The plot is the thing in the latest installment of the Pierce Brosnan-era James Bond, and that's a big improvement from his last outing, in which walking blindly into traps was considered investigative technique. Plotwise, "The World is Not Enough" is nearly in a class with "From Russia With Love." The sophomore slump is over.
The movie opens with a 15 minute sequence that is the longest such in Bond history. This time it is not merely a boffo attention grabber, but serves to nicely set up the movie's plot.
Bond barely escapes with his life, and a sum of money meant to buy information about a deadly terrorist in a shootout in Spain. Unfortunately, his escape was what the bad guy had in mind, as he becomes an assassin's courier, and responsible for the death of a British oil magnate, a close friend of M (Judi Dench). This leads to a great boat chase on the River Themes-- not to mention a few side streets... and restaurants... and other places boats are not made to go.
M assigns Bond to protect the dead man's daughter Elektra (Sophie Marceau) who is taking over her father's main project, an oil pipeline from the old Soviet Union to Turkey. But who is after her? The business competitors who have other pipelines, and presumably ties with the Russian Mafia or ex-KGB types?
Bond thinks it is a terrorist named Renard (Robert Carlyle). Renard had once kidnaped Elektra, but she escaped his clutches. Renard is a nasty piece of work. He's dying from a bullet lodged in his brain that makes him impervious to both physical pain and pleasure.
Of course, there are plans in the works to dominate the world-- or at least dictate a fair amount by controlling a big chunk of the oil supply, and Bond and Elektra become key players.
Unlike previous Bond movies, that took place in glamour locales, the real action in today's new world order happens in some pretty desolate spots-- like chaotic southern ex-Soviet republics. But director Michael Apted brings his documentary film maker's eye to these grim locations and makes them fascinating.
There is too conscious an attempt to put Bond through his signature paces, by finding an excuse to get him briefly into a tux, and a fairly lame skiing set piece where Bond and Elektra are chased by parasailing armed snowmobilers, but at least four of the six big action sequences work.
Especially good is the destruction of a Russian black marketeer's (Robbie Coltrane reprising his American slang slinging role from "Goldeneye") caviar factory by helicopters with circular saws, a wild ride through the inside of the oil pipeline with a nuclear physicist (poorly played by "Wild Things" sexpot Denise Richards, even by Bond girl standards) and the final scene aboard a doomed Russian nuclear sub is terrific-- and best of all, it's NOT an exploding fortress!
Happily, Judi Dench gets a lot more screen time-- though she is unlikely to get an Oscar for this, despite far more than "eight minutes' work." The great John Cleese promises future fun as "R," the intended replacement for the retiring "Q."
Sophie Marceau is easily the best female foil Bond has had in years, and Robert Carlyle is chilling enough as Renard to actually work in a more serious minded thriller. Unfortunately, explaining exactly why they are so good, would spoil some surprises.
Bruce Feirstein and Michael France create a labyrinthine plot that is actually worth following, and has good characterizations, giving Brosnan and his costars a lot to work with. They also collaborated on "Goldeneye," and it seems now that France was sorely missed as Feirstein scripted "Tomorrow Never Dies" as a solo mission.
Brosnan is completely comfortable in the 007 role, and even gets to show some passion and intensity here. With what he shows in "Enough," Bond fans will hope it's a good long time before he says "enough" to this role.