The World is Not Enough

Bad news: Elektra has a medival torture chair. Good news: Dr. Jones has a wet t-shirt.

WHO IS JAMES BOND? James Bond is getting older but hanging in there. Things don’t come quite so easily to him these days. Why just today he recovered $5,000,000 from some bad guys, got involved in a knife fight, dove out a high window in Bilbao, came home to London, handed the money over to its rightful owner only to find out that the money was booby-trapped, survived a massive explosion and assassination attempt, stole a speedboat, drove it through the streets of London, dangled helplessly from a stolen hot-air balloon and tumbled helplessly down the side of the Millenium Dome. In the old days, that would be a doddle for James Bond, but today he suffered an injury to his collar-bone. Ow! Hurt collar-bone!

WHAT DOES THE BAD GUY WANT? Renard has a bullet in his head. This is not all good news for Renard. It means he can feel neither pain nor pleasure. Renard is one of those terrorists that exist nowhere in real life but exist everywhere in movies: the terrorist with no political agenda. He’s the terrorist that’s too crazy for other terrorists to work with. How crazy is he? Well for starters, he likes to kill people with a squadron of flying snowmobiles, which strikes me as pretty freaking crazy.

The big tangle in TWINE, of course, is that the Lead Villain turns out to actually be the Second Villain, which, if I was a terrorist with a bullet in my head, would be just the thing to put me over the edge.

But essentially, what Renard wants is what everyone wants: to sacrifice his life and blow up Istanbul so that his weird girlfriend can take over the oil industry.

WHAT DOES JAMES BOND ACTUALLY DO TO SAVE THE WORLD? I believe TWINE is the most plot-heavy of Bond films, but let’s lay this out to find out for sure.

Bond is sent to Bilbao to recover a suitcase full of money for a wealthy friend of M’s. Right there my brain comes to a screeching halt — M sent Bond to Bilbao to recover a suitcase full of money for a wealthy friend? Is that what MI6 is there for, to run errands for plutocrats? And yet, it turns out this is not a plotting error; one of the key innovations of TWINE is to actually examine the role of MI6, its power in the world and the way well-intentioned, interest-conflicted politicians screw everything up for working men like James Bond and the people of Istanbul.

He brings the money back, the money blows up and kills the wealthy friend. Okay. So Bond is sent to protect the wealthy friend’s daughter, Elektra. Elektra does not seem to be afraid of any terrorists; she’s got other fish to fry, she’s got a massive oil-pipeline to maintain in Azerbaijan. Bond follows her to Azerbaijan and even though Elektra does not seem to appreciate having Bond around (he did hand her father a suitcase full of exploding money, after all) they go skiing together. That’s when they get attacked by the flying snowmobiles.

Bond wants to know who sent those flying snowmobiles, and golly, I do too. He pulls a little Moonraker-style detective work where he wanders into someone’s office looking for nothing in particular and stumbles upon a murder! He instantly makes the decision to abandon his bodyguard role to pose as a member of Renard’s gang, hitch a ride on a helicopter to a nuclear-bomb-dismantling facility somewhere in some dusty place where they speak Russian.

There he meets Dr. Christmas Jones, a beautiful American nuclear physicist whose job is dismantling nuclear bombs in some dusty place where they speak Russian. He’s checking out Dr. Jones’s nuclear-bomb-dismantling operation when he runs into Renard who, as luck would have it, is just then in the middle of stealing a nuclear bomb (even though we just saw him killing a guy in Azerbaijan twelve hours earlier). Bond tries to stop Renard, but Renard gets away with his bomb.

Bond and Jones team up (for some reason) and go after the stolen bomb. MEANWHILE (because this isn’t complicated enough), M gets kidnapped because, in the big twist, it is revealed that Renard is not the Lead Villain after all. No, it turns out that Elektra is the Lead Villain, and has been plotting with Renard all along, ever since Renard kidnapped her years earlier and apparently turned her against her father, his riches and all of his friends, including M and Bond’s Russian informant Zukovsky. So M is tossed in a cell and given X hours to live (Why don’t Bond Villains just shoot people? Why?)

Bond and Jones recover half the plutonium from the stolen nuclear bomb but need to get the other half. As it turns out, Renard is on his way to hijack a Russian nuclear submarine and inject the stolen plutonium into its reactor, which apparently will cause a Chernoble-style meltdown in a port in Istanbul. He wants to do this because Istanbul is a major oil port and contaminating Istanbul will give Elektra power over the oil industry.

What Renard doesn’t know is that Elektra has been playing him all along (I think even since the kidnapping, but I’d have to check). Renard wants only to sow anarchy in world oil markets, but Elektra has been reading the Bond Villain Playbook and knows that by wiping out her competition she can gain a virtual monopoly in an important market (like all Bond Villains, she didn’t get to the part where Goldfinger ended up sucked out of an airplane and Zorin got thrown out of a blimp).

Anyhow, Bond gets kidnapped by Elektra who reveals her evil scheme to him while slowly torturing him to death. Bond gets out of the trap, regretfully kills Elektra, sneaks aboard Renard’s stolen Russian nuclear submarine, tells him the bad news, kills Renard and swims to the surface.

Whew! And I left out the part with the helicopter with the giant buzzsaw attacking the caviar factory.

WOMEN? Another key feature of TWINE is having a surprise female Lead Villain. I applaud this twist and I wish it worked better. Elektra is a complex character with dark motivations and many layers to her personality. Unfortunately, she’s played by Sophie Marceau, an actress incapable of expressing any of that. Luckily, the movie is saved by Denise Richards, who is totally believable in her subtly nuanced, brilliantly accomplished performance of the role of Dr. Christmas Jones, beautiful young American nuclear physicist trying to escape her dark past by dismantling nuclear bombs in some dusty place where they speak Russian.

Okay, so TWINE kinds of blows it on the women. And yet, there are three love scenes in this movie and I believe every one of them. This is how good Pierce Brosnan is. In fact, I will go so far to say that, as far as Bond Love Scenes go, Brosnan scores a higher believability rating than any other Bond, Connery and Craig included. There, I said it.

HOW COOL IS THE BAD GUY? Renard is a great idea for a character and Robert Carlyle is great in the part. He’s spooky, creepy and seems to think he’s in a real movie. The bullet-in-the-head idea is swell, but the filmmakers do absolutely nothing with it, except have Renard pick up a flaming rock and ponder the limitations of faith.

ON DRIVING A BOAT THROUGH BUSY CITY STREETS: When Roger Moore drove his gondola through the streets of Venice, he arched his brows and tried to look dignified (and failed). When Pierce Brosnan drives his speedboat through the streets of London, he sets his jaw, grits his teeth, and drives with a flinty air of grim determination. I have not yet decided which approach is the best way for an actor to approach this unique acting challenge.

NOTES: TWINE, conceptually, is full of complex, interesting ideas, moral ambiguities and multi-dimensional characters. It also has ludicrous action set-pieces that are a perfect illustration of “pointless spectacle.” The complex espionage thriller making room for the ludicrous set-pieces results in a script that is a tangled mess.

The first scene is set in Bilbao, that hotbed of international intrigue located in rural southern Spain. Bond goes to Bilbao, I’m guessing, so that he can run past the Guggenheim Bilbao, which looks cool. In front of the Guggenheim Bilbao, it happens, is Jeff Koons’s “Puppy”. Putting James Bond in the same frame as Jeff Koons is a pop-culture masterstroke that will make my head explode if I think about it too much.

I would now like to address the problem of flying snowmobiles. If I am a Bond Villain and I want Bond dead, I have to ask myself: is a squadron of flying snowmobiles the most efficient way to accomplish this task? But attack the squadron of flying snowmobiles do, and miraculously survive Bond does. And then what? Bond frets about who might be trying to kill him.

Well now wait a minute, Mr. World’s Greatest Detective. You just got attacked by a squadron of flying snowmobiles in Azerbaijan. How many different people do you suppose are capable of operating flying snowmobiles? Why don’t you go to the local flying-snowmobile school and make some inquiries? How many places in Azerbaijan do you suppose sell flying snowmobiles? Why not head over to the local flying-snowmobile emporium and ask if, perhaps, recently a bald man with a bullet in his head came in asking about hiring a squadron of flying snowmobiles to be piloted by a team of daring flying-snowmobile-piloting assassins? Or did the team of assassins come with their own flying snowmobiles? Are they a team of flying-snowmobile pilots like Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus, perhaps out of work and looking for a little side employment as a team of crack flying-snowmobile assassins?

(The flying-snowmobile assassins turn out, of course, to be hired not by Renard but by Elektra, which makes even less sense. Hey Bond Villain, when you hire someone to kill Bond, don’t hire them to kill you as well. THAT’S JUST STUPID.)

And while we’re at it, later in the movie Elektra sends a helicopter with a giant buzzsaw to go destroy the caviar factory of an enemy. Okay, let’s think this out, Ms. I-Want-To-Take-Over-The-Oil-Industry. You’re in the middle of a gigantic, once-in-a-lifetime scheme to destroy Istanbul, take over the oil industry and kill all your enemies. It would be a good idea if you were not caught doing these things. You know what’s a good way to kill a guy? Shoot him. Poison him. Cut his throat. You know what’s a bad way to kill a guy? Send a helicopter with a giant buzzsaw to destroy his factory. Especially when the helicopter with the giant buzzsaw has your oil company’s logo painted on the side in bright red letters. The local police show up to investigate the big caviar-factory destruction in the morning and find all the buildings sawn in half; I’m guessing the list of locals who own helicopters with giant buzzsaws is a pretty short list indeed.

And while we’re discussing the helicopter with the giant buzzsaw, who is flying that helicopter anyway? Does Elektra know a helicopter pilot who can operate a helicopter with a giant buzzsaw and is also a ruthless assassin? Because we see the helicopter earlier in its daily routine cutting tree-branches away from a roadway. I buy that there are helicopters with giant buzzsaws fulfilling useful functions for oil plutocrats, but where are you going to find a ruthless assassin who can also operate such a machine?

I give credit to TWINE for having a genuine mystery in it and genuine twists worthy of an actual suspense thriller. I take away credit because I spend far too much of the movie thinking things like “We’re going skiing now because why?” “Renard lives in a cave surrounded by flaming rocks why?” “We’re going where now to do what because why?” “Bond’s booby-trapped car just happens to be parked on the dock of the caviar factory because why?”

In the scene with Moneypenny, Bond offers her a cigar. I’m guessing this is a Clinton reference.

This movie has the final appearance of Q. Good riddance. I hate him. He’s an idiot.

It is announced that Q is being replaced by John Cleese. This is a brilliant idea. Cleese is a natural fussy headmaster and one of the most accomplished comic actors in history. Unfortunately, for TWINE he’s forced to play buffoon to Desmond Llewellen, which makes for one of the least funny Cleese moments in history.

Another wonderful innovation in TWINE is the total lack of gigantic Villain HQ. The villains in TWINE live in perfectly ordinary locations furnished with perfectly ordinary medieval torture devices. When Renard steals a nuclear submarine, the set startles because it looks exactly like a nuclear submarine. It’s not huge, it has no vaulted ceiling or armies of bad guys. Then, to make the innovation even more startling, the nuclear submarine upends in the spectacular action climax and does exactly what you would expect an upended nuclear submarine to do. This would be a great sequence in any thriller but having it show up in a Bond movie gives it that much more of a kick.

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21 Responses to “The World is Not Enough”
  1. curt_holman says:

    I had a virulent reaction against this movie. Brosnan’s Bond seemed particularly unpleasant, and when he shoots Elektra (justified or not), his demeanor struck me not as reluctant, but brutal. I left TWINE actively disliking the character.

    And like you say, the whole premise that Renard can feel neither pain nor pleasure is completely ignored. I think there’s a Chuck Norris movie where he fights a bad guy who’s similarly “unstoppable” — and the Chuck Norris movie actually makes good on the premise.

    I think I heard a rumor that someone wanted Bond to snowboard during the ski chase in TWINE, but cooler heads prevailed.

  2. I remember almost liking this movie a lot when I first saw it in the theater. I remember thinking that, despite Denise Richards’s presence and the fact that they squandered the always-great Robert Carlysle to some extent, the Brosnan Bonds were “hitting their stride” with more complex relationships and much darker, truer-to-the-character dialogue from J.B.

    Then I watched it again recently, immediately after seeing Casino Royale, and couldn’t quite get past the explosion-to-speedboat-chase-to-escape-in-hot-air-balloon opening, and I had a hard time buying Pierce Brosnan as somebody who could kick anything’s ass. I still maintain that every Brosnan Bond film did a good job of finding something old and forgotten from the Bond canon to do right again, and something new to bring to it…but none of them ever quite succeeded in bringing all these things together in one solid, un-cringe-worthy-from-start-to-finish film. But then, I guess that’s kind of true about all the Bond films, from Connery’s on up.

    • Todd says:

      I agree. While I have found many worthwhile Bond movies worth watching over and over, I cannot put my finger on the one Bond that gets everything right. For instance, Goldfinger gets almost everything right but puts Bond in a completely passive position through the whole movie. And You Only Live Twice gets almost everything right but has a ludicrous bad-guy plot. For Your Eyes Only is a superlative action-thriller but reneges on almost everything we come to expect from a Bond movie and Live and Let Die blows it in the Women department almost as poorly as TWINE. We think of the Bond formula as a can’t-miss recipe, but all of the movies, not just a few but all, show just how difficult it is to pull the trick off.

  3. eronanke says:

    This is my favorite Brosnan Bond film. I *loved* Marceau, because she wasn’t a total tool (like Ms. Jones). As for Renard? Well, yes. I agree that they wasted him.
    And as for you not liking Q? HRUMPH! He’s adorable. Just think of the bullshit paperwork he’s had to do over the years.. *sigh*

  4. planettom says:

    An interesting idea about the flying snowmobile sequence that I think was intended but never really stated is that it’s not just another generic Bond snowchase— Sophie Marceau’s character seems to know Bond’s past history, and is intentionally recreating the sequence of events of Diana Rigg’s character in ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. She dresses very similarly, fur hat and all. After the ski hijinks and being rescued from an avalanche, presumably the idea was to seduce him… really seduce him… by allowing him to rescue her in the manner he once found himself in with his dead wife.

    Of course, she’s putting too much trust in henchmen to just barely miss with all their machinegun-fire, and how she knew Bond could really rescue her from the avalanche is a bit of a gamble.

    I see this as really co-villains. A female villain hasn’t really taken center stage yet, but this was an interesting twist.

    Timothy Dalton at one point was wanting to make one where Whoopi Goldberg was the lead villain.

  5. teamwak says:

    Bon Journo. Just returned from 5 days in Rome and Naples. Amazing!!

    I am little confused, or my sarcasm meter is way off. Do you really hate Q? There are only a couple of bits of this movie I like, and one of them is the touching goodbye from Bond to Q “Your not going anywhere, are you?”; made all the more poingant as Desmond Llewellyn died shortly after filming. Q is as much of a mainstay of Bond as M or Moneypenny. I always assumed if you liked Bond you liked Q. Hey ho.

    HATED Denise as Dr Christmas Jones “Christmas only comes once a year”. Give me a break! Yet I liked Sophie Marcau. Or is that I fancied her? Who knows.

    Liked Robert Carlyle (who kicks all sorts of arse in 28Weeks Later) and liked his relationship with Sophie. Cool fight in a sinking sub too. But thats about it.

    And in a final show of how far down this current Bond series was going, you may remember in the begining boat chase Bond shoots across a street in his boat narrowly missing a traffic warden. That traffic warden was having his 15 minutes at the time as a star of a reality show about traffic wardesn! He was the star jobsworth in that.

    I have not yet decided which approach is the best way for an actor to approach this unique acting challenge.. 10/10 thank you 🙂


    • Todd says:

      Your sarcasm meter is only half off. I am not actually enamored of Ms. Richards’ performance as Dr. Jones, but yeah, I’ve had enough of Q. Q makes all this useless crap for spies to use (I assume he makes them for agents other than Bond) and then is always foisting it upon them whether they want it or not, calling it “standard issue” when the very idea of every agent having a “standard issue” car, briefcase, watch, etc, is absurd on the face of it. If every 00 agent has, say, a “standard issue” BMW with rocket launchers in the roof, then it won’t be too hard for enemy agents to spot a 00 agent, will it? Then he gets all pissy when Bond destroys his creations, as though he never dreamed that an agent might actually need to use the pointless, devices foisted upon him at the start of a mission. His character makes no sense and is emblematic of everything that sets Bond movies apart from “real” movies, placing them in a self-contained zone where the viewer has to make forgiveness after forgiveness to the narrative in order to enjoy the movie.

      • teamwak says:

        I wonder if because Bond films are almost a genre on their own that you can forgive loads of stuff on them. Its true I certainly give them lee-way(sp) that I wouldnt give other films.

        I cant argue that as a plot point, Q branch leaves a lot to be desired 🙂

  6. greyaenigma says:

    The best excuse I could think of for the flying snowmobile attack was that she was trying to make herself look like more of a victim — but of course, since she was almost the victim, that really doesn’t make much sense.

    The giant buzzsaw scene stuck out as one of the mostly absurdly overblown assassination attempts ever.

    Also, yes, Q is adorable. And it’s sad but oddly fitting that the actor died so soon after. And the introduction of Cleese was just uncomfortably unfunny.

    • teamwak says:

      I found the introduction of Cleese symptomatic of the decline of the Brosnan Bonds. He was so out of the Bond world that he clanged loudly. I like John Cleese a lot, but he doesnt fit as Q at all.

      And it was oddly fitting that it was Llewellyns last performance. 🙁

  7. mr_noy says:

    Good point about the Bond films never consistently nailing the formula. For good or bad Q has been part of that formula for a long time and I always liked the *idea* of Q even if the execution left something to be desired. Nothing against Llewellyn. He did the best he could with what he was given and I’m sure it was a great gig but I had hoped that they might do something more interesting with the character. Which is why I was kind of disappointed in the casting of Cleese. Yes, he’s one of the funniest people on the planet but casting him guaranteed that the role of Q would be limited to comic relief.

    I’m hoping that future installments of Bond will either do something more interesting with him or omit him altogether.

  8. craigjclark says:

    You want to see unfunny Cleese moments in film? Check out every one of his scenes in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. Painful.

    • Todd says:

      The list of unfunny Cleese performances (largely in American movies) is a very long one indeed. In the case of Charlie’s Angels, it was more like “Sheesh, they got everyone to be in this movie!”

  9. uthuze says:

    One quibble: Bilbao is in northern Spain and is very heavily industrialized. That scene actually made sense, although I suspect you’re right in thinking they chose it just for the Guggenheim.

    The main thing that bothered me about this movie was its tone. Despite its silly action pieces, it tried to be serious and was often maudlin. Bond touching Electra’s on-screen tear, for instance.

    M was both corrupt and catastrophically incompetent, not because that’s at all in line with M’s character, but because it was necessary to service the inelegant plot.

    But Denise Richards is the real reason I can’t watch this movie all the way through. She existed for no other reason than to give Bond somebody to fuck at the end.

    • Todd says:

      Bilbao is in northern Spain

      That’s the last time I get directions from a Spaniard.

      She existed for no other reason than to give Bond somebody to fuck at the end.

      You say that like it’s a bad thing.

  10. chavelaque says:

    Random Question

    Have you ever posted an analysis of “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”? I just saw it again for the second time and enjoyed it still, but there’s something off about the plot and I’d love to read your take.

    Great Bond analyses, btw!

    • Todd says:

      Re: Random Question

      I just watched Mr. and Mrs. Smith recently but didn’t get around to analyzing it for this blog. I enjoy Doug Liman’s movies in general and watched this one twice in a row, once normally and once with the commentary.

      The things I noticed “off” about the plot was the whole thing about Colin Hanks being held hostage as bait to get Mr. and Mrs. Smith to the same place together. I didn’t buy that the CIA (or whoever) would put all those agents at risk in order to get these two to kill each other. And then there is the sheer amount of carnage, which I find unrealistic in the world of professional assassins, who, since I’ve never actually met one and doubt I ever will, probably tend to keep their activities secretive instead of running around blowing up buildings and inciting gigantic car-chases. But once you kind of sail past that idea, plus the whole glamorous-assassin gimme and the tremendous body count of essentially innocent people, I find the movie immensely pleasurable. But I’d have to watch it again to give an informed opinion.

      • Anonymous says:

        Re: Random Question

        “professional assassins…probably tend to keep their activities secretive instead of running around blowing up buildings and inciting gigantic car-chases”

        I’ve met at least one, and the only hint you get about his profession is when he says things like “I won’t eat rice. I’m not going to tell you why, but I just won’t eat it.”

        • Todd says:

          Re: Random Question

          I’ve met at least one

          At least one?

          Good lord. If it were me, I would keep careful track of each and every professional assassin that crosses my path. But some people I suppose enjoy living dangerously.