World is Not Enough, The

A film critic called upon to review a James Bond movie feels a bit like a restaurant critic who is asked to review McDonald’s. The World is Not Enough, directed by Michael Apted, is like most of its 18 predecessors pure McEntertainment. Anyone who has been to the other Bond films will know exactly what to expect — and will presumably like it, since he would have stopped going long ago if he didn’t. The franchise, it’s true, has been spruced up since the introduction of Pierce Brosnan as Bond. With his male-model looks and unexpressive, essentially uninteresting demeanor, he is the perfect designer-star for this kind of designer-movie. This is not to insult Mr. Brosnan, whom I believe to be capable of real acting — only to note that he has the good sense not to try any acting as James Bond. The only problem is that he may now be typecast. Last summer’s Thomas Crown Affair suggests that he is now only being offered designer-movies.

There are a few slip-ups. John Cleese is introduced as a successor to Q (Desmond Llewelyn), given a couple of funny lines, and then promptly forgotten. When M. (Judi Dench) is taken prisoner and locked up in a cell that looks as if it were left over from an old Wild West movie, it just looks ridiculous. I also thought that Robert Carlyle was a little too flat and understated as the clear villain. When he engages in that classic bit of Bond-villain business of killing his loyal underlings and henchmen just to show us how nasty he is, it is done without so much as a smack of the lips. Could it be that, along with the bullet which is gradually robbing him of his senses but also making him stronger up until the moment it kills him (how do they think these things up?), somehow he got it into his head that he was supposed to play such a part realistically?

True, it is some compensation to us to have Robbie Coltrane camping it up as the ambiguous villain, the bad-guy-good-guy who is undoubtedly crooked but whose massive bulk conceals a heart in the right place. Here is the Bondian grotesque that we have come to expect — and among his lackeys and henchmen there is an Oddjob type with gold teeth who attracts the inevitable Bond wisecrack: “I see you’ve put your money where your mouth is.” Now that’s a little more like it!

The worst mistake that the movie makes, in my view, is the misuse of the luminous Sophie Marceau as Bond-girl number one. I can’t explain what I mean by this without giving away more of the plot (such as it is) than I should, but suffice it to say that Mlle Marceau is in quite a different league from that of Bond-girl number two — Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist in a wet T-shirt. The latter belongs not in a Bond movie but one of those teen-angst movies of which there was such a rash earlier this year. In fact, I think she was in some of them. Don’t I remember her as a fetching but devious cheerleader?

But these are minor quibbles, really, like finding fault with the McDonald’s salads. Anybody who goes to McDonald’s for a salad deserves what he gets. Why would you go at all if not for the Big Mac or the Quarter Pounder? In the same way no one who goes to Bond movies really cares about anything but the babes and the booms, and these are dutifully supplied. Even before the opening credits there is an extended chase on the Thames through central London — Bond in a high-tech jet-boat in pursuit of a chick with a machine gun in a more conventional speed-boat — which ends with the explosion of a hot-air balloon and a drop onto the canvas roof of the Millennium Dome at Greenwich. Yep. That’s what you will have come for.

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