Friday, 27 July 2012

BlogalongaBond / The World Is Not Enough: The Great And Powerful Broz

In 1999 the world found itself barrelling towards an uncertain future full of all sorts of millennium buggery, and the very real possibility that everything and everyone would cease to function when the countdown reached '00. Eon Productions responded to this threat by reassuring us that everything would be fine if we just put our faith in the world's greatest secret agent and a nuclear physicist whose hot pants and huge tits didn't stop her from knowing all there is to know about Yukawa's theories on the stability of atoms.
Gently placing Denise Richards' massive bosons aside for a moment, The World Is Not Enough is a fantastic return to enormously satisfying, thrill-packed Bondery. Thankfully ditching most of its predecessor's Mooreisms, the script is better and the story satisfyingly complex while still allowing for an explosion every eight seconds. In fact as a piece of action cinema it's breathlessly entertaining; this film alone contains some of the best set-pieces in 1990s cinema, and should have convinced the Academy to create a Best 2nd Unit Director category and immediately award it to Vic Armstrong.

But Bond is given plenty to think about as well as blow up, and his relationship with Elektra King (played with alternating brattish arrogance and fragile vulnerability by Sophie Marceau) is among the series' few successfully complex emotional tangles into which he will insist on getting. When that goes tits up and he turns to the nearest vagina to hand, it belongs to the walking punchline that is Dr. Christmas Jones - the series' least popular Bond girl according to people who've forgotten A View To A Kill's Stacey Sutton.

Personally I don't have a problem with Denise Richards; as far as miscast supporting actors go, I have greater issues with John Cleese's disastrous quartermaster-in-waiting. I'm fairly sure that if both actors were to swap roles we would have seen some far more interesting personal relationships developing.
Imagine for a moment a Q-type played by a buxom young hottie: competition for Moneypenny and infinite opportunities for Bond to come up with great lines about where he'd like to put his gadgets (he means his cock). Then imagine, instead of the traditional Bond girl, 007 is teamed up with a fusty old professor who can defuse a bomb without any bother but is incapable of explaining the process without getting his t-shirt wet. Now that would be a bold reboot.

There's no doubt about one thing, though: as his third Bond film, this is Pierce Brosnan's Goldfinger, his The Spy Who Loved Me. It's the film in which he finally worked out exactly who he is.
The Broz is certainly no Timothy Dalton, but by this point he doesn't need to be. He's shrugged off the ghosts of Connery and Moore which haunted his last two performances and he's perfected his own Bond brand: witty, athletic and charming but frequently at the edge of a precipice of anger, disgust and contempt from which he only just pulls himself back on several occasions. In his appointment with the Bilbao banker he clearly means business: a colleague is dead and he wants to know who's responsible. He can't stand the sight of anyone in the room (except perhaps the one with the perfectly rounded figure) and he takes grim satisfaction in taking them out. And as a bonus, he also looks better in specs than certain other Bonds:
There are times when it's frustrating that he didn't push the character that little bit further - his reaction to Elektra's probing "have you ever lost someone you loved?" is a little too subtle, given the series' previous references to his murdered wife - but this is still the pinnacle of his Bondery. He pulls off the awful puns with a roguish charm that deceptively makes you think you could get away with that Christmas / turkey gag yourself (you can't) and he's graceful enough to allow Desmond Llewellyn to carry his final Q scene with class, despite the old codger spouting utter toss; if Q ever taught Bond to "never let them see you bleed", it must have been while the cameras weren't rolling.

Equally convincing and eminently watchable whether he's negotiating payoffs, kicking the shit out of a scrawny Scot or making his sex face in a torture chair, Brosnan is so magnetic as Bond that he made me want to watch every other film he was in during - and after - his time in 007's shoes, so I did. And before long I came to the sobering conclusion that although he was born to be Bond, his presence in anything else is no guarantee of quality; the rest of his filmography is almost uniformly cack. Barring, of course, the magnificent Mamma Mia!.

And there you have it. Feel free to disagree with my assessment of Pierce Brosnan's abilities, but frankly the evidence speaks for itself:
(excluding the titles and the score which are as amazing as ever)

The pre-title sequence
I've had it checked and I can confirm that the film's first fourteen minutes do in fact torpedo all other Bond pre-title sequences clear out of the water. The mini adventure in Bilbao would have been good enough, but the following Thames-based speedboat mayhem is pure gold. Amazing stunts, David Arnold's music having noisy sex with your ears and a perfect location for millennial Bond combine to blow your eyes through the back of your head and into next door's lounge before Garbage strike up a single note.

The submarine stuff
Avoiding the usual final face-off that sees Bond versus an entire army of minions, The World Is Not Enough's climactic 11-minute set-piece aboard a vertical, sinking nuclear submarine (culminating in Peter Lamont's fantastically-designed reactor room) is balls-out brilliant entertainment. Bond and Renard going at it while Denise Richards delivers expository dialogue in a wet, see-through shirt is exciting enough, but I'm a sucker for scenes of people trapped underwater so the tension here is off the flipping chain. That is, once you've got over the fact that a Commander in Her Majesty's Royal Navy doesn't know the difference between the "up" and "down" controls of a submarine.

The incredible suits
Brosnan wears seven Brioni suits throughout the course of the film, and almost every single one of them is perfect (the cream linen suit he wears in Istanbul is just asking for işkembe çorbası to get poured down the front). Wayne Enterprises' Lucius Fox may believe that "three buttons is a little '90s", but when they're sewn onto the jacket of a man who absolutely, positively knows how to wear a suit, the result is timeless.

And finally: The World Is Not Enough was the first Bond film to take advantage of the burgeoning trend in movie marketing for character posters. At last! A chance for those legendary, iconic characters who've been instrumental in shaping the world of James Bond as we know it and who are loved by millions around the world to finally get the recognition they deserved.
All that's missing is his classic quote: "Oh, by the way, do you have the transport documents?"

BlogalongaBond will return with Die Another Day

What the hell is BlogalongaBond? I'll tell you.
Further BlogalongaBondareading here


  1. That Richards/Cleese image will haunt my dreams until I see Die Another Day

  2. "The World Is Not Enough's climactic 11-minute set-piece aboard a vertical, sinking nuclear submarine (culminating in Peter Lamont's fantastically-designed reactor room) is balls-out brilliant entertainment."

    You must be joking.

    1. If you're trying to get me to say "I never joke about my work" you're shit out of luck.

  3. From Russia, With Love31 July 2012 at 22:09

    First time I have to disagree with you, suit. Whilst this is probably Brosnan's first time in being properly comfortable in the role, the story is just too riddled with plot holes a mile wide to be at all credible. Every aspect of the story just seemed incredibly infantile, from the villain to the caper. Whilst it was about protecting an heiress and her oil pipeline, I enjoyed the film. After the sheer ludicrousness of the villain and his plans unfolded, I must say I found the film an incredible disappointment. Still not as bad as the plots of the Moore era, but that is extremely faint praise.

    1. I agree with From Russia, With Love. Suit, this is the first time in which your usually faultless and merciless assessments have been wide of the mark. I implore you to watch the film again as you appear to have overlooked the awful acting (Brosnan's 'huh' when Elektra says 'there's no point in living if you can't feel alive' is EastEnders-esque overracting), tedious plot, embarrassing casino scene, misjudged plot concentration on M (beware Skyfall!), dull set-pieces (apart from the pre-title sequence) and unforgiveable denegration of the imperious Zokovsky to that of a clown. Oh, and why establish that the villain can't feel pain if you can't be bothered to make more of it? This was the worst Bond film of all upon its release, but thankfully for The World is Not Enough, Die Another Day was to follow...

  4. Sounds like someone saw this film when he was 12... or you're just trolling. WORLD is uniformly terrible.

  5. You mention Brosnan's other films: The Thomas Crown Affair, Dante's Peak and After the Sunset are all good, Crown especially.