So I didn't particularly expect this one to hold up to an older and wiser viewing, but I'm surprised to report that my younger self sometimes got it right. After the best of Brosnan's typically stonking opening sequences, the stage is set for an investigation into the assassination of Robert King, an oil baron and close friend of M's, right in the middle of MI6. Bond makes things personal, as he's been prone to do in the past, and vows to protect King's daughter, Elektra, from her father's murderer, a terrorist with a unique resistance to pain, who once held Elektra captive.
Like those other aforementioned films I enjoyed in my childhood, this has become the butt of a few jokes amongst film fans, though largely overshadowed by the disaster that followed. The main fault lies in casting from the Jessica Alba Acting School for Scientists, by enlisting Denise Richards to play nuclear scientist Dr. Christmas Jones. Aside from some characterisation that mentions how she's toughened up by piss-takery regarding her ridiculous name, and incessant come-ons in a workplace where she is the only boobed personnel, this is an utterly risible casting decision, seeing as how her line delivery constantly seems abetted by cue cards.
Making up for the crimes connected to Richards, the film's primary Bond girl, Elektra King, actually turns out to be the main antagonist. It's not a twist that's hard to spot, if you're keeping your eyes open, but the film does a terrific job of pointing you in the direction of Renard for most of the build-up. Robert Carlyle plays the first proper Bond henchman we've had in ages, with a medically spurious disfigurement making for some whomping fight scenes and some nice, intimidating villainy for the actor to chew on. Sophie Marceau is left playing catch-up, once her moment comes, but it's far more indicative of a modernisation of female representation in the series than Bond girls who occasionally tell 007 what a twat he is.
With veteran stuntman Vic Armstrong as second-unit director, the action is even more spectacular than usual. The opening sequence ranks amongst the best of the series, because what it lacks in brevity, it makes up with vigourous awesomeness, and keeps the spectacle ratcheted up to 11 from there. Bond films must always have action, but it feels like there's something more ambitious at play here, and it pays off brilliantly. The action is so good as to even make the sillier parts look better, as in a scene where an avalanche buries Bond and Elektra, with their only salvation being a jacket that doubles as a giant, apparently-inpenetrable plushy bubble from Q Branch.
Speaking of Q Branch, this film marks the final appearance of Desmond Llewellyn as the long-suffering quartermaster. The dialogue is a real problem in his final scene, and throughout Neal Purvis and Robert Wade's script, but there's still a moving farewell to one of the series' icons. It's almost wrecked by John Cleese, who is utterly crap by comparison. He pops up at the end of the film too, with a "quip" about the millennium bug that instantly, hideously dates the film at the arse-end of the 20th century. On a serious note, Llewellyn was killed in a car accident, shortly after this film premiered, making his departure all the more poignant.
#19- Sometimes, when Pierce Brosnan is underwater, he'll do something as cool as straightening his tie. Other times, he'll pull this face.
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The Mad Prophet Will Return, With Die Another Day... in August.