Film Review © 1999 by Trip Reynolds


Directed by Michael Apted; Screenplay by Bruce Feirstein, Neal Purvis, Dana Stevens, and Robert Wade; Produced by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson.

Starring Pierce Brosnan (as Bond, James Bond, 007), Sophie Marceau (as the pseudo-grieving daughter of a murdered petroleum tycoon, Elektra King), Robert Carlyle (as a better than average bad guy with serious intent-to-do-harm, Renard), Denise Richards (miscast as U.S. scientist, Christmas Jones), Robbie Coltrane (as Renard's main henchman, Valentin Zukovsky), Judi Dench (as M), Desmond Llewelyn (in his final portrayal as the guru of all high tech, state-of-the-art gadgets and electronics 007 uses to thwart each nemesis, Q), John Cleese (as Q's understudy and replacement, R), Maria Grazia Cucinotta (as Cigar Girl), Samantha Bond (as Miss Moneypenny), Michael Kitchen (as Tanner), Colin Salmon (as Robinson), Goldie (as Bull), David Calder (as Elektra's father, Sir Robert King), Serena Scott Thomas (as Dr. Holly Warmflash), ulrich Thomsen (as Davidov), John Seru (as Gabor), and Claude-Oliver Rudolph (as Colonel Akakievich).

By now, everyone knows the Bond formula: the existence of an eminent threat to world peace or the destruction of the planet; the villain who's the mastermind behind the aforementioned; the extremely imaginable and resourceful high tech, state-of-the-art gadgets and electronics 007 has at his immediate disposal to thwart his nemesis; the beautiful, gorgeous women of all nationalities and races; the death defying stunts; and, of course, the exotic locations where all of the aforementioned take place. According to Variety, as of 1999, with eighteen films dating back to "Dr. No" with legendary 007, Sean Connery in 1962 to "Tomorrow Never Dies" with Pierce Brosnan in 1997, the James Bond films exist as the most successful franchise of all-time with total domestic earnings of $3.57 billion. The "Star War" film franchise is a distant second at $1.79 billion. It's now 2002, in the wake of two more Brosnan films, "The World is Not Enough," and "Die Another Day," the Bond formula has pushed the film franchise over $4 billion. However, despite the success, artistically the franchise is stuck in the mud.

Don't get me wrong, the latest Bond film is definitely worth seeing. Brosnan continues to bring a positive shot in the arm, a vibrancy to the 007 character. And, as usual, film excels in all technical aspects, in particular, editing, sound, art direction, and cinematography. This latest chapter in the Bond dynasty hints at some serious drama but, unfortunately, its allowed to dissipate. Bummer.

There's a fairly interesting ménage à trois: a cat-and-mouse game of deceit going on between Bond; and the grieving daughter of a murdered Baltic state oil tycoon, Elektra King, he's assigned to bodyguard; and Elektra's lover and partner in crime, Renard, who ultimately Bond must prevent from detonating a nuclear submarine in the port of a Baltic nation. Brosnan's Bond arduously emotes certain feelings for King, as King erotically and connivingly emotes feelings to both Bond and to Renard, who's immune to physical pain as a result of a head injury, but who gladly performs Elektra's bidding to seek revenge against those, including her father, who allowed her previous kidnapping and torture. Again, film pokes at some serious drama but, unfortunately, its allowed to dissipate.

Frankly, without completely abandoning the Bond formula, it would be interesting to see Bond handle the intensity of subject matter found in films such as director David Fincher's 1995 dark thriller, "Seven." Or, what if Bond was truly faced with a much grittier action environment as presented in the films of Sam Peckinpaw (The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs, The Getaway, The Killer Elite). It would make the Bond film franchise stronger. If you believe I'm attempting to make Bond something more than he is you're wrong. Afterall, shouldn't Bond be expected to encounter and successfully resolve all kinds of situations? He is, afterall, Bond, James Bond, super spy, super...hero? Or, more appropriately, isn't Bond (just) an exceptionally talented and extremely resourceful man with a miraculous disposition to succeed? So, let's see Bond go where he's never gone before!

Instead, film fell back into the Bond formula - and that's a mistake. Brosnan has the acting chops to deliver on Bond's lineage to its action and adventure genré while also taking Bond into new horizons - which will build positively on the franchise while also effectively keeping Bond's pseudo-challengers [Austin Powers, Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan film franchise (The Hunt for Red October, Clear and Present Danger), etc.] at bay. Bond's producers should get smart and give the tried but true Bond formula an update. [Note to Bond producers: another film Brosnan made in 1999, "The Thomas Crown Affair," is superior in acting, action and intrigue than this latest installment in the Bond franchise.]

Film is solidly directed by Michael Apted.

Film has an evenly paced running length of 125 minutes.

Recommendation: Of course, you have to see it and, yes, add it to your video collection!