough manages to not feel as rushed as Tomorrow Never Dies. It isn’t in the conversation for the best Bond film, but the parts that work are really good and make this entry a fairly enjoyable one.
In crafting the follow up to Tomorrow Never Dies, the producers’ first task was to lock down a director. Roger Spottiswoode was hesitant to return, claiming that he was still trying to recover from the hectic schedule for Tomorrow Never Dies. Early talks with other directors included Peter Medak (whose offer was rescinded after Species II bombed), Joe Dante (The Howling, Gremlins, The ‘Burbs), Peter Jackson (yes, that Peter Jackson…Barbara Broccoli was a fan of Heavenly Creatures, but probably not Dead Alive, Bad Taste, or Meet the Feebles), and Martin Scorsese (imagine a world where Scorsese made this instead of Bringing Out the Dead…okay, that was actually pretty easy). I’m just saying, there’s an alternate dimension out there where The World is Not Enough wins an Oscar for Best Picture.
Eventually they went with Michael Apted, who is best known for dramas like Nell and Gorillas in the Mist and the 7 Up documentary series, which follows the same group of people and checks in on them every 7 years. The most recent was 56 Up in 2012. Quite a commitment. It’s easy to see why Apted got the job. He certainly isn’t the biggest name on the list, but his focus is drama and they were trying to make the movie more than just an action flick.
The film was released in 1999 with a $135 million budget, which was a $25 million jump from Tomorrow Never Dies. $100 million of that was raised in product placement before the cameras rolled. You can definitely see the jump in budget between the two films. They had a great crew from cinematographer to set and costume design that really sold all of the exotic locations. I would say the look and style of the film is easily in the top five of the series. It definitely paid off at the box office as well. The movie made $352 million worldwide, making it the highest grossing Bond movie of the 20th century, though Die Another Day would somehow out-gross it in 2002. The World is Not Enough and Sleepy Hollow were released on the same day, and it marks the only time in the history of the US box office that two movies opening on the same day both had over $30 million in their opening weekend.
The movie opens in Spain where Bond is retrieving money from a Swiss bank account. The banker threatens Bond, but James is able to take care of the banker’s security guards and the banker himself is killed by an assassin. Police sirens can be heard in the distance, so Bond takes the cord from the blinds, ties it to one of the guards, and bungee jumps out the window. He lands on the street below with the money from the account.
Back in London, we learn that the money belongs to Sir Robert King, an oil tycoon and personal friend of M’s. King had used the money to try to purchase a stolen report from an MI-6 agent who was killed in the process. When King goes to retrieve the money, his pin activates a booby trap and the money explodes, killing King and destroying a part of MI-6. Bond spots the assassin from Spain and chases her along the Thames. She eventually tries to escape via hot air balloon but refuses to give Bond any information. She blows up the balloon, and Bond falls on top of the Millennium Dome.
After the opening credits we see Bond, M, and some familiar MI-6 faces at King’s funeral in Scotland. Bond is also introduced to King’s daughter Elektra. Bond is on the inactive roster due to a shoulder injury sustained when falling on the Millennium Dome, but he is able to convince the doctor to give him a clean bill of health. He traces the booby-trapped money back to Renard, a former KGB agent who had kidnapped Elektra years before. M had sent a double-0 agent after Renard at the time, but the agent’s bullet lodged in his brain without killing him. He no longer feels pain, but the bullet will soon kill him as it works deeper into his brain.
Bond is assigned to watch Elektra in case Renard returns for her. Elektra is overseeing the construction of a pipeline, and soon after arriving Bond goes to help her check the route. While skiing along the route of the pipeline through the mountains Bond and Elektra are attacked by a group on paraglider snowmobiles. Bond is able to take care of them, and the pair narrowly escape an avalanche.
Bond takes a piece of his attacker’s parachute to Valentin Zukovsky at his casino in hopes of getting information. Elektra also appears at the casino, despite Bond’s warnings. She wants to prove to the people that she is not afraid of any attacks. She plays a risky game of high card and loses $1 million to Zukovsky.
When they return to Elektra’s, Bond does some sneaking around and discovers that her head of security, Davidov, is working with Renard. He kills Davidov and takes his place aboard a plane. He eventually realizes that Davidov was posing as a nuclear scientist and that the group was going to steal a nuclear bomb. Bond is unable to get a jump on Renard due to the intrusion of Dr. Christmas Jones, an American nuclear physicist. Jones discovered that Bond wasn’t who he said he was, but after Renard and his crew escape with the bomb and Bond is able to save Jones’s life, she begins to trust him. Unfortunately, Renard had removed the GPS locator card from the bomb, so they are unable to track it.
Back at the King headquarters, Bond gives M the GPS locator card and tries to explain to her that he believes Elektra might be involved due to some things that Renard said and did during their meeting. M brushes it off just as an alert tells them that someone has broken into the pipeline. Bond realizes that Renard must be moving the bomb through the pipeline in order to destroy it. M sends him to retrieve the bomb, and he takes Dr. Jones with him to disarm it.
Bond and Jones get in the pipe and find that half the plutonium is missing from the bomb. Bond realizes that this was just a ruse to divert attention from the rest of the plutonium. They remove what’s there and leave the rest of the bomb as a dud. They let the bomb explode so everyone thinks they have died. Back at King headquarters, Elektra reveals herself to M as the criminal mastermind and kidnaps her.
Bond and Jones go to Zukovsky’s caviar factory to confront him about his involvement with Elektra. While they’re there, Elektra sends helicopters with huge saw blades to destroy the area and take out Zukovsky. Bond is able to destroy the helicopters and learns that while Zukovsky didn’t know that Elektra was working with Renard the money that she gave him was for the use of a submarine. Jones tells them that if they put the plutonium in the submarine’s nuclear reactor it would cause a massive explosion that would level Istanbul and make the King pipeline the only way to move oil through the region.
They head to Istanbul to try to stop Elektra and Renard before it’s too late. They get to a command center so Zukovsky can contact his nephew, the captain of the submarine. Before they are able to reach him Zukovsky’s henchman Bullion sets off a bomb. Bond and Jones are captured and taken to Elektra’s hideout. Jones is put aboard the submarine with Renard and Bond is put in a torture device by Elektra.
Zukovsky arrives before Elektra is able to kill Bond. Elektra shoots him, but Zukovsky is able to free Bond before he dies. Elektra runs upstairs, but Bond kills her before going after the submarine. Once on board, he finds Renard and kills him before he is able to put the plutonium in the nuclear reactor. Bond and Jones escape and enjoy a lovely evening in Turkey.
The World is Not Enough is a lot better than I usually give it credit for. I don’t think a lot of people like it, but its visuals are great and the acting from four of the five main characters is pretty top-notch, considering the material. I would say the overall acting is top five of the series, and that’s even including Denise Richards’s abysmal performance.
The biggest problem with the movie is the tonal shifts, but that is true of all of Brosnan’s movies. The most drastic is right after the pipe explodes. Elektra basically turns to M and says, “I’m sorry Bond died. Here, I want you to have this gift! It was my father’s.” Just take one minute to process what’s happening. It’s unfortunate that this is one of the few Bond films where he gets injured and it stays with him throughout the movie. He does a lot of actual detective and spy work, but then they take all of the good away with a Bill Clinton cigar joke, a dock for Q to park his boat on the 9th floor of MI-6, and using the cords to a set of blinds to bungee jump three stories. I mean, how tall were those blinds?!?
Speaking of the window jump, this was originally the ending to the cold open. After Bond landed on the sidewalk below and walked away it transitioned into the opening credits. However, test audiences were underwhelmed, so the explosion at MI-6 and the boat chase on the River Thames was moved to precede the opening credits. They had to cut down the boat chase to make this work and even then it is the longest cold open in the series.
Much like the previous Brosnan movies, I really enjoy the theme song. They had a nice run here in the ’90s of solid music. Garbage had the honors of playing this song, about two years after they were no longer relevant. Still, Shirley Manson has the perfect voice for a ’90s chick-rock Bond theme. The song also gets some style points for the music video. It’s totally a ’90s idea, but a robot version of Manson is built with a bomb inside. She kills the real Manson and takes her place during a show, and then she blows up a bunch of old people in the audience. The opening credits sequence itself was one of the better ones too, with dripping oil that forms the shape of people. It’s a neat effect.
One popular alternate theme was written by a small band named Straw. They only released one album and a few EPs during the three years they were together, but their attempt is on one of their EPs entitled “Soundtrack of the Summer.” It has an early Radiohead circa Pablo Honey feel to it. It isn’t bad.
The boat chase on the River Thames took 7 weeks to film. The production team set up webcams around the area to capture the sequence and live stream it online. I can’t imagine trying to watch this with an old dial-up connection circa 1999, but that’s a fantastic idea. Kind of ahead of its time. There was one accidental shot where the boat splashed a bunch of police officers putting a boot on a car. They received such a positive response on the shot from people watching the webcast that they decided to include it in the final movie.
The title The World is Not Enough is a nod to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Bond is researching his coat of arms and it is revealed that this is his family motto, as noted in this film.
Watch the background Bond fans. At the Scottish MI-6 base (which is the same castle used in Highlander…a movie staring former Bond actor Sean Connery and Christopher Lambert, who would later have a seven-year relationship with Sophie Marceau) you can see an oil painting of Bernard Lee behind M’s desk. Lee was of course the original M and played the part eleven times. You might also notice that all of the pinup girls in Zukovsky’s office are former Bond Girls. There is a long history of Bond Girls posing for Playboy.
Despite a bulk of the finale taking place in Istanbul, no cast members ever traveled to the Turkish capital. A few sets were erected and filming was planned, but then political unrest led to bombings and the producers deemed it unsafe. A few establishing shots were covertly captured, and the rest was done on the 007 lot at Pinewood Studios with a green screen and models serving as the backdrop.
I was always curious how the production designers achieved the x-ray effect from Bond’s glasses. It turns out they filmed the sequence twice. Once with the actors in their regular costumes and then again wearing special costumes that revealed their weapons and undergarments through translucent clothing. The two shots were matted together and touched up with CGI.
Cars: Of course there is the jet-boat produced by Bentz and outfitted by Q in the pre-title sequence. This boat is actually really cool and I badly wanted one when the movie came out. I ultimately decided it would probably be too fast for the little lakes around my house. Plus it was really expensive.
The official car provided to Bond by Q is a silver BMW Z8 convertible roadster. There were some complaints about Bond driving a sedan in Tomorrow Never Dies, so they returned to the Z series. However, the car is pretty underutilized and eventually gets cut in half. We do briefly see Bond’s Aston Martin DB5, once at King’s funeral and again at the end when R uses the heat signature of the car to find Bond and Jones.
There are a lot of helicopters in the movie, a speedboat, paratrooper snowmobiles, and even a hot air balloon. My favorite car in the movie (besides the DB5) is Zukovsky’s Rolls Royce Silver Shadow. Rolls Royce makes a damn fine automobile.
Allies: This is Dame Judi Dench’s third appearance as M. She was hot off an Oscar win for Shakespere in Love, so of course the producers wanted to milk that. This is one of the most heavily involved roles for M. The whole plot of the movie is based around M doing a favor for a family friend. Trouble ensues from there, but it’s oddly personal for M. We learn a little about her past, and we are introduced to long-time friends. She is even kidnapped at one point. Dench does a great job of playing all facets of the part, proving she was worthy of the Oscar, though I’m not suggesting she should have won another for this.
This is Desmond Llewelyn’s seventeenth and final appearance as Q. The only movies he didn’t appear in to this point were Dr. No (because they didn’t use the character) and Live and Let Die (because he was under contract for a BBC series). The mark that he left on the series is undeniable, even if he got the short end of the stick. He was often only paid by the day instead of having an actual salary for the role and only had a few expanded roles like License to Kill, where he was able to play in the field with Bond.
They were able to write a nice ending to his time on the series. He gives Bond some last advice and lowers into another part of his laboratory. However, this wasn’t necessarily planned as his final film. The producers just included it in case something were to happen. He was 85 at the time. However, a month after The World is Not Enough premiered he was quoted in an interview as being confirmed for the next movie. Sadly, in December of 1999, he died in a two-car collision on his way home from a book signing.
John Cleese is introduced as Q’s protégé, who is jokingly referred to as R in the movie. He’s a complete goof, and the producers clearly decided to build on Q’s humor instead of his intelligence. He would take over for Q after Llewelyn’s death.
Samantha Bond returns for her third outing as Moneypenny. Oddly, her role was not enlarged along with M’s. She’s around a bit more, but there are two other characters that work as M’s assistants.
Those two are Bill Tanner, played for the second time by Michael Kitchen, and Charles Robinson, played for the second time by Colin Salmon. Both do a nice job, and I always like seeing a team around M.
Valentin Zukovsky returns, played for the second time by Robbie Coltrane. I really like his character. They originally wrote a part for him in Tomorrow Never Dies, but Coltrane wasn’t available. They expanded his role in The World is Not Enough, and it works very well.
Bond Girls: “Dr.” Christmas Jones is the quintessential Bond Girl. They tried to make her an intelligent scientist to help Bond disarm nuclear weapons, but then they cast Denise Richards who is clearly only there for her looks. It would have been nice if the character were more like Dr. Holly Goodhead from Moonraker, who wasn’t perfect but at least could help out. However, Richards delivers a terrible performance and you can almost see the other actors pleading with her in their heads to be better.
Denise Richards has the honor of winning the first Razzie for a Bond movie. You can just tell that she has no idea what’s going on or what she’s talking about. At one point at Zukovsky’s caviar warehouse Bond remarks that he wishes they had some Champaign to go with the caviar. Her response is, “Or sour cream!” Maybe sour cream and caviar is a thing, but there are a lot of better responses, like toast or crackers. The way Richards delivers the line it’s like she heard Bond name a type of food and was anxious to jump in with another one.
Okay, enough hating on Denise Richards. I’m sure the high quality of acting from the rest of the cast made her look worse. Still, you can’t help but wonder what would have happened if they would have cast their first choice Tiffani Amber Thiessen from Saved By the Bell, Beverly Hills 90210, and one of my favorite shows prematurely canceled by FOX, Fastlane.
Dr. Molly Warmflash, played by Serena Scott Thomas (younger sister of Kristin Scott Thomas), is seduced by Bond and convinced to give him a clean bill of health so he can go after Renard. Despite the terrible name, she does a nice job in her limited role.
Gadgets: This is another gadget-heavy entry, which was perfect for Llewelyn to go out on. The biggest, most memorable one is definitely the boat from the pre-title sequence. Of course Bond has the Z8 as well. However, his Omega watch comes in handy as it shoots a grappling hook, a credit card that converts into a lock pick, x-ray sunglasses that let you kind of see through some things, and a ski jacket that blows up into a dome to protect the wearer from an avalanche.
Villains: Elektra King is really the first primary Bond villain to be a female. MGM originally wanted Sharon Stone for the role, but luckily it went to French actress Sophie Marceau of Braveheart fame. Marceau is amazing in the movie. She does a great job pretending to be the damsel in distress, proving to Bond that she’s strong, and ultimately being the psychotic villainess. She’s really the one controlling Renard, and it kind of makes him a sympathetic character. At the same time, you also kind of feel bad for Elektra. Really, everyone in this movie has been screwed over by someone else in the movie. They all just need to go on Maury and straighten it out.
Renard is played by Robert Carlyle (who you probably know from The Full Monty, Trainspotting, or 28 Weeks Later). He kidnapped Elektra when she was young. Instead of immediately rescuing Elektra, M and her father decided to use her as bait and try to catch Renard. This infuriated Elektra and she secretly teamed up with Renard, plotting her father’s and M’s death.
M sent a double-0 agent to kill Renard. They were almost successful, shooting him in the head and leaving him for dead, but Renard survived and cannot feel pain due to brain damage. However, the bullet cannot be removed and it will eventually kill him. He sees himself as a dead man and is trying to help Elektra get her revenge.
Carlyle does a great job with the character, walking on the edge of sanity. However, the script does too much to drive home the fact that Renard can’t feel pain. We get it. He doesn’t have to mention it every time he’s on screen. Then at one point it goes as far as to say that he gets stronger every day. Well, that’s just not true. The bullet in his brain is slowly killing him, not making him stronger. That doesn’t make sense. Sure he doesn’t feel pain, but he’s holding red-hot rocks in his bare hands. His hands would still blister. Also, since he couldn’t feel anything, he would have to pay very close attention every time he tried to pick something up. It should be a much sadder character with a major disability.
Bullion was Zukovsky’s henchman, but he was in fact covertly working for Renard. He’s played by Goldie, an English DJ/electronic musician. He actually does a pretty nice job in the role. He acted a little more, but nothing major.
Finally we have the character known as “Cigar Girl.” Played by Maria Grazia Cucinotta, this was actually a pretty important role at the beginning of the movie. She is behind the bombing at MI-6, though there’s someone else pulling the strings. She kills herself by blowing up a hot air balloon instead of being captured and facing the wrath of Renard. Maria has some nice reaction shots and a couple of good one-liners.
Overall the movie’s pretty good. There are some poor choices that put it in the middle of the pack for me. There are better Bond movies out there, but there are definitely worse ones as well. This entry is at least fun. I like to put it in and have it on in the background as part of my regular rotation.
Bonus conspiracy theory time! In GoldenEye Bond claims he gave Zukovsky a limp during the Cold War when he shot him in the leg and took his car and girlfriend. This is why Zukovsky walks with a cane. In The World is Not Enough, it is revealed the cane is modified to be a gun able to shoot just one bullet. Zukovsky uses this one bullet to free Bond from Elektra’s torture device, saving both Bond and all of Istanbul. So, if Bond wouldn’t have shot Zukovsky, he wouldn’t have a cane and therefore wouldn’t have been able to save Bond.