By now, Bond pictures are as elegantly formal as a Bach chorale, and this one opens on an unusually powerful note. A stunning pre-title sequence reaches beyond mere pyrotechnics to introduce key plot elements as the action leaps from Bilbao to London. Bond 5.0, Pierce Brosnan, undercuts his usually suave persona with a darker, more brutal edge largely absent since Sean Connery departed. Equally tantalizing are our initial glimpses of Bond's nemesis du jour, Renard (Robert Carlyle), and imminent love interest, Elektra King (Sophie Marceau), both atypically complex characters cast with seemingly shrewd choices, and directed by the capable Michael Apted. The story's focus on post-Soviet geopolitics likewise starts off on a savvy note, before being overtaken by increasingly Byzantine plot twists, hidden motives, and reversals of loyalty superheated by relentless (if intermittently perfunctory) action sequences.
Indeed, the procession of perils plays like a greatest hits medley, save for a nifty sequence involving airborne buzz saws that's as enjoyable as it is preposterous. Bond's grimmer demeanor, while preferable to the smirk that eventually swallowed Roger Moore whole, proves wearying, unrelieved by any true wit. The underlying psychoses that propel Renard and Elektra eventually unravel into unconvincing melodrama, while Bond is supplied with a secondary love object, Denise Richards, who's even more improbable as a nuclear physicist. Ultimately, this World is not enough despite its better intentions. --Sam Sutherland