007 is assigned by M to protect an oil heiress from her former kidnapper Renard, an international terrorist who can’t feel pain.
We are into film three of the Brosnan era, the film was released just on the verge of a new millennium and is the last Bond film of the twentieth century. A lot to live up to? Don’t fear, not for this film crew. The films opening sequence sets you up for exactly what your watching, the films pre-titles runs in at fifteen minutes, with three individual action sequences and a meeting in M’s office culminating with a boat chase on the Thames which ends just outside the Millennium Dome, handy considering it’s the Bond film of the millennium! With little time to catch your breath, as the audience, you know you’re watching an event, not just a film.
In the early stages of the film after the titles have run, Bond has his usual Q briefing scene. However, in this film it’s all more poignant as this is Desmond Llewelyn’s final appearance. In the scene we are introduced to his ‘junior’ assistant, R played by the legendary John Cleese. From an assistant being introduced and Llewelyn being at the times in his eighties, you can tell that the producers were putting things in place for the actor to leave the series. What a tragedy that, after a long career and life, Llewelyn died in a car crash just a few months after the release of this film. The scene is a great end to a legend of the Bond family and he is missed as Q still to this day.
The rest of the cast of this adventure is very impressive, well, apart from one entry! Pierce Brosnan by this film could relax and just play the part with his eyes closed, thankfully he does not do this! He again keeps surprising us the viewer, he shows more sides to this character than we’ve seen before. We have the stone killer, charming spy from GoldenEye, the vulnerability that he showed in Tomorrow Never Dies and here we get all that and more. Brosnan brings a loyalty to M, a friendship to his commanding officer, a brothers-in-arms mentality. Brosnan humanises Bond, not just vulnerability, but questions of why he does this life, what does he get from this and who does he truly trust.
Robert Carlyle is billed as the main villain; he plays the terrorist Renard. a man who is slowly dying and feels no pain. Carlyle could have easily overplayed this role and hammed it up. Wisely, he doesn’t and shows his acting skills, he gives us a subtle presence of menace, a man enjoying the evil side of life before his accepted soon demise.
Sophie Marceau is a first, a Bond Girl who is revealed to be the real mastermind villain – Renard is her henchman. She plays the part exceptionally, a true femme fatale, menacing bitchiness without being a screaming banshee villainess. She pays this manipulating evil woman so well, it worries me of the person she really is! I’m sure she’s just a fantastic actress.
Judi Dench’s M has a lot more involvement with this plot, M is even held hostage, not surprising when you have talent like Dench signed to this role and after two previous adventures to introduce Bond’s female boss. Like Brosnan does with Bond – she humanizes her role and shows a vulnerability to her character that pulls you in. You genuinely care about her M. What’s nice is the solid relationship between M and Bond.
The weak link I mentioned, Denise Richards as Dr Christmas Jones, the worst miscasting in Bond films for years. A nuclear scientist? Really? REALLY! She’s useless, just obviously here for the teenage men!
The film, like GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies before it, is again wall-to-wall action, deliberately delivering a high octane fueled adventure. Highlights are the boat chase on the Thames, the ski chase (the first ski action we’ve seen since fourteen years earlier in A View To A Kill – it’s a nice welcome return of ski action), the shoot out in the nuclear bunker where Bond meets Dr Christmas Jones, the bomb inside the pipeline, the helicopter sequence at Zukovsky’s factory and of course a showdown aboard a sinking submarine.
This is a great Bond film, wall-to-wall action and more importantly a strong plot, a plot with twists and turns, and solid performances by the cast (not including Richards!). This Bond film is very much overlooked and underrated by many. This is what a Bond film should be.
Rating: 5 out of 5