The Bond: Purely in terms of performance, this might be Pierce Brosnan’s best Bond. He gets to be tough and wry while also showing shades of jealousy, bitterness and even a degree of romantic obsession.
The Release: November 19, 1999 in the US and the 26th in the UK. It grossed $126.9 million domestically and $361.8 million worldwide.
The Girl/Villain: While we spend much of the film believing Robert Carlyle’s terrorist character, Renard, is our villain, it’s actually Sophie Marceau’s Elektra King. Acting ability is rarely not always a requirement of being a Bond girl and Marceau–fresh off a critically acclaimed performance in Braveheart opposite Mel Gibson–is the reason the twist works. She makes Elektra a complete person, damaged and in need of protection at the beginning and fierce and cruel at the end. She seems even stronger in comparison to nuclear physicist Christmas Jones (who is not so much played by Denise Richards as used to deliver exposition and wear tight t-shirts).
The Gadgets: I’m tempted to say the coolest gadget in this film is the para-snowmobiles that chase Bond and Elektra down a mountain, but it feels wrong to pick enemy tech when this is Q actor Desmond Llewelyn’s last film. Llewelyn died in a car accident a few weeks after The World is Not Enough premiered, but he was already preparing to step back, which is why John Cleese is introduced here as Q’s successor. Bond and Q poke fun at Cleese’s more bumbling, harried energy and then Q bids his farewell, saying that one of the things he’s tried to teach Bond is to, “always have an escape plan,” as he’s lowered into the floor. It’s as good a send off as a beloved character could hope to have.
The Song: “The World is Not Enough” by Garbage. It’s not a great theme, but it’s also not terrible. The tune itself is really catchy and reminiscent of classic Bond ballades, but Shirley Manson’s vocals sound a little outdated now.
The Book: The World is Not Enough is slightly more related to Fleming’s Bond than GoldenEye or Tomorrow Never Dies, but not by much. The title comes from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service–both the film and the movie–where it’s mentioned as the Bond family motto. Plot-wise, Bond being sent on a mission after the death of M’s friend and meeting the orphaned daughter recalls the short story, “For Your Eyes Only”.
The Movie: The World is Not Enough feels like two movies smashed together. The first stars Sophie Marceau and is about family, gender politics and Bond’s difficulties with women. The second tries to convince the audience that Denise Richards could be a nuclear physicist. The second movie keeps the first from being great.
Though the Elektra half of the movie has its problems. Ian Fleming used a history of rape as part of many female characters’ backstories and it’s initially used here to make Elektra a victim. However, it’s eventually revealed that not only has she been working with Renard since he kidnapped her years before, but she’s used her sexual power over him to manipulate him for her own purposes ever since. However, that’s all undercut later by the suggestion that Elektra’s actions are driven by a sort of Stockholm Syndrome.
After her capture, M attempts to shame Renard for “what [he] did” to Elektra and he counters that she’s really to blame for leaving Elektra in his clutches during the initial kidnapping. The suggestion there is that he thinks he’s ultimately in control, but it’s hard to tell from his and Elektra’s private moments. Renard seems genuinely in love with her, but it’s unclear how much she’s placating him versus how much she actually likes him. I prefer the version where Elektra is in control throughout because it doesn’t essentially erase her guilt by blaming it on a mental issue.
Regardless of the ultimate cause, Elektra’s actions profoundly affect Bond. He immediately becomes cruel once he realizes she’s been working with Renard, but she is even crueler. “You wouldn’t kill me,” she taunts as Bond chases her, “you’d miss me.” Bond seems to know she’s right and the movie even confirms it when, after he shoots her point blank, Bond leans down to caress her one last time. M, walking in on the moment, even seems to think this will change him. Or at least it should.
Instead of letting Bond really ponder his lost love or what it means for him as a spy that he was so easily fooled, writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (who’ve at least worked on every succeeding Bond script through Spectre) distract him with a spare girl. Christmas Jones’s sassiness parades as strength and complexity and she’s more obnoxious than useful. Granted, her existence makes possible my very favorite line in the whole of the Bond franchise: while in bed, Bond jokes that he, “Thought Christmas only comes once a year.” Still, that’s little consolation when the movie would have been much better without her.