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Posts Tagged ‘Sophie Marceau’

My opinion is usually a fairly intractable thing, but when it comes to the issue of Brosnan-era Bond films it has, in the past, been almost embarrassingly inconstant – certainly as far as the vexed ‘which is best?’ question goes.

Even while emerging from Tomorrow Never Dies I was declaring to anyone who’d listen that it was far superior to Goldeneye. Then, in accordance with my ‘every Bond’s third film is his best one’ thesis (since recanted, by the way), I spent some time promoting The World Is Not Enough as the Irish Bond’s finest two and a bit hours. And, despite (or possibly due to) its general ridiculousness, Die Another Day also got its moment in the heart of my affections. Ironically enough, these days I’ve mostly reverted to the view that Goldeneye is the best one. Is there a moral for us here? I think there isn’t.

I say ‘mostly reverted’, because every time I watch The World Is Not Enough I catch myself wondering if this isn’t the best Bond of its period, and one of the best of the lot. Directed by Michael Apted, it’s in many ways the antithesis of its immediate predecessor: where Tomorrow Never Dies had a straightforward, even mechanical storyline, which moved urgently from one slick and lavish action sequence to the next, TWINE has a convoluted and slightly baffling story which – I think – makes sense if you can be bothered to unravel all the details, but the action beats are – well, they’re not actually bad, they just feel a little incongruous and perfunctory given the tone of the rest of the movie. (Exempt from this criticism is the splendid opening speedboat chase up the Thames, which – regrettably – was as close as the Dome ever came to coolness.)

In many ways this is a film which feels ahead of its time, in that the plot revolves around a bitter struggle for the control of oil supplies, touches on the spread of terrorism in central Asia and the near East, and concludes with an attempt at nuclear suicide bombing. On paper it looks very much like standard Bond stuff, albeit not adhering to any of the classic plots, as terminal headcase Renard (Robert Carlyle at the height of his fame) targets a family of British-based oil tycoons, specifically beautiful heiress Elektra King (Sophie Marceau). With the head of MI6 feeling partly responsible for the situation, Bond is sent to protect the woman. But not everyone or everything is what they appear to be…

Bond movies have a somewhat-deserved reputation for thin characterisation and formulaic stereotyping, but it’s in this department in particular that TWINE is something special. Anyone who’s seen a few of these films knows the stock characters: the Girl, the Master Villain, the Local Ally, the Heavy, the Bad Girl (the last two are occasionally omitted or conflated). Things are much less clear-cut in this film. It’s more than edges simply being blurred – characters initially appear to be one thing then unexpectedly turn out to be something quite different. This would be fairly unexceptional in a standard thriller but for a Bond film it’s noteworthy (possibly a symptom of the perceived problems which the Casino Royale reboot was intended to alleviate). And there’s some very odd, twisted stuff going on here, too – Renard has performance anxiety and worries about Bond being better in bed than him, for instance. (You never got that kind of thing from Christopher Lee or Donald Pleasence.)

However, if there’s a weak element to TWINE it’s in the (thrusting) person of supporting girl Christmas Jones, played by Denise Richards. Yes, this is a brilliant nuclear scientist, an expert in many fields and a speaker of multiple languages, so who have they cast? Denise Richards. The word ‘vapid’ immediately springs to mind, along with ‘unconvincing’, ’embarrassment’ and ‘no wonder she couldn’t sustain a top-echelon career for more than a couple of years’.

Apart from Denise Richards, this is a great film, which manages to walk the razor’s edge between Bond-dom daftness and grown-up movie credibility with great aplomb. There are some good gags and nice character moments, the villains’ scheme is credible yet entirely deserving of Bond’s time, and Robbie Coltrane and John Cleese get to come on and have some fun. Desmond Llewellyn’s swan-song as Q is also, in retrospect, a lovely, poignant moment. Quite why Eon decided to go, relatively speaking, off the deep end with the very next film I’m not really sure: but if they’re still looking for a template which merges the hallmarks of the franchise at its best with adult credibility and depth, they could do much worse than take another look at The World Is Not Enough.

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