After two gritty films with Timothy Dalton as 007, Pierce Brosnan resurrects the series from a 6-year sleep with 1995’s GoldenEye. I liked the film, and I felt it was tightly produced. Read on for more.
The opening of GoldenEye sets a rather thrilling tone for the rest of the movie, and it continues the trend of incorporating mind-boggling stunts at the outset of each Bond film. The leap off the edge of the dam is exhilarating, and Bond’s subsequent break-in to the weapons facility is convincingly executed. Now that we’re officially in the mid-90s, the production quality is top notch and, unlike many of the previous entries, holds up relatively well compared to the action we see today.
Pierce Brosnan exudes the same kind of charisma that Roger Moore did, except that Brosnan is a little smoother and a little less stiff. All traces of the Dalton Bond seem to have disappeared here, and the first quarter of GoldenEye definitely felt like a return to the old Bond formulas. In fact, in the traditional chase scene wherein Bond meets Famke Janssen’s Xenia Onatopp, we see him driving his classic Aston Martin DB5. And with Onatopp, we also have a return to the suggestive female names.
Later on, we’re introduced to the new M, played by Judi Dench. Allusions to her “predecessor” are made in passing, and the villain, Janus (Sean Bean), a former MI6 agent himself, mentions the fact that the “new M” is a woman. I think this was an effective transition from one M to another, and since Judi Dench is so good in the role, it didn’t bother me at all.
In fact, the acting all around is pretty solid in GoldenEye. Onatopp is a little excessive at times, and Alan Cumming is surprisingly unconvincing as a super hacker (you’d think he’d fit perfectly in a role like that), but I really felt everyone else delivered. Even Izabella Scorupco, who plays Natalya Simonova, eventually proves herself, after the first half of the movie had me thinking she’d be another one of those disposable Bond girls we hardly remember. There’s also another new Moneypenny, and while she’s fine in her 5 minutes on screen, the attempts to recreate the sexual tension that existed between Lois Maxwell and Sean Connery or Roger Moore fell far short. They weren’t clever or witty so much as cold and even a little acerbic.
The sinister plot at the heart of the story is somewhat unimportant, but Sean Bean and Famke Janssen make a mean pair. Onatopp’s rather unique “skill” is… interesting, if a bit silly; I pictured her threatening to squeeze the life out of Professor X and screaming, “Call me… the Thighmaster!” And Sean Bean, well, he’s yet another one of those actors who just looks like a bad guy; I think it’s his beady, scheming eyes. He’s quickly offed (par for the course, really) in the first few minutes of the movie, but his name shows up second in the opening credits, so it’s clear he’ll come back into play at some point. And when he does — as the film’s central villain — he’s convincing enough to make his ridiculous motives sound genuine, unlike, say, Drax, who just looked like he spent a lot of time reading Marie Claire and snacking on popcorn chicken.
In general, the action was put together very well, I thought. There were moments of utter chaos that harkened back to the recklessness of Roger Moore’s Bond, particularly during the tank chase (side note: if you’ve ever wondered if you can drift in a tank, the answer is yes), but for some reason, I reveled in the mass destruction. The set pieces were impressive, and the fistfights were choreographed well, especially compared to the early 007 films. I think these were elements that really blossomed with the Dalton films, but here it’s quite apparent that a lot more money was spent on hardware (tanks, choppers, etc.) and special effects.
Overall, I thought GoldenEye was a tightly crafted Bond movie. I’ve obviously learned by now to suspend my disbelief to enjoy these, so I had few qualms with continuity or logic here. The story, while not the most creative, moved along at a pretty even pace, which kept me engaged for the most part. And seeing Brosnan operate as Bond really shed light on precisely how grim Dalton was in the role, which is not to say that was a bad thing at all. I think it’s fascinating to see what each actor brings to 007, and I look forward to what else Brosnan can offer.
Favorite line: “No, you’re supposed to die for me.” — Perhaps Janus had some encounters with Goldfinger during his MI6 days.
Favorite moment: Bond and Simonova are trapped inside a stolen chopper as missiles are about to destroy them. In a desperate effort to escape, Bond starts swinging his head furiously, attempting to press buttons with his forehead. Eventually he finds the Eject button, but the imagery was hilarious.