Denise Richards is not convincing as a nuclear physicist. That statement made, Apted might get her best performance ever in this film. It’s still awful. Her lack of charisma is painful; one has to wonder how Brosnan and Apted were able to put up with it, given the rest of the film’s considerable accomplishments.
The World is Not Enough probably has ten great action sequences. Something about Apted’s direction lets him ground the general Bond absurdity and create these transfixing sequences. Not all of these scenes are important–there’s a couple for pure padding purposes–but Apted makes them work. Given he’s not known as an action director, it’s interesting to see his sensibilities translate so well to the genre.
Besides the direction, the film’s got a pretty solid script. It’s got some goofiness–it’s not particularly believable Judi Dench is a sentimental moron–but it’s fine. There’s some smiles, if not laughs, and it moves well.
And besides Richards, the supporting cast is excellent. Sophie Marceau gets the primary female role and does well with it. The other principle is Robert Carlyle, who gives one of his great, chameleon performances here. While it might have been simpler just to mimic his Trainspotting performance, he instead creates a nearly sympathetic, utterly evil villain. And Robbie Coltrane’s back. He’s hilarious.
The film survives Richards mostly thanks to Brosnan, who carries the weight of their scenes all himself. But he’s also just very assured here.
Still, I can’t help wondering who else auditioned for Richard’s role.
Directed by Michael Apted; screenplay by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Bruce Feirstein, based on a story by Purvis and Wade and characters created by Ian Fleming; director of photography, Adrian Biddle; edited by Jim Clark; music by David Arnold; production designer, Peter Lamont; produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Starring Pierce Brosnan (James Bond), Sophie Marceau (Elektra King), Robert Carlyle (Renard), Denise Richards (Dr. Christmas Jones), Robbie Coltrane (Valentin Zukovsky), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), John Cleese (R), Maria Grazia Cucinotta (Cigar Girl), Samantha Bond (Miss Moneypenny), Michael Kitchen (Tanner), Colin Salmon (Robinson), Goldie (Bullion), Serena Scott Thomas (Dr. Molly Warmflash) and Judi Dench (M).