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It's Not Summer Without Bond.

By Chris Neal

MAY 29, 2000:  After three go-rounds as James Bond, how is Pierce Brosnan doing? Well, he's no Sean Connery—but no one can be expected to be as cool as Connery. Of the remaining Bonds, Brosnan looks like the top of the heap: he can find Bond's gravity and darkness (unlike Roger Moore or George Lazenby), while reliably flashing his boyish impudence (unlike the over-earnest Timothy Dalton).

Brosnan returns in the 19th Bond opus, The World is Not Enough (PG-13, 1999), just out on video. The oft-incomprehensible plot goes something like this: Bond attempts to protect an oil heiress (Sophie Marceau) from ruthless villain Renard (Trainspotting's Robert Carlyle), enlisting the help of a mega-babe nuclear weapons expert (Denise Richards, game but hapless) to prevent Renard from controlling the world's oil supply.

Brosnan glides through all this nonsense with aplomb; perhaps his greatest strength in the role is his palpable delight in the Bond fantasy. Carlyle is stranded with an underwritten, colorless character (The World is Not Enough shares the weakness of every Bond film for over two decades: the lack of a memorable villain), but Marceau fares better with her more ambiguous role, slinking sublimely through the film with a delicious self-determination. On the good guys' side, Judi Dench (as M) is given more to do than usual, and the late Desmond Llewelyn makes a poignant exit as Q.

Veteran director Michael Apted—not known for action films—helms with little personality, reflecting the control of Bond producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli over the tone and pacing of the franchise. The net result is that The World is Not Enough is both predictable and predictably satisfying.

World is a step up from its immediate predecessor, Tomorrow Never Dies (PG-13, 1997), which feels oddly flat despite its clever conceit: media magnate Elliot Carver (a sly Jonathan Pryce) is selling newspapers by creating shocking news himself. Tomorrow's prime asset is the best Bond girl since the halcyon days of Pussy Galore: Michelle Yeoh as Bond's ass-kicking counterpart in the Chinese secret service. Yeoh, performing most of her own stunts, is strikingly ravishing, graceful, and powerful.

The best Brosnan Bond remains the first, GoldenEye (PG-13, 1995). After a six-year layoff, the exit of Dalton and the breakup of the U.S.S.R., the Bond franchise had much to contend with, and plunged in breathlessly. Brosnan, delighting in finally playing the role he was born to, brings panache to a Bond who had been sorely lacking it. The plot smartly plays on the lingering effects of the Soviet Union's demise, as Dench wonders aloud whether her star secret agent is himself a Cold War relic, a dinosaur whose usefulness has ended. GoldenEye proved he wasn't.

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