The 25th Bond film NO TIME TO DIE debuts in April 2020. Today, I continue my rewatch of all the films so far, reaching Pierce Brosnan’s third, most assured performance at 007. Spoilers ahead…
PRE-CREDITS – SPAIN
Bond is in Spain to meet with a banker to negotiate the release of money and get information. The fight in the office is brief but before the banker can spill, he is killed by a knife thrown by a woman who was in the room (known as “cigar lady”). Bond uses a convenient cord from the window blinds to escape down the side of the building with the case of money.
PRE-CREDITS – LONDON
In the MI6 headquarters in London M (Judi Dench) chats to her old university buddy Sir Robert King (David Calder), an oil magnate who is retrieving the money Bond brought back from Spain.
But when King goes to the secure room to get his cash, a bomb explodes, killing him. Bond sees cigar lady on a boat on the River Thames watching the explosion and using a funky black speedboat Q is testing, pursues her.
CHASE ON THE THAMES
The chase is great, with Brosnan doing most of the stunts as he pursues her, dodging bullets and grenades, using the “dive” function (adjusting his tie underwater) and takes a short cut across a main road, through a fish market, then an expensive café, before returning to the Thames to meet cigar lady head on – by firing torpedoes at her.
She crashes the boat near the Millennium Dome, and leaps into a departing hot air balloon. Bond ditches his boat, soaring up to grab one of the balloon’s guide ropes. Bond yells that he can protect her. She disagrees, as “he” will know – and shoots at some air tanks.
The balloon is destroyed and Bond hits the dome and tumbles down the side until finally managing to grab a cable to stop him sliding off the edge.
One of the best, if not the best opening, and David Arnold’s exciting score is a masterful accompaniment to get your blood pumping.
WELCOME TO SCOTLAND
After King’s Scottish funeral, MI6 are temporarily based in a Scottish castle, and it is great to see the return of Michael Kitchen as Tanner and Colin Salmon as Robinson. I liked their return for it suggested that there was a team behind the scenes supporting Bond – this idea of the MI6 team continues to this day.
M briefs the male and female 00 agents that Russian terrorist Renard (Robert Carlyle), a man shot by another 00 agent, the bullet slowly removing his senses and killing him, is responsible for the attack. Bond also learns that Renard kidnapped King’s daughter Elektra a few years previously.
Bond is sent to Baku to where Elektra is running her father’s business and managing the valuable pipeline of oil. Elektra is a very independent, strong and controlled character, who hides any trace of the pain she had endured when kidnapped.
The second big action sequence is when Bond and Elektra are attacked by parahawks (jet skis which parachute down from the skies) in a scene which looks great, but it is an unexciting ski chase. An explosion traps them in an avalanche. Luckily Bond has a special cocoon jacket from Q.
Q and R?
Before leaving London, Bond visits Q, and his new assistant (John Cleese) who is very funny when trying to battle Bond’s witticisms. It is here that we see the jacket which has a special inflatable cocoon feature.
Q’s departure from the scene is brilliant and touching – even more so when you watch it realising that Desmond Llewelyn died in a car accident just before the film debuted. Llewelyn was a fan favourite who had been in the franchise since From Russia With Love. There is a touching moment when Bond looks at Q’s assistant then back at Q:
Bond: You aren’t retiring any time soon, are you?
Q: Now pay attention 007. I’ve always tried to teach you two things. First, never let them see you bleed.
Bond: And the second?
Q: Always have an escape plan.
And click, Q slowly sinks out of shot, a cunning trap door taking him away from Bond.
Valentine Sukovsky (Robbie Coltrane) makes a welcome return from Goldeneye, when Bond visits him at his new Baku casino to ask him about Renard. But then Elektra appears in the casino to bet $1 million on a high card draw. Bond clearly disapproves and she replies:
There’s no point in living if you can’t feel alive.
Despite her outer control, Elektra has her self-destructive demons. And she loses the million. And Bond falls for her, for the next time we see them they are in bed.
THE DEVIL’S BREATH
We first meet Renard (Robert Carlyle) as he exits caves of fire to meet with two of Elektra’s goons who are obviously working with him against her. One goon is dispatched and the other, Davidov is made to hold a burning rock – of course, Renard doesn’t feel the pain, but the goon does.
CHRISTMAS IN KAZAKHSTAN
Bond has realised Davidov is up to no good, so kills him and takes his place on a plane to Kazakhstan where there is an operation to recover nuclear material from an underground facility. The resident nuclear scientist Christmas Jones (Denise Richards) is sceptical of Bond but allows him to join the others inside.
Bond confronts Renard for the first time. The scene between Brosnan and Carlyle is great, with lots of implied threat, and the feeling that Bond is about to lose his professionalism. When, under gunpoint, Renard coolly states:
There’s no point in living if you can’t feel alive.
Bond realises he’s being played. Of course, this twist was telegraphed early in the film, for anyone with a knowledge of Greek mythology and how Elektra sought revenge for the death of her father, the King. Sure, they flipped it around, but her name alone ruined the twist for me.
A brief noisy shoot-out ensues. Renard makes it to an elevator with a stolen missile, leaving a small bomb to detonate. Bond and Jones make it to the surface before the facility explodes and watch as Renard and his team escape.
IN THE PIPELINE
M, at Elektra’s request, is now in the pipeline control room in Baku when they realise Renard has put the bomb in the pipeline. Robinson (Colin Salmon) takes Bond and Jones to an access hatch so they can intercept the fast-moving rig that is zooming through the pipeline. They catch up with it, but Jones realises that the bomb has only half of the plutonium. This explosion is a diversion.
Bond and Jones slide off the rig and tumble through the pipe just before the rig explodes. They survive, but in the control room, everything thinks they are dead. And that’s just how Bond wants it.
In the control room, Elektra’s men kill everyone except M. And M gives her a good slap on the face. M on tour is awesome.
TO THE LIGHTHOUSE
At her lighthouse hideout on the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Elektra welcomes Renard with the remaining plutonium. They both then go and goad M who is imprisoned in the tower. Luckily for M, she realises she has the missile’s locator card in her pocket…
Renard and Elektra have their after-sex chat where he is jealous of her missing Bond. Sure, he can hold hot coals, or punch a hole in a table and feel no physical pain, but emotionally, he is tortured.
In a sadly largely irrelevant scene, Bond and Jones sneak into Sukovsky’s caviar factory to ask about the $1 million she “lost” to him. But soon they are attacked by helicopters with rotating saws (we watched them strip trees at the pipeline construction earlier). The scene is spectacular as Bond runs from explosions, falls down gantries, uses missiles from his BMW to destroy one copter, and more. The factory is destroyed and Sukovsky has the excellent line:
The insurance company is never going to believe this.
TO THE LIGHTHOUSE AGAIN
M manages to use batteries from an old clock in the room to activate the locator card. Down below, Renard and his team welcome Nikolai (Sukovsky’s nucleur sub-commanding nephew – that’s what the $1 million payment was for). Of course the Russians are killed as the villains get ready to install the plutonium rod. Renard says goodbye to Elektra knowing he will never return. He spies Elektra’s fervour and we see the pain on his face. He senses his kisses mean nothing to her.
Goons bring Bond to Elektra. She says, “I could have given you the world”.
Bond: The world is not enough.
He is then strapped into a chair with a neck restraint which Elektra tightens brutally. Straddling him he explains that she didn’t suffer Stockholm Syndrome and fall for Renard – instead, she “turned” Renard. She even cut off part of her own ear to sell the idea of the kidnapping.
THE RETURN OF SUKOVSKY
Sukovsky returns with some allies to shoot up the bad guys. He bursts into the room, but Elektra shoots him. Yet he is not done, for his last act is to use the secret gun in his walking stick to fire at one of Bond’s chair restraints. Sadly Sukovsky then dies, but he saved the day.
Bond pursues a laughing Electra up the stairs, stopping briefly to shoot out the lock on the door that traps M. At the top of the tower, in the bedroom, he confronts Elektra for the last time. He asks her to call Renard to stop the bomb.
Elektra: You wouldn’t kill me, you’d miss me.
Bond: I never miss.
The finale is muddled and disappointing. Bond dives into the sea and manages to access the sub. Inside, he finds Jones, and manages to get rid of the goons. But Renard is down trying to insert the plutonium rod into the nuclear core.
Just before Renard pushes the rod in the wall, Bond finds a random pressurised air cable, plops it onto a nozzle which somehow propels the rod through Renard.
In London, the whole MI6 team including M are trying to track Bond using satellite imagery. They find him lying on bed, the heat signature getting warmer. M seems confused but everyone else in the room works it out when the figure on screen moves to reveal another underneath. Bond and Jones are obviously in bed.
THE BIG DOUBLE-ENTENDRE FINAL LINE
Bond: I thought Christmas only came once a year.
I really like this film. The action for the most part is great, particularly the opening Thames chase. The story is quite good too – with the power-hungry villain planning a new kind of world domination. The cast are great and the music wonderful.
Barbara Broccoli, during the film’s production had said they wanted a strong female villain:
With Elektra, Bond thinks he has found Tracy, but he’s really found Blofeld.
I only wish it worked out like that, for that description alone suggests a great Bond story.
The finale, like that of Tomorrow Never Dies, doesn’t quite live up to what came before it, but this is a big bold Bond movie for the 1990’s and seemed a fitting end to Bond in the 20th Century.
Bond 20 would coincide with the franchise’s 40th anniversary – it was a special time and required a special film…
|Produced by: EON Productions
Presented By: Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli
Director: Michael Apted
Screenplay: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Bruce Fierstein
Composer: David Arnold
“The World Is Not Enough” by David Arnold and Don Black, performed by Garbage
Production Design: Peter Lamont
Cinematography: Adrian Biddle
London Premiere November 1999