Director: Michael Apted
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Sophie Macreau, Robert Carlyle, Robbie Coltrane, Samantha Bond, Desmond Llewelyn, John Cleese, Goldie, Denise Richards
Plot: Bond is assigned to protect the daughter of an assassinated oil tycoon whose pipeline was under threat by terrorists. When Bond begins to suspect that she may behind the attacks herself he’s left with an even greater challenge than before.
Review: Much like Tomorrow Never Dies this third outing from Brosnan succeeds in many areas but ultimately doesn’t match the promise of a new, more exciting Bond laid out in Goldeneye. Just the concept for the villain of this film is enough to sell it, and handled well it could’ve been one of the best character pieces involving James Bond. 007 has always been portrayed as an unscrupulous ladies man, sometimes passing off his actions as part of his job or even a response to the grief over his wife, while most viewers just think of him as a randy sod. Whatever the reason Bond has a long standing habit of seducing at least women on each mission and then leaving them hanging. Syliva Trench is the other girl to make the jump from one film to the next, but that’s only because Bond didn’t manage to close the deal.
In contrast to this we have Elektra King, a woman who is depicted early on in the film as a strong victim but is later revealed to be a highly manipulative character who is pulling everyone’s strings. Her back story alone is worth noting – kidnapped by the notorious terrorist and anarchist Renard at a young age she turned the tables by seducing Renard and using him for her own gain. This results in Bond being dispatched to protect Elektra while perusing Renard, whom he believes is responsible the theft of a warhead. Elektra becomes even more interesting to watch after she’s been revealed as she attempts to manipulate Bond in the same way. The casting of Sophie Marceau is one of the role’s great strengths. She’s an immensely talented actor who’s performance turns Elektra King into one of the best women Bond has ever met.
Although he may feel differently about the experience.
Then we have Dr. Christmas Jones, played by Denise Richards. She is absolutely unbelievable as a nuclear scientist, and by that we mean she’s difficult to believe in the part. Turning up halfway through the movie dressed like Lara Croft you can actually see the cogs turning in her head as she flatly recites her lines in a bored monotone, pausing at the end of each sentence to pout her lips out like a fish. She’s a dull, uninteresting character who aggravates every time she speaks. To make things worse her character serves no essential purpose – all of her lines could’ve been unloaded onto an extra. The movie would benefit from her being cut out entirely, leaving the only woman in the story the one who subverts expectation by manipulating and trying to kill Bond. This would be something that strikes Bond at one of his greatest weak points, and make for a much more interesting dynamic and more thoughtful finale.
You can’t even jump right!
As to the rest of the cast, it’s good to see Robbie Coltrane’s character returning and getting more scenes. He’s got an easy dynamic with Bond and some of their dialogues are the best in the film. Dame Judi Dench is also awesome as M and even though she plays a bigger role in the story it feels as though she could’ve done even more. Robert Carlyle likewise doesn’t get enough screen time and his character winds up feeling like little more than a glorified henchmen, which is anti-climatic after building him up to be the big villain for the first half of the movie.
Action wise things remain top-notch. The opening boat chase down the Thames remains the most memorable sequence in the film being packed full of awesome moments. Whilst the rest of the sequences are fine they don’t gel easily with the story. Having Bond and King being attacked by parachuting jet-skis who are lobbing grenades makes for a nice visual but it hardly seems to be the most practical way to attack someone. The giant chainsaw tearing up the caviar factory is blighted by similar issues. Gadgets seem to be on the backfoot during this mission with only a few passing uses and nothing memorable.
By the time the movie is over there’s a couple of scenes that stand out but it’s let down by the lack of a cohesive narrative. We also finish the movie with Denise Richards, which just leaves a bad taste.
Score: SEVEN outta TEN