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Topic: In Defence of The World Is Not Enough

In Defence of The World Is Not Enough


A review of a Bond film that I would consider to be underrated- moving into the 1990s...



The World Is Not Enough opens with an exhilarating jolt of adrenalin as James Bond pursues a fleeing assassin down the River Thames by speed-boat, taking in several London landmarks en route in a dazzling display of pyrotechnic flair. But despite all the scene’s agile stuntwork and refined visual wit, the chase ends on something of a darker, melancholy note, as Bond fails to dissuade the killer from committing suicide rather than give up the name of her employer, and a desperate 007 tumbles defeated towards the ground below. In some respects, therefore, this pre-title sequence could be taken as a representative statement of the entire film’s intentions; a Bond adventure in which emotion and action play equally Important roles in the narrative. This is a difficult tonal balance to strike, and one I would argue that few instalments in the series have managed to fully achieve.  On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Casino Royale spring to mind as examples. Another candidate for a Bond film which manages to similarly mesh character drama with light relief, confidently balancing both elements with success, is The World Is Not Enough. An often overlooked instalment in the pantheon when placed beside the swaggering ridiculousness of Die Another Day, I would contend that, considered on its own merits, Pierce Brosnan’s third Bond film stands as perhaps the single most underrated film in the series.


The adventure’s plot structure is intriguing in how it actively defies series conventions from the outset; rather than the usual device of Bond being sent to investigate a billionaire business figure with the goal of uncovering their links with criminal activities (as in Goldfinger et al.), here 007 is assigned to protect wealthy oil tycoon Elektra King from terrorist attack. This is an interesting change to the formula for two reasons. Firstly, given that Bond’s mission is essentially to act as Elektra’s bodyguard rather than to infiltrate or sabotage a villain’s organisation, it shoehorns 007 into a more passive and vulnerable role than we are used to seeing him; instead of seeking out his foes, Bond can only wait for the threat of Renard’s revenge to become reality. Secondly, Bond’s assignment to defend Elektra removes the antagonistic verbal sparring that usually marks 007’s first encounters with his enemies, paving the way for a much more interesting character dynamic between Bond and his nemesis than usual. Bond’s relationship with Elektra, hauntingly played by Sophie Marceau, is among the more intriguing Bond-villain pairings in the franchise.  Initially protective and romantic towards Elektra, Bond’s feelings later turn unsure and distrustful, before radiating a cold anger with the realisation of his ultimate betrayal; furious, and yet unable to completely discard his initial pity for Elektra’s plight. This is a complex and emotionally charged portrayal of Bond, more a throwback to the sensitive nuances of Dalton’s Bond than the charismatic machismo of Connery or Moore, and Pierce Brosnan responds by delivering probably his best-acted turn in the role as 007. From the icy ruthlessness of the confrontations in the banker’s office and the nuclear silo, to the warm humour of the scenes with Desmond Llewelyn’s Q in his final appearance, to the tensions between Bond and M and Bond and Elektra, Brosnan’s performance is a highlight of the film, and his interactions with Marceau’s Elektra foreshadow the bluntly emotional portrayal of 007 that would later come to define the Daniel Craig era as the series moved into the twenty-first century.


The sophisticated central character drama between Bond and Elektra suffuses the film with emotional core, while The World Is Not Enough also manages to assemble a number of memorable action sequences to match. The opening boat chase is lengthy yet thrilling, while the battle in the underground silo is pacy and well-staged. The final fight to the death between Bond and the brutish Renard, meanwhile, effectively defies expectations by taking place in the cramped and claustrophobic close quarters of a sinking submarine rather than the environs of a grandly sprawling lair, as had been the case with previous films in the series such as You Only Live Twice and The Spy Who Loved Me. Michael Apted’s direction is low-key but efficient, while David Arnold’s score lends the action scenes some highly energetic flourishes.



While The World Is Not Enough isn’t without its flaws, the film’s combination of gripping character drama with inventive and kinetic action sequences make it a better addition to the series than its’ often given credit for. Ultimately, The World Is Not Enough’s strengths render it a thrilling, emotionally intelligent and engaging instalment in the series that shines a fresh and challenging light on the character of James Bond.

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Re: In Defence of The World Is Not Enough

Thank you, SoD. Nice to have another member of the TWINE fan club on board.

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Re: In Defence of The World Is Not Enough

A efficient take on a deficient movie.

Too many pointless, long drawn out action scenes, dreadful attempts at humour, not one but two unconvincing heavies (Reynard and Mr Bullion), an unlikely central romance, M playing the mother- role to Elektra's errant daughter, one of the poorest heroines, a terrible dirge of a song, Xray spex... need I go on?

On the plus side, I agree 100% this is Brosnan's best performance as 007. He brings much needed empathy in those awkward romantic scenes (awkward because the dialogue is crass), I enjoy his early anger as he recognises M's vendetta and his pain at Elektra's death. Nice to see Robbie Coltrane back too, but as in GE his role is underused.

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Re: In Defence of The World Is Not Enough

chrisno1 wrote:

M playing the mother- role to Elektra's errant daughter

This is listed as a negative point. Why do you see it as such?

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Re: In Defence of The World Is Not Enough

Barbel wrote:
chrisno1 wrote:

M playing the mother- role to Elektra's errant daughter

This is listed as a negative point. Why do you see it as such?

Because as head of MI6 she needs to make rational decisions which do not endanger her country's interests, her agent's and employees lives and the lives of others, as well as her own. Her response first to King's assassination and then Elektra's childishly pathetic cry for help are not measured in those terms at all.

In some ways it sets the tone for what developed in Craig's era parts 1,2,3. All that galavanting around the globe after a boy who is clearly the arrogant, but so annoyingly successful, son she never had.

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Re: In Defence of The World Is Not Enough

good analysis! I like this one too!
my favourite of the four Brosnans, maybe of the last eight.

I don't think this more emotional Bond is an anomaly within Brosnan's era - his Bond had uniquely philosophical moments in all his films, but those moments came and went pretty quick in the others, and were immediately forgotten. Whereas in this film his emotional state is the story.

I have a problem with the action sequences aside from the Thames chase: overlong and I don't find them that coherent. The final fight on the sub is anticlimactic after Elektra's death, and goes on so long the impact of the real climax is forgotten by the time the film ends.
And Christmas Jones of course: not even needed to make the plot work.
If those elements could somehow be minimised or removed this'd be close to a perfect movie.

I like the dirge of a song! sounds more authentically Bond-ian than any that have come since.

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Re: In Defence of The World Is Not Enough

chrisno1 wrote:
Barbel wrote:
chrisno1 wrote:

M playing the mother- role to Elektra's errant daughter

This is listed as a negative point. Why do you see it as such?

Because as head of MI6 she needs to make rational decisions which do not endanger her country's interests, her agent's and employees lives and the lives of others, as well as her own. Her response first to King's assassination and then Elektra's childishly pathetic cry for help are not measured in those terms at all.

In some ways it sets the tone for what developed in Craig's era parts 1,2,3. All that galavanting around the globe after a boy who is clearly the arrogant, but so annoyingly successful, son she never had.

M playing the mother role is in many ways the heart of the story and part of the point is that she plays it to both Bond and Elektra- making their relationship symbolically incestous and one M specifically warns against. It's supposed to affect her abilities to perform her duties; her faculties are clouded by her emotional attachment to both of her symbolic children. This theme will be repeated in SF, although with a different outcome, of course.
Thanks for explaining why you see it as a negative point.

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Re: In Defence of The World Is Not Enough

No problems, Barbel.
Your point is well made and I do recognise this in the characters - but I don't agree with it. I've been watching Killing Eve recently and I much prefer Fiona Shaw's interpretation of a spymaster, calculating,  cold, efficient,  deductive. Although, if anything, here the writers push too far the opposite way.

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Re: In Defence of The World Is Not Enough

I see M's response to her friend's assassination as similar to Flemings version of For Your Eyes Only, where Fleming's M uses his employee to carry out a mission of personal vengeance following a similar event. Emotionally motivated and I assume highly illegal if it ever came to light.
The World is Not Enough, being a feature film, has the space to explore the implications of M's choice.

Chris what do you think of M's behaviour in that short story? (just cuz Fleming wrote it doesn't make it all right of course)

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Re: In Defence of The World Is Not Enough

caractacus potts wrote:

Chris what do you think of M's behaviour in that short story? (just cuz Fleming wrote it doesn't make it all right of course)

That's a good point re: FYEO. The producers / writers always like to drop a titbit of Fleming / post-Fleming into these movies, don't they?

I haven't read the short story in sometime. My memory is that M recognises it's a dirty bit of illegal business, hence the EYES ONLY document.  Isn't von Hammerstein supposed to be an ex-Nazi or East German or both? There was, I felt, a shadow of the Cold War of Cowboys and Indians (to paraphrase Fleming) hanging over the novella; that the Communists shouldn't be allowed to just go around snatching land and killing folks. In fact, as the novella plays out, it has a slightly wild west feel to it: the lone hero, orphaned wench, nasty baddies hiding in a rancho, a climatic gunfight.

Anyway, back to M. On reflection, I dont think it is out of character for him to seek retribution or justice. I think it is unusual for him to seek it in such a blunt fashion. I'd like to believe he might have tried to dream up a plausible reason for the assassination to take place.

Most of the villains in Fleming's novels are not under sentence of death, only under investigation. Their demise comes about at Bond's hands, but not specifically to M's orders. I think only this tale, its predecessor FAVTAK and, famously, TLD feature direct orders to kill.