TWO STARS - Shallow
True to the genre of the “James Bond” films, the latest installment is both an adrenaline and hormone hit. But when Bond (Pierce Brosnan) fights temptation when he is offered the world by declaring “The World Is Not Enough,” the moral messages woven into this storyline give it some redeeming value. However, it is a redemption that is conflicted and of unclear meaning.
Evil is, of course, defeated. But the evil villainess of the film is both a victim of her father’s greed and her government’s manipulations.
Good is, of course, victorious. But the good Director of Operations, M (Judi Dench), is willing to use a helpless hostage as bait by leaving her in the hands of a truly evil man; the hostage’s father agrees to such a plan; and Agent 007, though injured, is willing to use a female doctor’s sexual desires to get medical clearance for the mission.
This conflicted good and evil is often the way real life struggles exist with some bad in the best of us, and some good in the worst of us. What is missing from the film is a message of rising above such conflict to a higher ideal. There is no transcendent presence or message within any of the characters’ lives, though the title implies that there is.
This is, perhaps, the most disappointing aspect of the film and leaves it only as entertainment.
The action is classic Bond with the usual technological wizardry and his calm aloofness in the face of danger. The plot is creative, using the disintegrating Russian military and its former agents and officers to set up the possibility of a nuclear event that would appear to be an accident but would, in reality, financially benefit the villainess.
What interests us are the motivations of the characters and their moral implications.
The most intriguing is the cooperative love of the villain and villainess. The villain is Renard (Robert Carlyle), who is a former Russian spy now living with a bullet inside his brain. The bullet, put there by Her Majesty’s agent, is both killing him and giving him almost supernatural powers.
Lodged within the inner creases of his brain, the bullet has severed Renard’s tactile senses: he feels no pain. Because of this loss, his body reacts by adrenaline-pumped stamina and abnormal physical strength. But it is not his physical condition that fuels his evil as much as it is his awareness that the bullet is killing him, and he is “already dead.”
This reality motivates Renard to accept the goal of the victimized villainess, Elektra, when she has a dream of not only killing her father in revenge, but also of greedily destroying her competition in a major economic venture her father began. If she is victorious, she will easily become the richest woman in the world.
This desire to leave a legacy, coupled with Elektra’s anger and greed , creates a ferocious union capable of ruthless and arrogant evil.
At one point in the film, it is obvious that the demented evil to which Elektra has succumbed has promised her invincibility: she does not believe that Bond or anyone else can harm her.
This is often the promise underlying evil’s seduction. Elektra fell for the classic lie that evil will ultimately triumph.
The second relationship which has intriguing moral implications is that of M and Elektra’s father, Sir Robert King (David Calder). Though ostensibly the “good guys” of the film, it is obvious that this wealthy father and this government official have an unholy bond.
Though the film doesn’t explore the dynamics of their relationship or the motivations of their decisions in ways that would have been truly enlightening, it hints that their alliance not only sacrifices Elektra’s soul, but also costs King his life and M her freedom.
The final moral message of the film is the obvious disrespect Bond has for women. Though debonaire and charming, Bond has no respect for his or others’ sexual and relational purity or faithfulness.
Any spiritual implications behind the title “The World Is Not Enough” would have been great, but not expected from a Bond film. There is so much more to live for than just this world and its temporary pleasures and possessions. If Bond truly believed that, he would seek a transcendent message to guide his life and would then be a hero worthy of emulation. Until then, he embodies only the trite entertainment of a comic book hero.