Sir Robert King, an oil magnate and friend of M, the head of MI6, is murdered during a bombing. The tycoon's only heir, the beautiful Elektra King, inherits billions of dollars worth of oil deposits in the Caspian sea—as well as some very unwanted attention. Elektra is threatened with the same deadly fate as her father, unless she changes the route of Sir Robert's proposed pipeline. Feeling somewhat responsible for the death, as he was unable to fully secure MI6 from the bomb, James Bond 007 takes on the role of bodyguard for Elektra. Now the world's oil supply is in peril as 007 battles the assassin, Renard, a rabid anti-capitalist terrorist. He is a hateful, dying, psychopath who feels no pain, due to the fact that he lives with a bullet lodged in his brain. Renard is intent on using the resources of King Enterprises as revenge against his hated enemies at MI6. Bond must race to defuse this international power struggle with the world´s oil supply hanging in the balance, aware that he's the only man who can take the heat between a beautiful heiress, a malicious sociopath, and a world-threatening diabolical plan. (Synopsis from Hollywood.com)
The first time I heard the main title song to The World Is Not Enough, I found myself almost unexpectedly enthused by it, far moreso than I had been over a Bond theme in quite a long time. While my appreciation for the group Garbage is marginal, their vocalist, Shirley Manson, turns in an intriguing, half-mumbled, half-shouted performance that makes the best of Don Black's exceptional lyrics. It was in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, both novel and film, that "The World Is Not Enough" became known as Bond's family motto, and it's the most appropriate title for a Bond film in years.
The movie opens in high-gear, with a very long pre-credits sequence in which an old friend of M's is killed in an explosion at MI6 headquarters. Spotting a motorized launch in the nearby Thames, Bond swipes Q's "unfinished" fishing boat—a jet-powered, high-speed, one-man watercraft with all the expected extras—and takes off after the suspect. One of Brosnan's best touches as Bond is that he makes all his bumps, spills, tumbles, and crashes look like they actually hurt; and at the end of this chase, he actually suffers his gravest injury since a bullet nicked his ankle in Thunderball—he dislocates his shoulder at the end of a long fall.
Daniel Kleinman's opening titles are certainly no improvement over Tomorrow Never Dies; if anything, they're even less appealing, with women forming out of viscous pools of bubbling petroleum. Yeah, sexy. Garbage's music video for the song is far more exciting, with Shirley Manson gradually becoming a Stepford-Wife like replica of herself—with a twist.
"Show Me the Money" starts out as typical tuneless action music, with some strains rather reminiscent of Lalo Schifrin's Mission Impossible theme—until familiar, blasting brass notes catapult a dynamic James Bond theme into the mix. As with "White Knight" from the Tomorrow Never Dies score, this piece is set to hammering, rhythmic percussion with lots of Barry-like brass. Alas, as the exhilarating motorboat chase unfolds on screen, the music gets completely lost in the clutter of sound effects; on the album, however, "Show Me the Money" proves itself to be an exciting and well-crafted piece of action music, spoiled only by a surplus of squeaking electronic "enhancements" that sound like rubber-soled shoes on linoleum.
"Access Denied" has an atmospheric opening featuring several chiming notes from the title theme, moving into suspenseful, dark-toned piece. It's short but effective. "M's Confession" begins with a deep, subtle string arrangement—a nice change of pace after the breathtaking opening track and the heaviness of "Access Denied"—and ends with a groaning synthesizer, reflecting M's (Judi Dench) grim mood after the killing of her friend Sir Robert King (David Calder). "Welcome to Baku" starts out very much in the Barry vein; then a warbling female vocalist rises from the notes of the Bond theme and ushers in a rousing instrumental of the main title. An excellent, but again very short track.
Arnold shows his proficiency with mellow and lyrical notes in "Casino," a bit of Barry-like background music that is barely heard in the film but is an excellent mood-setter, not unlike "Tiffany Case" from Diamonds Are Forever. It's actually one of my favorite cuts on the album.
Action motifs return with "Ice Bandits," which accompanies a high-energy chase in which several paragliders attack Bond and Elektra King (Sophie Marceau) on skis. Rattling percussion dominates the composition, and the brass and string outbursts suggest the beginnings of a thematic distinctiveness, but it never fully materializes. "Body Double," however, is the opposite, beginning quite distinctively with a deep, thudding bass line, rattling chimes, coiling woodwinds, and snapping guitar strings, eventually weaving the James Bond theme from the elements; but then it trails off to a less-well-defined amalgamation of instrumentation.
A long piece (6:27), "Going Down—The Bunker" moves like Bond's shadow as he descends into the Russian underground nuclear storage site—first sly and secretive, building slowly in intensity, then exploding into sonic fireworks. Arnold here departs from the Barry mold and lapses into more of a Michael Kamen mode—it noisily reflects the tension of the scene without musically enhancing it. The orchestra gets loud and energetic, but the composition doesn't have the finesse of Barry or Martin or even Serra. For all intents and purposes, it's another sound effect. "Pipeline" ends up being mostly more of the same, but with a slightly more intense pounding rhythm.
"Elektra's Theme" has a lyrical flow similar to the music for Paris in Tomorrow Never Dies, but it also lacks definition, never fully developing into a true "theme." "Remember Pleasure" brings in a darker version of "Elektra's Theme," reflecting her relationship with the sensation-deprived Renard (Robert Carlyle), who cannot feel pleasure or pain because of a bullet in his brain that is slowly killing him. The cut is rather bland, though; a more passionate piece would have moved the message of its title more effectively. "Torture Queen" is similarly dark-toned but also emotionless. At this point the soundtrack is screaming for some kind of memorable theme to capture the inner intensity of the characters.
One of the best returning characters in the recent Bond films is Valentin Zukovski (Robbie Coltrane), who provides not only some well-played humor, but a much-needed, if reluctant ally for James Bond. The music "Caviar Factory" highlights the helicopter attack on Zukovski's most-prized property; it starts out like "Going Down—The Bunker," with rising and falling waves of orchestral overkill, but then a well-arranged James Bond theme cuts in. Then it's back to more pounding rhythm and electronic enhancement that is more distracting than effective—apparently an attempt to reproduce the sounds of the whirring, jagged gears the choppers use to destroy Zukovski's building.
"I Never Miss" and "Submarine" (at a whopping ten minutes long) continue in the vein of mostly nondescript instrumentation, rising and falling with the pace of the action, but never becoming substantial entities of their own—a problem that vividly illustrates Arnold's most significant shortcoming as a Bond film composer. His tracks tend to run together, often with little to separate them other than their titles. Even some repetition and rearrangement of the main title theme would have cut through the tedium, especially given the high quality of "The World Is Not Enough." Electronic tricks fail to disguise an otherwise lackluster composition, and while he has mastered many of Barry's mannerisms, his 007 scores have yet to reveal a true musical identity. One could select a few cuts from Tomorrow Never Dies, a few from The World Is Not Enough, and a few from Die Another Day, play them at random, and it would be exceptionally difficult to tell which track came from which film. This was never one of Barry's failings, and I feel it's erroneous to regard Arnold as the new "master" of the Bond scores. He admittedly turns in some fine work—and I will certainly not short-sell even some of his more generic action pieces—but the shining jewels are scattered amid a lot of nondescript symphonic verbiage.
The album concludes with the low-key, relatively pleasant "Christmas in Turkey," and the song "Only Myself to Blame," sung by Scott Walker. It's not a bad piece, being listenable lounge music of typical Walker calibre. Apparently it was meant to accompany the end titles but at the last minute was replaced by instrumental Bond music that does not appear here. Probably not a bad choice for the film, but the song is a nice inclusion on the album: a lyrical finish to an all-too-often, all-too-frenetic mish-mosh of action noise.
I know how to hurt,
The world is not enough,
People like us
We know when to kiss,
The world is not enough,
I feel safe.
The world is not enough,
The world is not enough.
Only Myself to Blame
I've walked way past midnight,
I've held other arms,
From city to city,
I knew it was love
There's no greater fool,
I knew it was love
There the fool's not a fool.
And I've only myself,