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
The most obvious credit to the writers is Carlyle's brooding, existentialist villain, which reminded me of The Misfit in O'Connor's 'A Good Man is Hard to Find.' Carlyle, in surprising contrast to his turn as the psychotic Begbie in Trainspotting, plays the role with just enough subtley and understatement, making the character's evil much more believable than the cackling megalomania of earlier specimens. What I also like about the screenplay, though, and what isn't immediatley apparent, is that it casts some doubt on the role of Bond in the world. In other movies, he seems to have an absolute moral imperative, able to gun down scores of people without any consequence, simply because his enemies are abosolutley evil. In this film, though, among the ruins of the USSR (a theme already explored in Goldeneye), there's more gray than black and white, and the circumstances don't allow him to get off so blamelessly; ultimately he has to do something which he might might regret. It's far from making him human - if that were to happen, it would undermine the whole promise of the series - but it's an interesting take. Then there's the way the plot works in minor characters, like Judi Dench's M and the Russian gangster Zukovsky, both of whom provide a usually self-reliant Bond with indispensable help, while Zukovsky experiences the closest thing to character _development_ which anyone has probably ever experienced in a Bond film. As for Richards, I don't know what she's doing there, either, and probably it would have been a stronger movie without her, but at least she's hot.
The precredits sequence sets up the story nicely: Sir Robert King, oil magnate and friend of "M" (Judi Dench) is killed by booby trapped money delivered to him by Bond. All roads lead to Rome, the roads being clues, and Rome in this case being represented by Electra King (Sophie Marceau), Sir Robert's beautiful daughter, who was the victim of a recent kidnap plot hatched by the mysterious Renard, a terrorist rendered unable to experience pain by a bullet lodged in his skull. "M" dispatches Bond to protect Electra, who has taken over her father's petroleum empire in central Asia.
From the moment he arrives in Azerbaijan, Bond is a hunted man. Although first enamored of Electra, Bond soon realizes that there is something amiss.
In TWINE, Brosnan resurrects the dark Bond of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE. His dual nemeses, Electra and Renard, are ably played by Marceau and Robert Carlyle, who both bring some surprising depth to their characters. Electra is particularly sympathetic, being both the brainwashed victim and willing accomplice of Renard. She is by turns sexual and ingenuous, vulnerable and implacable. Marceau is breathtakingly beautiful.
Carlyle's Renard, trapped in a body that can't feel, exudes both pathos and hatred as he plots the destruction of the democracies.
Dench's "M" plays a central role in the film, far larger than any "M" before her. The film is notable for being the last appearance as Desmond Llwellyn as "Q". Llewellyn, who played "Q" in almost every Bond film after 1964, died in a car wreck just days before the theatrical release of the picture, and John Cleese was cleverly edited into the film as his replacement, "R".
Denise Richards has the weakest major role, playing Dr. Christmas Jones, a nuclear physicist. Richards could have been left on the cutting room floor in her entirety. More's the pity, because Richards is a strikingly beautiful woman who is entirely upstaged by the exotic, erotic Marceau. Besides being a rather miscast improbable genius in cargo shorts and a tank top, Richards' character has even more of an "afterthought" feel than "R" does, as if the producers just couldn't tolerate the idea of the film ending with an unredeemed Electra King and no virtuous love interest for Bond.
Two hours and some of intelligent action-adventure, THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH fulfills all expectations.