Welcome to your briefing 007. Your mission: The World is Not Enough. Great job retrieving Sir Robert King’s money, 007, but clearly the murder of King by detonating a chemical bomb with the money inside out very own headqurters was an inside job. I need you to go to Azerbaijan and check up on his daughter, Elektra, who we suspect might be targeted next as we suspect her former kidnapper, Renard, may be behind this.
The film opens in Bilbao, Spain at an exchange of money, but go figure, the exchange goes awry and Bond must kick some tail to get out with King’s money when he doesn’t get an answer as to who killed a fellow 00. Two of the better Bond moments of Brosnan’s, if not Bond’s career in the series occur right here in the opening sequence. The first when he jumps out of the window with a string attached to a downed goon. And that is a great shot too, so cool. After that scene, there is a second thrilling adventure as we are swept back to MI6 in London and King gets murdered by a bomb, so 007 must pursue the assassin. An awesome chase scene on boats then takes place on the River Thames as 007 hijacks Q’s retirement fishing boat, which is decked out with all the necessary accouterments. The second moment occurs when Bond must dive like a submarine in his tiny speedboat and whilst underwater, he staritens his tie a-la the Goldeneye tank chase scene. The geography of the chase is awesome as we are treated to the British Parliament building and the end of the scene happens with the O2 Arena as a major player.
The end of the chase gives way directly to the credits sequence, which features the title song by Garbage, which is a very peculiar choice, although perhaps not in 199 on the heels of their hit “Only Happy When It Rains”, but that song doesn’t exactly scream an ability to hit it big with a Bond theme, but in reality the song is quite good. At this point, 19 films in, I wouldn’t rank it among the best, but it is definitely worthy of the film and a solid outing. Again we also see the sequence sprinkled with themed images like oil derricks and the like.
Bilbao, Spain; London; Baku, Azerbaijan
Again, Bond does not have all too many allies to aid him on his quest to protect Elektra and find Renard, but we are treated once again to Valentin Zukovsky, played wonderfully again by Robbie Coltrane. This time Valentin has moved up in the world, owning a casino and his own brand of caviar. With the film taking place in a former Soviet republic, I guess it was convenient for the screenwriters to bring him back to sort of be in the way for Bond and sort of begrudgingly help him. I like watching Coltrane in this role, it’s just a shame that the character isn’t more interesting than he is.
Once again Judi Dench’s M shows up in a much bigger role than in past installments, and arguably this is the biggest part s/he has ever had. She read law at Oxford with Sir Robert King and as such is a family friend and has a personal investment in the proceedings. Dench plays it pretty well, even if her screen time is still quite limited given M usually only shows up about once in Bond movies. And it also gives a sympathetic, human side to the boss, especially seeing her reaction when it is thought Bond has been killed.
Renard is a really cool idea for a Bond villain. He was shot in the head by a 00 agent, but it didn’t kill him…yet. And until the bullet does kill him, he actually grows strong as his senses weaken, allowing him to push himself harder and longer than the normal man, and he can’t feel pain. He is sort of a career baddie, having kidnapped Elektra before and being renowned enough to warrant a nickname. His real name is actually Viktor Zokas. Played by Robert Carlyle, I think the character himself is a good Bond villain, but I can’t exactly say they utilized him. Heck, we don’t even actually see him until about halfway through the movie!
There were a couple “henchmen” type characters I could have mentioned here, and Mr. Bullion honestly isn’t big enough to warrant a mention here, but his teeth are! Oh my what a grill this man has, and Bond even quips, “I see you put your money where your mouth is.” Heck, the actor who plays Mr. Bullion is even named Goldie. No joke, look it up on IMDb. Anyway, what he is actually there for is an inside man on the staff of Valentin, because apparently Renard knew his plan would involve the British who would send an agent with connections to Valentin. Right…
I have never used pictures for this category, but with the final performance of Desmon Llewelyn as beloved Q, and what a great way to go out! I will forever remember this moment in the history of Q, when he tells Bond he has always told him two things: “Never let them see you bleed”, and “Always have an escape plan”, as he descends out of sight forever. Great moment in the franchise. And to replace him is “R” as Bond names him, played by English comedic legend John Cleese, which, to me, seems like too silly of a casting choice, and his one scene here proves that. I love Cleese, but he doesn’t fit in the role of the new Q in my opinion, but maybe the next installment, Die Another Day, will change my mind on that.
But on to the actual gadgets with my love of Desmond Llewelyn out of the way, there are really only a couple gadgets in the film and they aren’t really that cool. One is a coat with a string you pull to create a fully enclosed bubble. You know, because MI6 knew when Bond was going to Azerbaijan that he would be involved in an avalanche. The other are x-ray glasses, which provide some comedic relief as Bond is able to see the undergarments of various beautiful ladies in a casino, but other than that they are not utilized that much. I think Bond could have been able to tell who was carrying and who wasn’t on his own. He is a secret agent, right.
Elektra is played by French actress Sophie Marceau, which I make a point in mentioning right off the bat because she is the best part of the character. I really liked her in this film and she makes for a compelling Bond girl. She is the broken daughter of the millionaire, who has gone through a brutal kidnapping and has just lost her father, yet she is tough as nails, and really beautiful, and sexy, to boot. But she is also a mystery, and as the film plays out we soon learn that she is one of the baddies, which is a great touch from the screenwriters, making a Bond girl who was both good and bad, one with some balls, for lack of a better term. She is very seductive, and ultimately a bit reckless.
Dr. Christmas Jones
And then there was Christmas Jones, perhaps the most unfortunate Bond girl ever. As I was going through the film getting the screenshots for this review, I came across Dr. Jones and said to myself, “Ugh, do I have to?” I just want to be able forget this ever happened to this franchise. And I really do blame it all on Denise Richards. She is a beautiful woman, but she is downright awful in this film. Get her out of there! I feel sorry for everyone else who had to do any scenes with her because she really made everyone else look like they deserved awards or something. The character herself isn’t even that good. What is she doing at that nuclear facility. She is an American working amongst all these Russians and other people? What? Okay, whatever, and then the name thing, wow. I hope they didn’t do it all for that lame joke at the end of the film.
The Car & the Chase
The car this time around actually isn’t a big player. It shows up momentarily, but isn’t that interesting, although I can tell you it is a cool BMW convertible. But there are some good chase scenes. The first is the boat scene in the opening sequence, which I’ve already discussed. There is also a weird ski chase scene. Yes, Bond is back at the skiing thing, and even Elektra has to hand it to him, he is a good skier. But they are chased by these snowmobiles which were dropped out of the sky (from where!?) and have propellers and parachutes to essentially be able to fly in their pursuit of Elektra and Bond on the remote slopes of Azerbaijan.
This film really starts with a bang with one of the best opening sequences in the series in my opinion. And it was all down hill from there. The mystery and action of that opening scene would go unmatched the whole rest of the film. And I really felt a lot of that had to do with the director choice here: Michael Apted. The name is one I do not readily recognize, but upon looking up his filmography, I can see why. On his resume before this film, the only two I recognized were Nell and Coal Miner’s Daughter, and while I have seen neither (though I have caught parts of Nell somewhere at somepoint), neither film screams Bond director to me. Sure, they may be good movies in their own right, but a Bond film is a horse of a different color, which raises the same questions as hiring Sam Mendes as the director of Bond 23, but despite not loving this film, I am still hopeful, especially based on my experiences with the man’s work.
But seriously, one of the major issues I had with the film, past the opening sequence, about which I have no complaints, is the staging of the action sequences. They felt really stale to me and I didn’t like the direction. The Valentin warehouse scene was great on paper, but the ridiculousness of the helicopter saw things really dampened it. Also, it seemed like all it was was stuff getting blown up. None of it was all that exciting to me and felt really manufactured, about as manufactured as Denise Richards’ delivery of her lines. Alright, alright, I’ve already been down that road and I’m not gonna beat a dead horse, but Richards was a big steaming pile of suck in this.
There were some good things about the movie, believe it or not. Pierce Brosnan was good again, though he has been better in the previous two films. And like I said, I liked Robbie Coltrane, even if I didn’t like Valentin and his involvement in the story. But I also liked the underlying idea behind the film. I love the idea of a Bond girl who appears good and innocent who goes evil against Bond and isn’t afraid to do so. I even liked Carlyle as Renard. But what I didn’t like was how the whole situation was handled. Usually I am not the one to poke holes in movies, especially like a Bond film which generally asks you to suspend disbelief, but there was so much I was questioning. It was really taking me out of the movie all throughout, which probably aided in my failing to maintain attention BOTH times I watched it in the past week. I watched it once, and then when we delayed the reviews I decided to refresh my memory again before writing this review. My memory should not have needed refreshing. That is a bad sign.
A really forgettable film from the Bond franchise and what a tragedy that is given its, and Desmond Llewelyn’s, track record with the series. But I can say with all my heart that there isn’t a Q moment I dislike. Well, I guess there was the perverted camera robot at the end of A View to a Kill, but truthfully, Llewelyn has provided much of the reason behind my love of the franchise, and his consistency in the series is a major anchor for its success in my opinion. I will take that and the opening sequence from the film, and forget the rest, which was ultimately a disappointing adaptation of what seems like a great idea for a Bond film. Apted was a strange choice, and stranger still is the fact that out of the four Brosnan films, four different directors were used, which is something the series has traditionally avoided with the likes of John Glen, Guy Hamilton and Terence Young. Because of this, and general lack of memory, I am worried to enter the next installment in this marathon. But it does give me the opportunity to re-evaluate Rosamund Pike, who I never would have known would become one of my favorite actresses working today the last time I saw Die Another Day. I’m not even much hopeful there either.
James Bond will return in…