Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel

The World Is Not Enough (UK-US,1999) *

Directed by Michael Apted. Written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Bruce Feirstein, based on a story by Purvis and Wade. Photography, Adrian Biddle. Editing, Jim Clark. Production design, Peter Lamont. Music David Arnold ("The WorldIs Not Enough" theme perf ormed by Garbage and written by Arnold and Don Black) Produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara BroccoliCast: Pierce Brosnan (James Bond), Sophie Marceau (Elektra), Robert Carlyle (Renard),Denise Richards (Christmas Jones), Robbie Coltrane (Valentin Zukov sky), Desmond Llewelyn , John Cleese , Maria Grazia Cucinotta (Cigar Girl), Samantha Bond (Moneypenny), Michael Kitchen (Tanner), Colin Salmon (Robinson), Serena Scott Thomas (Dr. Molly Warmflash), Ulrich Thomsen (Davidov), John Seru (Gabor), Claude-Olive r Rudolph (Colonel Akakievich) , Dame Judi Dench (M) An MGM release. 128 minutes. PG-13

James Bond flicks are among my un-guilty pleasures. They include not only the Sean Connery vehicles but also the oft-maligned Roger Moores, Timothy Daltons and the underrated George Lazenby in " On Her Majesty's Secret Service." Pierce Brosnan I could t ake or leave. His are not Pierce-Arrows among Bonds. But the latest one, "The World is Not Enough," is a pain.

It also pains me to be negative about director Michael Apted's first (I think) action-action pic, when Apted has several excellent or at least solid works: "Triple Echo," "Agatha," "Coal Miner's Daughter," "Gorky Park," ," "Gorillas in the Mist," Class Action," "Incident at Oglala," "Thunderheart," "Nell."

Better yet, he is the maker of the documentary "Seven Up" (1964) which follows a number of kids in the UK. Its artistic/sociological success made Apted follow it up with the same subjects seven years later (in "Seven Plus Seven"), then in "21 Up," "28 Up, " "35 Up." Now being released in the U.S.A is "42 Up." The first reports are most positive.

Should James Bond henceforth be called James Moribund? The latest entry relies exclusively on derring-do, much of it borrowed from earlier Bonds. Enough is enough, especially when the plot, such as it is, consists of a collage of sequences which not only scream "deja vu," but are by and large uninteresting and characterless -- as are most of the characters in the story.

"The World is Not Enough" (an awkward title that signifies nothing) floats on a sea of excesses, without any of the novelty, humor and amusing sophistication of many earlier Bonds. It opens in a promising locale, Bilbao in Spain, yet the sequence's heroi cs feel pasted on. It gets worse in London, with a dumb chase and duel of hydrofoils on the Thames, capped by a balloon. It is all SFX (special effects) and nothing else. Then come the credits which -- as in an omen -- specify that the title song is perfo rmed by Garbage.

Bond goes to Baku in Azerbaijan, then to Kazakhstan, then to the Caspian Sea, then to Istanbul --and perhaps other places ending in "stan" for his exploits. His original assignment is to protect Elektra, the daughter of an assassinated oil tycoon, against a terrorist called Renard. That word means "fox" in French, but Renard is a dull, un-foxy villain. His distinction: he has a bullet in his head. It makes him immune to pain. But we, the audience, have no such immunity against boredom.

Mourning does become Elektra, since she has chic outfits in the most impossible locations. As played by Sophie Marceau, a very popular star in France but no true performer, Elektra bored me. Even when she turned out to be a nasty little number and not a t rue victim. There is sex, of course, with Bond. It is the sort of thing that, in keeping with our new ethos (hypocritical or not), plays down sensuality, nudity, flesh-photography and groans. It is a dutiful acknowledgment of the old Bond-as-womanizer thi ng, here sanitized and clearly used as a filler.

A second woman is introduced, Doctor (sic) Christmas Jones, who is a scientist, joins forces with Bond, also bodies -- another filler. Denise Richards, another one of the USA's fifty million "celebrities" looks and sounds like a Valley Girl, even though s he was born in Illinois.

When Bond meets her, he's supposed to be Russian and speaks Russian to her and others, but somehow it is English., then it becomes "real" English. Don't ask. Says Dr. Christmas :"Your English is very good for a Russian" He: "I studied at Oxford." Should I comment?

Bond wears designer suits no matter what the situation, place, feats and explosions are. He also has special see-through eyeglasses to peer at hidden weapons on men and undies on women. By the way, when it comes to pulchritude, there are quite a few beaut iful women glimpsed here and there, but these do not include the lead roles.

There are torture scenes in the film, but the real torture is watching it. Not simply during its full 128 minutes, but from minute 5 to the end. A teen sitting in front of me at the rather sparsely attended projection (it was a morning show) got up four t imes to get to the theater's concession. If this doesn't speak loudly what does? Indeed, there is no continuity, no suspense, nothing that an absentee viewer could miss. Nor is there any "sophistication," which is outrageous but funny in the better Bonds . Psychology rates zero,

As for acting -- what acting? As for humor, just a feeble and leaden attempt to sketch in John Cleese as the M.I. 6 new gadget-maker. As for novelties, the main one has Bond having a broken collar-bone, wincing at times but still able to do his thing. We 've gone from the impossible to the supernatural, I guess.

The movie, which went through a slew of working titles, officially has three writers. Obviously though, it had everybody else and his sister pitching in with "ideas." It all results in no sense nonsense, it all has no oomph, rhythm or continuity, it all p roves again the saying that "a camel is a horse made by a committee." The ratio between cost and "quality" must make this as bad an action flick as any.

It is painfully clear that the movie (like too many others) is aiming at a pre-teen, teen, and early post-teen market of kids who have no familiarity (at least on the big screen) with the rich Bond tradition.

Why do I still give it one star then? Because I have a soft spot for Apted (critics are human after all); because the gimmick of oil and pipelines has a real model these days; because Robbie Coltrane, as a big Russian Mafioso, saves whatever scenes he is in.

The last words after the end-credits say JAMES BOND WILL RETURN. Oh, no!!!

Copyright © Edwin Jahiel

Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel