Sunday, October 5, 2008


The 19th installment in the James Bond film franchise "The World Is Not Enough" (**** out of ****) looks poised and muscular enough to renew the famous British secret service agent's license to kill for the next century. In the right hands, this predictable but dependable formula of sex, violence, witty dialogue, elaborate plotting, and epic villainy rarely misses. Comparatively, "The World Is Not Enough" shares the spirit of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" and "Octopussy." All Bond movies are alike, of course, but this escapade differs in its gallery of villains, its serpentine plotting, and its elegant but aggressive verve. The imaginative screenplay by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Bruce Feirstein features dramatic bedrock. Although the filmmakers have dispersed the usual spectacular special effects and high octane action stunts throughout "TWINE," strong, solid characters and an interesting plot are what hold this actioneer together. Unlike the sinewy "Tomorrow Never Dies," "Twine" unfolds with a seamless grace instead of as a string of impressive episodes lashed together by an acrobatic plot. Happily, story takes precedence here. If you're not careful, the surprises may actually catch you by surprise.

Naturally, the villains operate on a grand scale. For the record, "TWINE" weaves a mysterious web about nuclear terrorists out to destroy an unfinished oil pipeline across Western Asia to Istanbul. First, they blow-up petroleum tycoon Sir Robert King (David Calder of TV's sci-fi series "Star Cops") right under 007's nose in an explosive assassination in the heart of MI 6's headquarters in London. Second, they go gunning for Sir Robert's gorgeous daughter, Elektra (Sophie Marceau). Initially, M (Judi Dench) doesn't want James Bond protecting Elektra because he injured himself during a hot pursuit of the assassin who killed Sir Robert. Bond seduces the spy agency doctor and receives a clean bill of health, so M reluctantly assigns a vengeful 007 to serve as Elektra's bodyguard. The assassins appear in droves. Bond still nurses a dislocated collarbone from his first bout with these brigands in the dazzling pre-credit action sequence. The boat chase that occurs down the Thames near MI 6 HQ after Sir Robert is blown to bits gets "TWINE" off to a rip-roaring start. 007 steers a special mini-rocket powered speed boat that allows him to turn aerial flips and submerge to avoid hitting water barriers. He tries to capture the murderous hit lady, but she commits suicide in a hot air balloon while Bond dangles beneath her on a tether. Putting a bullet into one of the balloon's propulsion canisters, she atomizes herself. Bond falls and dislocates his collarbone when he bounces off the roof of a building. This physical flaw lends his 007 a modicum of vulnerability and something for the wily villains to exploit. Meanwhile, as 007's ruthless opponent, Reynard (Robert Carlyle of "The Full Monty") has survived a prior execution attempt by MI 6. Apparently, 009 put a bullet in Reynard's brain, but the resilient bad guy keeps on going. The slug severed Reynard's nerves, so he feels no pain and grows stronger than ever! Reynard plans to steal a nuclear device and smuggle it on board a Russian submarine as a part of his diabolical plot. Robbie Coltrane, who first appeared in "GoldenEye" as the hefty criminal mastermind Valentin Zukovsky, returns as the same character in a much larger, more forceful role.

The action scenes are better than ever, and Bond finds himself in some truly tough spots. The snow chase where a squadron of parahawks, parachute sailing boats with skis equipped with machine guns, attack 007 is the stuff of which adrenalin is made. At one point, Bond uses one of his tricks from "OHMSS" to fool the villains and send them over the snow cliff. In another scene, helicopters equipped with huge buzz saws that can slice through metal objects like a blow-torch through butter come after our hero.

Director Michael ("Gorillas in the Mist") Apt gives everybody in "TWINE" a chance to display their thespian talents. Pierce Brosnan shows why he is still playing Bond. He brings even greater depth and presence to the role than he did in his first two outings. Brosnan has developed a signature gesture for his James Bond that he employed with great success in "GoldenEye" during the tank chase. At the appropriate moment, the dapper 007 adjusts the knot of his tie at this throat. Indeed, Bond tangles with a tough, vicious bunch, but his ability to improvise gives him an edge. These villains give Bond a real run for his money.

As the evil Reynard, Carlyle resembles Darth Vader with his helmet removed, but this gifted English actor invests his villain with more emotional resonance than the usual Bond baddie. Because he is slowly dying from the bullet in this brain, Reynard fears nobody and nothing. Meanwhile, Sophie Marceau excels as Bond's shady leading lady. Electra King has more strength and substance than the typical Bond girl. As James Bond's girl Friday, Denise Richards continues the trend begun in "GoldenEye" that the women are not only good looking but intelligent. Dr. Christmas Jones, a high level nuclear weapons expert, helps Bond out of a tight scrape or two. The best news is that the story gives Judi Dench her biggest role as M. She makes the most of her first opportunity to venture out of her inner sanctum into the dangerous world of 007.

"The World Is Not Enough" qualifies as a top-notch thrillathon of bullets, babes, bad guys, and Bond, James Bond!

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