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While the plots of James Bond movies often rely on global politics and international intrigue, the movies are rarely in and of themselves political. The conflict diamonds in Die Another Day illustrate an overriding ice theme far more than they illuminate African political corruption. The terrorist cell in Casino Royale doesn't delve into international conflict, it underscores the sociopathic designs of Le Chiffre, Bond's opponent in the film.
Every so often though, Bond movie themes are surprisingly spot on -- especially upon second viewing.
In 1999's The World Is Not Enough Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is tasked with protecting Azerbaijani oil heiress Elektra King (Sophie Marceau) from the crazed terrorist who killed her father. King claims that her family is a target because of the oil pipeline they're building through Azerbaijan with the hope that it will help bring prosperity to the entire country. Soon enough, King's altruistic motivations are called into question and the plot takes some outsized twists and turns (a shoot-out in a caviar processing plant, Denise Richards as nuclear physicist Christmas Jones). Despite the trademark exaggeration of plot, the film's message about the oil industry -- where there's oil, there's greed and corruption -- hardly feels like hyperbole.
Azerbaijan opened the world's second longest pipeline in 2006, delivering oil from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean. The pipeline created thousands of job and indeed, helped revitalize the former Soviet republic. In recent years though, industry analysts and Central Asia experts have questioned the percentage of the profits that are actually used to raise the standard of living in the country versus how much makes its way into the pockets of the ruling elite.
Viewed today, the movie's theme of excess -- the sumptuous palaces, the caviar plant, the very title -- is awfully prescient. With gas over $4 a gallon and the presidential candidates debating whether or not to drill in areas offshore and in Alaska, the oil question is very much on the political stage. And we're certainly finding that the world's oil reserves will not be enough.