The 25th Bond film NO TIME TO DIE debuts in less.than one month. Today, I continue my rewatch of all the films so far, and it is Pierce Brosnan’s third, very assured performance as 007. Spoilers ahead…
The pre-titles sequence in TWINE is fourteen minutes long. The first section, set in Bilbao, Spain is a good opening, but test audiences felt it needed more. So director Michael Apted decided to expand the pre-titles into the first big chase.
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” as she had previously offered Bond a cigar). As authorities run up the stairs, Bond barricades himself in, only to see one of the goons recover and stand to shoot him. But pop, a laser dot on the goon means he’s dead, and Bond uses a convenient cord from the window blinds to escape down the side of the building with the banker’s case of money.
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. He uses the “dive” function in the boat to go under a closing bridge (adjusting his tie underwater) and takes a short cut through a rowing club, across a main road, down a lane, 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, forcing some hot air balloonists to abandon their craft at gunpoint. Bond ditches his boat, soaring up to grab one of the balloon’s guide ropes. As security helicopters appear, Bond yells up 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.
It’s a great opening. One of the best, if not the best, and David Arnold’s exciting score is a masterful accompaniment to get your blood pumping.
After the (once again) excellent credit sequence by Daniel Kleinman, featuring women drenched in oil and lots of explosions, we are in Scotland at King’s funeral, attended by Bond, M and others. And we see King’s daughter Elektra (Sophie Marceau) for the first time.
WELCOME TO SCOTLAND
MI6 are temporarily based in a Scottish castle (why not) and it is great to see the return of Michael Kitchen as Tanner (last seen in Goldeneye) and Colin Salmon as Robinson, returning from Tomorrow Never Dies. I liked their return for it suggested that there was a team back in London supporting Bond (and tidying up after him) and this idea of the MI6 team continues to this day.
M briefs the MI6 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 was responsible for the kidnapping of Elektra a few years previously.
Bond, injured on the dome, isn’t given a mission to allow him time to recover, but he has a “meeting” with the doctor “Molly Warmflash” who signs him off as fit.
Bond makes the rather easy discovery that the amount of money in King’s case was the same amount that Renard demanded for the return of Elektra. M advised King not to pay the ransom, so she feels a little responsible.
As Renard had booby-trapped the money to kill King, Bond suggests that he may be trying to get revenge on everyone involved with the kidnapping – including Elektra.
Bond is sent to Baku to where Elektra is running her father’s business and managing the valuable pipeline of oil.
There is a lot of story, background, and set up in the film which pays off later, especially when some revelations happen, but this helps to give the plot a little “meat” that I would suggest TMD lacked.
Elektra is a very independent, strong and controlled character, who hides any trace of the pain she had endured when kidnapped. She is adept at public relations, diverting her pipeline to ensure a historic church is preserved. She is also very hands on with the pipeline, checking things out herself.
Elektra is reluctant to have Bond near her as M has let her down twice now, but Bond insists.
The second big action sequence is when Bond and Elektra are skiing near the pipeline on her inspection. They are attacked by parahawks (jet skis which parachute down from the skies) in a scene which looks great, but for me it is an unexciting chase. Bond manages to lure one into the trees, then get two others to crash before one explosion traps him and Elektra in an avalanche. Luckily Bond has a special jacket from Q.
Q and R?
Before leaving London, Bond visits Q, who is understandably furious at the destruction of his “fishing boat”. In the scene Bond meets Q’s 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. 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.
Anyway, the inflatable jacket saves Bond and Elektra although the confined space gets her very upset.
Later in her luxury mansion, Elektra asks Bond to explain who is hunting her and he refuses to tell her. She reveals a little about how her kidnapping affected her life, and suggests he stays with her. Bond, for once, refuses – his duty a priority.
“BOND JAMES BOND”
Bond visits a casino in Baku run by Valentine Sukovsky (Robbie Coltrane) making a welcome return from Goldeneye. At the start we see Bond using his cool blue x-ray glasses (yup, he sees hidden guns and ladies underwear). Sukovsky is now a legitimate businessman it seems, and Bond asks him about Renard. Ultimately, he doesn’t tell him much.
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.
Bond later sees Davidov getting ready for a trip (and spots the other dead goon in the car). And Bond hides in the car while Davidov goes to a remote air strip. Goon killed, Bond takes the fake ID Renard gave Davidov and board the plane.
CHRISTMAS IN KAZAKHSTAN
The plane lands in Kazakhstan where there is a full operation to recover nuclear material from a decommissioned weapons facility. The resident nuclear scientist Christmas Jones (Denise Richards) is sceptical of Bond but allows him and his team to join their colleagues inside.
And Bond confronts Renard for the first time. The scene between Brosnan and Carlyle is great, with lots of implied threat, the feeling that Bond is about to lose his professionalism, and of course, the cool controlled precision of Renard’s seemingly invincible attitude. Especially when, under gunpoint, Renard coolly states:
There’s no point in living if you can’t feel alive.
And 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.
Renard also reveals he shot the goon with the laser sight in Spain to save Bond’s like – and he squeezes Bond’s shoulder in full knowledge of Bond’s injury. Renard seems to know everything.
Dr Jones and some officials arrive having realised Bond’s ID was fake and a shoot out ensues. Renard and his goons are shuttling a nuclear missile to an elevator while Bond tries to stop them. The shoot-out is brief and noisy, but Renard makes it to the elevator, leaving a bomb to detonate. Bond and Jones make it to the surface before the facility explodes and they watch as Renard and his team escape.
BACK IN SCOTLAND
M and the team are trying to figure out where Renard’s plane could have gone (the missile’s locator card had been removed by a goon – which Bond acquired during the shoot-out.
Elektra calls M to explain that Bond has vanished and Davidov is dead. She asks M to come to her personally.
BACK IN BAKU
Bond returns to Elektra’s mansion, dispatching her bodyguard and confronts her about her captive/captor relationship with Renard. Elektra is shocked and tries to manoeuvre her way out of it when a message arrives to say Renard has attacked her pipeline, killing ten men.
In the pipeline control room, M and Bond watch the screens and realise Renard has placed the bomb in the pipeline.
IN THE PIPELINE
Charles Robinson (Colin Salmon) takes Bond and Jones to an access hatch in the pipeline 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 and is designed to create destruction of the pipeline and disguise the theft.
Bond and Jones slide off the rig and tumble through the tunnel 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 at last she reveals her true colours. M give her a good slap on the face. M on tour is awesome.
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.
Elektra: Your people will leave you here to rot, just like you left me… My father was nothing. The kingdom he stole from my mother. The kingdom I will rightly take back.
And once Elektra leaves:
Renard: When I took her, she was promise itself. And you left her at the mercy of a man like me. You ruined her. For what? To get to me?
He also reveals that their plan is to detonate the bomb in the bay, poisoning the area, and forcing the West to rely on Elektra’s pipeline.
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.
Bond and Jones sneak into Sukovsky’s caviar factory to ask about the $1 million she “lost” to him. And we learn it is a payment – but soon they are attacked by helicopters with rotating saws (we watched them strip trees at the pipeline construction earlier. The scene is spectacular and noisy as Bond runs from explosions, falls down gantries, uses missiles from his BMW to destroy one copter, slides down cables and more. The factory is destroyed and Sukovsky has the excellent line:
The insurance company is never going to believe this.
THE SAFE HOUSE
Sukovsky takes Bond and Jones to a former safe house where we learn the $1 million was a payment so he could get his Russian nuclear sub commander nephew Nikolai smuggle cargo for Elektra. But boom – Sukovsky’s goon Mr Bullion runs off, leaving a small bomb to destroy the factory, and Bond and Jones are captured.
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 and the sub – and of course the Russians are killed as the villains get ready to install the plutonium rod. Renard leaves, knowing he will never return, and spying Elektra’s fervour for her plan we see the pain on his face. He knows 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. Brosnan sells this very well. 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. It was Elektra herself who replaced Robert King’s pin with the detonator that killed him in the MI6 building.
THE RETURN OF SUKOVSKY
Left for dead in the safe house explosion, Sukovsky now 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.
Elektra: You wouldn’t kill me, you’d miss me.
Bond shoots. She dies.
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.
Bond and Renard have a strange fight in the small room where the core is, as Jones seems to just watch on.
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. Bond and Jones are on the hotel balcony as fireworks pop in the background in a homage to To Catch a Thief perhaps?
When the find Bond the imagery shows 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.
John Cleese shuts the feed down blaming the Millennium bug and we cut to the hotel bedroom for THE BIG DOUBLE ENTENDRE FINAL LINE.
Bond: I thought Christmas only came once a year.
They went there.
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.
I wish I hadn’t spotted the “twist” about Elektra, for that spoiled much of the film for me, especially as for the first half they played it like it was a surprise reveal.
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 escape from the missile silo feels awkward to me, and 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.
The next film had a lot to live up to, for Brosnan’s run so far had been excellent. As well as a new 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