Saturday, 30 June 2012

The Suit Is Not Enough

It's 1999. We don't want to see a Bond film instantly dated with fads or references to the Millennium Bug so we have a convoluted romp centred around irradiating the Black Sea in the name of love. Oh, and the Millennium Dome.  Oh, and the Clampers.

Yes, before it was the O2 and a soulless gig venue bastard-hard to get out of at the end of the night, the Millennium Dome was a humble white elephant prime for pre credit sequence chase.  It takes quite a while to get there. We begin with Pierce Brosnan being suave and mildly racist in a bankers' office in Bilbao recovering some ransom money.  Quite why 007 is being sent on an errand like this is unclear. Anyway, a flashbang later and Bond is off pursuing a would be assassin after jumping through a window to (quite ingeniously) escape la policia.  Bond picks up the chase after the money he recovered is used to ventilate the building that we-weren't-supposed-to-know-about opposite the Tate Modern.  Cheeky bugger nicks Q's boat. A neat little boat that manages to be able to not only submerge long enough for Brosnan to do his trademark tie adjustment but can also drive through a restaurant.  We're not up to Moore era silliness but as with Tomorrow Never Dies we're veering ever closer.  To cut a cheesy chase short we end up at the Dome (no sign of the Mitchell Brothers) and watch a hot air balloon go pop and drop Brosnan onto the roof.  What looks like a giant tent seems to be made of fibreglass. And we're into Garbage after the longest pre credit sequence so far.


Bond is put on the inactive roster before convincing his doctor of his 'stamina'. Saves him from resigning again, I suppose.  My GP doesn't wear French knickers but Dr Molly Warmflash does, albeit not for very long when Brosnan is around.  Much to Moneypenny's chagrin Bond is given a mission. The money recovered in the pre credit sequence was a ransom paid to release Elektra King from Renard (the former KGB and now super-terrorist). Bond is now tasked to protect King from Renard returning after a mumsy turn by M.  Renard is a freak with a bullet stuck in his head which is killing off his senses and turning him into a superman before it kills him. An interesting premise, perhaps Robert Carlyle will be allowed to run amok as Renard.  Perhaps not.  Much is made of Renard meaning 'the fox' but Carlyle is largely wasted and reduced to a dodgy Russki accent in a windbreaker. A real shame compared to the performance in Cracker that made him famous.  Brosnan's baddies have been lacking in true menace and distinction. Carlyle gets about as much screen time as Curt Jurgens' Stromberg did but has none of the grandeur.

Come on shoot me. I won't feel shit.

It tends to be a mark of US TV series' that are running out of ideas to draft in special guest stars to keep the ratings up. So far Brosnan's Bonds have been hinting at this (Teri Hatcher) but now fully embrace the idea. Hence a cringeworthy skit with John Cleese and the fulsome arrival of Denise Richards. Richards might walk like a bloke but I won't hold it against her.  John Cleese is presented to us as 'R', he's replacing 'Q'.  Unfortunately the played for laughs scenes fall flat and the slapstick juxtaposes awkwardly with the poignant goodbye to Desmond Llewellyn.

Never let them see you bleed
Llewellyn's retirement deserved more, even more so when it preceded his passing after the premiere. It's a marked annoyance that this movie wasn't even dedicated to his memory on it's DVD release.  You're genuinely sad to see Q lowered through the floor as you realise that you'll never see him again.  For the scenes as Moore's stooge there were always the times he gave Connery the verbal slap he needed. Then there were the shirts. Those amazing Hawaiian shirts.  We miss you Major Boothroyd.

Bond is drafted to Baku to give protection to Elektra King.  Of course, she is reluctant to accept but as is true of the Brosnan era, is swayed by our new 'vulnerable' Bond.  A roll in a puffa jacket is followed by a roll between the sheets before we become truly suspicious of King. She pops along to a casino and the return of Robbie Coltrane and slips him a million before Bond schleps off to Kazakhstan. His tour of the furthest reaches of the UEFA playground is done posing as Davidov (apparently a double agent for King and Renard).

Don't all nuclear scientists dress like this?
Enter Dr Christmas Jones; a nuclear scientist. Bond, now posing as a Russian nuclear maestro, hops down a missile silo to discover Renard stealing a nuke. The foxy bastard gets away with it as Jones blows Bonds cover trapping them in the rigged silo.  A typically explosive escape sees Bond introduce himself properly to Dr Jones.  Jones now, for unknown reason, accompanies Bond back to Baku where we find M out of the office. In truly predictable style M's sojourn from behind her desk ends in disaster as she is kidnapped by King. After faking his own death in a tunnel Bond now has to stop Renard and rescue M.  It's all too much.

An infodump from Coltrane in a caviar factory and we now piece together King and Renard's schemes.  Rather tediously all about oil with a smattering of revenge.  A fist fight on a submarine before Renard is on the receiving end of a nuclear dildo and we all reach the predictable climax. Twice in Dr Jones' case, leading to the most cringeworthy oneliner EVER. Even Roger would've had objections to that one.

The World Is Not Enough is pleasant enough but as pointed out by King, it's a 'foolish sentiment'.  What could have been a tense exploration of Stockholm Syndrome and revenge is wrapped up in a tailored three piece suit and played for cheap laughs. It's now symptomatic of the Brosnan era that Bond is all style over substance.  It's a shame as when I first watched the Brosnan Bonds they were enjoyable and fresh. Now they can be viewed as what they are: marketing vehicles for a franchise trying to tap the MTV generation fifteen years too late.  The script has improved since Tomorrow Never Dies but the pacing is still appalling and everything seems rushed.  The trouble is it's going to get (a lot) worse before it gets better.

James Bond will return but you'll wish he bloody hadn't.

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