(I am a pretty huge James Bond fan, so with the new SKYFALL coming out November 9th, I thought it would be cool to re-watch every Bond movie and review them on the site, counting down the days until the latest one is released)
After TOMORROW NEVER DIES, I was really looking forward to this one back in 1999. I was severely disappointed. I can’t really remember exactly why, but I remember not liking it much. I watched it again in 2006, thinking it wasn’t as bad as I remembered, but still not great. Well, maybe the third time is the charm for this one.
When a kidnapping plot goes wrong, Bond is brought in to investigate. He is assigned to protect the woman who escaped her kidnappers, Elektra. The man who was responsible for her taking her is an evil man named Renard, a man who can’t feel pain due to a bullet lodged in his head. 007 uncovers a nuclear plot while checking things out. Also, the mission gets more complicated when M is taken hostage.
This might have the longest pre-title sequence in a Bond film. It starts off with 007 escaping a bank deal gone bad, and it’s pretty good. In fact, it was good enough to be its own pre-title sequence, but no… there’s more! Bond goes to headquarters to find M meeting with her old college mate (who happens to be a famous oil tycoon), who ends up getting killed right in front of them. Bond chases down the culprit in a boat. It’s a pretty awesome chase that ends with the assassin trying to escape in a hot air balloon. Bond is hanging on a rope dangling from the balloon as it takes off, then the assassin kills herself by blowing herself up, injuring 007. And then the title sequence starts. Now, I have never been a big fan of the band Garbage, but their title track feels like classic Bond. Great theme and melody. Hell of a way to start off the picture.
Unfortunately, the movie is never THAT good again. It’s never God awful, but there’s something off about the production. The action doesn’t have that urgent energy to it. It’s very by-the-numbers. It’s serviceable, but never outstanding. I still felt the same about it as I did upon my first viewing.
I found Bond’s investigation to be rather dull. Nothing too exciting here. I did like Q’s last sequence in a Bond film, which ends rather poignantly. I was less impressed with John Cleese as Q’s replacement, R. I’m not sure what to think of his bumbling around. The first half plays up the relationship between 007 and Elektra, and it works pretty well. There wasn’t too much action in the first half (besides the pre-title sequence). We get an interesting, but less than thrilling ski chase. It has its moments though.
The second half doesn’t fare much better. Renard is built up to be this great villain, and on paper he probably sounded like he’d be among the greatest, but he was surprisingly underwhelming. There’s a few noisy action scenes too. The pipeline scene, with Bond and a physicist named Christmas Jones, race to stop a bomb at high-speed in the pipeline. That looked pretty cool. For some reason, I didn’t care for the helicopter blade action set piece at the caviar factory. It was kind of clunky. The finale, aboard a submarine, should have been ideal, but it’s just lackluster. There was just no immediacy in the movie, which is why I didn’t think the action worked as well. I don’t know…
Brosnan does a fine job as his third time as 007, but he’s given some lousy dialogue this time. When he says the title of the movie, I pretty much groaned. Sophie Marceau is probably the best new addition in this as Elektra. She’s beautiful, but has a dark, tough edge about her. Robert Carlyle should have been awesome. In fact, I’ve seen him as a villain in other films, so I was looking forward to his bad guy role here. But he just didn’t bring the right energy to the character. He doesn’t do a bad job, but there’s nothing that makes him special. Robbie Coltrane returns as Constantine. I liked him in GOLDENEYE, but he seems to be more comic relief here. And when his character is called on to get in on the action, it’s less than convincing. And finally, Denise Richards as Christmas Jones. Christ! Well, besides the character being stupid, Richards is a terrible actress. I honestly don’t know how she got as big as she did in the late 90’s (lots of blowjobs I presume). Her performance here is the equivalent to Porn acting. Her line reading is as if she’s looking at a cue card, while she delivers all her dialogue laughably monotonous and flat. And the outfits they put her in? Sure… a nuclear physicist wearing short shorts and a tank top….. Come on! The movie going public isn’t that stupid! And she’s not even good-looking to boot. She looks fake and plastic. Yuck! But at least Judi Dench does a great job as M, yet again.
Director Michael Apted takes over filmmaking duties, and it’s just “all right”. He seems to handle everything fine, but you can tell that he was just in this for the paycheck, as there just seems to be no passion in the production. The story isn’t terrible, in fact I like some of the dark turns it made, but some of the characters and dialogue are more on par with a Roger Moore production. Speaking of which, the very last scene felt like it was straight out a Moore Bond movie: “I thought Christmas only comes once a year”. Please… I thought we were past that! David Arnold is back to score the film, and again, the music is great. It has this fantastic, epic feel to it. He’s one of the best new additions to the franchise.
As you can see, the movie is a bit of a mixed bag. The opening is as thrilling as a Bond movie can be, but it never reaches that momentum again. There’s plenty of action and typical Bond elements to be found throughout, but the execution felt a bit generic to me. It also doesn’t help that Denise Richards drags the movie down every time she appears on-screen. This should’ve and probably could’ve been a great Bond adventure, which is why I think I was so disappointed by it. It’s far from the worst, but after GOLDENEYE and TOMORROW NEVER DIES, the stakes were raised to a point that this film never reaches. ★★ (out of ★★★★)
– Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence, some sexuality and innuendo.
– Running time: 2hrs 8min.