Well, I could tell you what this movie is about (beautiful heiress, yadda-yadda-yadda, terrorist who feels no pain, yadda-yadda-yadda) or I could just get to the point: How does this year’s model compare to all the other ones? Let’s have a look:
1) BOND, JAMES BOND. As usual, Pierce Brosnan proves he was made for this part. As the second best Bond, he also gains a bit more complexity than in the last outing, as not everything quite goes right for him.
2) THE VILLAINS. Robert Carlyle takes a break from indie-land to portray terrorist Renard. After he’s shot in the head, he can no longer feel pain or pleasure. No laughing madman here, Carlyle lets out the sadness and longing in a human-scale character. The other villain is pretty good, too. I’ve got to add it’s nice to see “King of Jungle” DJ Goldie as a henchman, in some kind of weird response to “King of Trip-Hop” Tricky’s similar role in “The Fifth Element”.
3) THE ACTION SCENES. Bigger, bolder, and sillier than ever. Don’t expect a car chase, heh-heh-heh.
4) THE BONDETTES. OK now we’re running into some problems. Sophie Marceau is great as troubled heiress, Elektra King. Like Carlyle, she’s actually here to act. ON THE OTHER HAND, casting Denise Richards as NUCLEAR SCIENTIST Dr. Christmas Jones sounds like some joke that went too far. Has she ever played a character old enough to have even graduated college? I guess they didn’t make her a rocket scientist for obvious reasons. While the series has a long history of implausibly beautiful women (usually models) in recent years the producers have felt the politically correct need to shore them up as intellectual equals. Unfortunately, Richards not only looks like a porn star, she acts like one too. For some reason, they dressed her up like Lara Croft, as well.
5) THE BIG PICTURE. Director Michæl Apted (“Coal Miner’s Daughter”) and screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Bruce Feirstein do their best to add both human dimension and moral complexity to the proceedings. In his first action flick in a long career, Apted succeeds in both the character stuff and the action scenes. Something had to give, and it’s the plot. Muddled in a “Mission: Impossible” sort of way, the focus of the film is everywhere else. This could be expected as producers attempt to extend Bond into next millenium and the series’ fifth decade. That task boils down to what anachronisms you keep and discard. My vote would be to lose the PG-13 rating. Are these family films? The main character kills people and is a complete dog with women. Let’s forego the niceties and let Bond get dirty. Besides, nothing could have validated Richards part except for nudity.