The Weekly Bond Countdown: #17 – The World is Not Enough (1999)

If Goldeneye is clearly Brosnan’s best film, then The World is Not Enough is probably his second best (although that is not a stretch).

Compared to Tomorrow Never Dies, which feels like a throwback to every over the top spy (spoof) film, The World is Not Enough feels more grounded, and more like a Bond film.  The plot (and the overall tone) is more serious and personal for both Bond and M (Judi Dench).

I think what makes The World is Not Enough stand out for me is not Bond at all, but the main villain, Elektra King (Sophie Marceau).  Without a doubt, she is definitely the real star of the film. This she-devil fooled everyone closed to her.  She was a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  When everyone was chasing after Renard (Robert Carlyle), she was able sneak under the radar and solidify her plans.

The thing I admired the most about her is her ability to play the victim in one scene and then suddenly switch to a psychotic criminal mastermind.  Another thing – the main villain was a woman!

There are not many opportunities where this has occurred (if hardly at all).  The usual trend in a Bond film would be the female character catering to her evil boss and his needs for world domination if she was on the other side.  But in this film, Elektra was the boss and without sounding sexist, it is a welcomed change from the norm.

Elektra King was ambitious, the same as every red-blooded human being.  She was calculating and had no problems with having her father killed in revenge for his non co-operation when she was kidnapped.  She played the victim when she reveals to Renard the extent of how far she would go.  During her kidnapping, she had partly cut off her ear to show the outside world “her treatment” and show her father his failure for not paying the ransom and dangling her as bait.  It makes you wonder, who was to be feared more?  Renard, a man who was slowly dying from a bullet moving towards his brain whilst cutting off every nerve cell in his body so he can’t feel pain?  Or is it Elektra, who was a calculating, manipulative, she-devil, Stockholm syndrome loving yet insanely beautiful woman?  I think I know who wins in this situation.

Because she is a woman, I think she accomplishes one thing that most Bond villains fail to do, and that is to really get under Bond’s skin.  Early on in the film, Bond sympathizes with her.  She had been through an ordeal – her father’s death, taking over the family business, trying to re-invent herself whilst at the same time battle memories from her kidnapping.  It’s no wonder Bond sleeps with her!  But it’s when Bond starts to wake up, and realizes what she’s doing, Elektra still pushes him, taunts him and makes him feel like he’s against her.  Again, she plays the victim card, and since Bond’s natural weakness is a beautiful woman, Elektra is able to continue to play the game however she sees fits.  It’s an amazing character development in contrast to Denise Richards who must have been hired simply to be eye candy for Bond.  So one dimensional – what parent in their right mind would name their child Christmas?

Unfortunately that amazing character development gets swallowed by over the top action scenes (with exception of the awesome boat chase in London) and trying to do everything in a grand nature.  The helicopters with the giant tree chopping saws being case highlight.

I guess the only thing disappointing about Elektra is her death and again it leads back to Brosnan’s Bond not being able to dwell on what this woman had done to him.  She tortures him, mentally and physically and when Bond aims his gun at her, she again teases him and taunts him that he can’t pull the trigger.  Bond eventually does.

Now I get Bond is a cold killer spy – absolutely 100% I do.  Yet this woman did a number on him.  Now I’ve seen in past Bond films such as From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service to The Man with the Golden Gun, where Bond has manhandled a woman, just to get information.  But kill a woman?  That’s a first, especially since he thinks women are pleasures in life.  Surely that goes against his ethics?  In fact her death was dealt in the same fashion as Paris Carver’s death in Tomorrow Never Dies – a kiss on the cheek before literally leaping in grand fashion to the next big action set play.    In fact, it is M who shows the emotional shock that Bond killed a woman when it should have been the other way round.  It should be Bond acknowledging what he’s done, and M reminding him of his duties.  If M acted dispassionately in this scene, it would have been totally justified.  Don’t forget, the psycho, she-devil bitch tried to kill her!  And if you want further vindication of my point, the beginning of Skyfall shows Bond being concern about a fellow agent being shot.  He tries to stop the bleeding and yet M reminds him of what’s at stake.  It is that small moment of Bond’s concern that shows him as human.  Yes he knows the rules of the game, but it’s nice to see a character break it for a change and it should have been deployed in this film.

Nevertheless, this film should also be remembered for the last on-screen appearance of Q (Desmond Llewelyn).  He passed away shortly after this film was released in 1999.  For a man who had saved Bond countless of times with his gadgets since From Russia With Love, Q is without a doubt, an underrated hero.

It feels fitting to end this review with his last on-screen words…

Q: I’ve always tried to teach you two things. First, never let them see you bleed.

James Bond: And the second?

Q: Always have an escape plan.

The Countdown So Far:

Check back next week Wednesday to find out which Bond film comes in at #16.


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