001. The story
After a British tycoon is murdered, James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is assigned to protect Elektra King – the dead man’s daughter – from former ex-KGB terrorist Renard, a man with mayhem perpetually on his mind thanks to a bullet wedged in his brain. After a whistle-stop, skiing and sex tour of the former Soviet republics, Bond belatedly twigs that Elektra is actually working with Renard in a dastardly scheme that involves lucrative oil pipelines and revenge on Judi Dench for making nine series of As Time Goes By.
Through his trademark combination of the urban and the urbane, the Irish 007 saves the day and pulls a feisty physicist who dresses like Lara Croft and possesses a ridiculously festive name. ‘I thought Christmas only once comes a year,’ he purrs at (literally) the climax.
002. The villains
Renard (Robert Carlyle) is an unremarkable baddie, the shell lodged in his cerebral cortex apparently having robbed him of his personality as well as the ability to feel pain.
However, Sophie Marceau’s Elektra King is not only the most beautiful Bond girl of all time (oh yes she is) but also a memorable villainess in her own right, her vulnerably errant facade concealing an egotistical psycho beneath. Even the ordinarily stoic 007 is affected – for a while, anyway – by having to shoot the Stockholm Syndrome-d seductress.
003. The girls
Marceau is so wonderfully watchable in every way that poor old Denise Richards is always playing second fiddle as Dr Christmas Jones, a forgettable character named simply to give Bond a saucy payoff line at the end of the film.
004. Best moments
The opening boat chase down the Thames is possibly the finest – and definitely the longest – pre-credit sequence in Bond’s history, a stunning mini-movie of stunts and a tantalising teaser for what follows. The sight of the Millennium Dome in its original guise is a rare example of a Bond film containing something explicitly contemporaneous that doesn’t feel dated upon repeat viewings.
» This was Desmond Llewellyn’s seventeenth and final appearance in the series. He died in a road accident in December 1999, shortly after the film’s release. John Cleese makes his first appearance as Q’s assistant and successor, nicknamed ‘R’ by Bond.
» The film’s title is the translation of the Bond’s Latin family motto, “Orbis non sufficit”, given to George Lazenby’s Bond while researching his coat of arms in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (a film subtly referenced throughout).
» The girlie photos on the walls in returning Russian mafia boss Valentin Zukovsky’s operations room are of former Bond girls.
» A portrait of Bernard Lee, the original M, is hanging on a wall inside the Scottish MI6 base.
» Denise Richards was awarded a Razzie in the category of Worst Supporting Actress for her performance.
006. Best quotes
» ‘Would you like to check my figures?’ a girl asks. ‘I’m sure they’re perfectly rounded,’ Bond deadpans.
» ‘Remember, 007: shadows always remain in front or behind… never on top.’
» ‘Oh Moneypenny, the story of our relationship,’ our hero laments after some Bill Clinton-esque flirting has gone awry. ‘Close, but no cigar.’
» ‘Can’t you just say “hello” like a normal person?’
» ‘Now pay attention, 007. I’ve always tried to teach you two things: First, never let them see you bleed.’ ‘And the second?’ a visibly moved Bond asks. ‘Always have an escape plan,’ the venerable quartermaster replies as a hidden platform lowers him through the floor.
007. The verdict
In a photo finish with GoldenEye, 1999’s The World is Not Enough emerges as Brosnan’s best movie by a nose. It’s funny, moving, sexy, thrilling and (three minutes of Garbage aside) never dull.
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