We’re up to Brosnan, people. Not far to go now.
I wasn’t sure if I could give this one a fair analysis. This film was my introduction to James Bond. Like a lot of people my age, I also played the N64 game to death. The film and the game are indelibly linked in my brain. I lived this fucking film as a kid. I approached the task of reviewing with the same mixture of excitement and trepidation one would as if meeting up with an old friend for the first time in years. Yes, I realise normal people are out getting laid instead of getting weirdly emotional over 17 year old blockbusters, but someone has to review these damn films. Just send your oddly father-centric hatespeeches to the usual address.
James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is sent to investigate the firing of a deadly satellite weapon known as”GoldenEye”. He meets survivor and computer programmer Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco) and they team up to stop Bond’s former ally, Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) and his psychotic partner Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) from using the weapon on London. Stepping outside of all those warm, gooey memories I have associated with this film, I’d still say the story is a solid one. Before GoldenEye came out, many people had their doubts about 007 returning to the big screen after 6 long years. The Cold War was over and as such the main driving force behind the Bond films had been lost. Cleverly, GoldenEye addresses this. It’s quite a smart dissection of Cold War era Bond. It gets a bit too clever-clever later on, but the initial stuff is extremely well thought out.
Brosnan is the crowd-pleaser of the Bonds. He’s a good all-rounder. He doesn’t bring a new spin to the character, but he doesn’t need to. Much in the same way people defend Moore or fawn over Connery, I will stick up for Brosnan. Brosnan is my Bond. He’s the one I grew up believing to completely embody charm and masculinity. Looking back now, Brosnan is more of a catalogue model than a trained killer, but nevertheless, I love the guy. We’ve had dark versions of Bond before, but Trevelyan takes the prize. Something about his age and the betrayal of the Lienz Cossacks doesn’t add up, but he’s still a fantastic villain. Sean Bean does a great job playing a complete nega-Bond. Izabella Scorupco had a lot on her shoulders as the first Bond girl of the ’90s and she does admirably. She isn’t just there for the camera to leer at and her story is quite affecting. The scene where the Severnaya crew are massacred by Xenia is still horrible to this day. Speaking of her, Xenia is probably the most “out there” villainess we’ve seen. She reminds me of Fiona Vulpe in Thunderball. No doubt the producers spooled through older Bond flicks for inspiration as there’s a female assassin who crushes people with her thighs mentioned in The Living Daylights. The one in TLD is a fucking munter though. Give me Famke Janssen any day. Janssen is completely fearless as Xenia. She throws herself into the role and is incredibly memorable. I just love the idea of a villain who literally gets off on murder. Before this paragraph gets too long, I just want to say that casting Judi Dench as M was a stroke of genius. I’m so glad she’s still doing the role to this day.
So that clever-clever stuff I mentioned earlier. Most of it’s fine. I especially love M calling Bond a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur. A relic of the Cold War.” The thing is when Trevelyan starts asking Bond whether “all those all those vodka martinis ever silence the screams of all the men you’ve killed” or if he finds “forgiveness in the arms of all those willing women for all the dead ones you failed to protect.” it starts coming across a little like fan-fiction. There are times where GoldenEye reminds me of the first Scream film in the way that it makes a point of outlining the tropes associated with the genre, but does them anyway. As I said, it’s mostly not an issue, I just wish they’d leaned a bit lighter on the post-modern filter.
Do not think for one moment that GoldenEye is some sort of beard-stroking intelliwank for tossers. Plenty of shit gets blown up. Every action bit works and is still impressive whilst viewed through my 2012 eyes. The opening sequence starting with the huge bungee jump and culminating in a physics-defying freefall leap after a nosediving plane is just great. It’s goofy but hey, life’s too damn serious. The tank sequence is classic Bond and my favourite Bond setpiece ever. I had never seen anything like it as a stupid kid and very few things match it now I’m a stupid adult. The final fight between Trevelyan and Bond is also the best fistfight since From Russia With Love. It’s a thumping, brutal, shit-kicking affair which ends with Bond getting some personal vengeance, rather than doing it all for Queen and country. Both the song and the titles are brilliant too. I really like all the Communist iconography falling to the powerhouse voice of Tina Turner. It’s better than fucking Lulu anyway. As for minor complaints, I have one. Why is Bond driving a BMW? Worst of all it’s a metallic blue Z3, which screams “Essex hairdresser” rather than “secret agent”. Also the (actually really good) Q scene takes the time to set up all the car’s gadgets and Bond never uses them. He drives the car for like 5 minutes. If you’re going to put Stinger missiles behind the headlights, at least let us see them being used.
The supporting cast really stood out to me in this film. We have Alan Cumming doing his best powernerd thing as Boris (and having the dubious pleasure of having one of the most ludicrous demises since Kananga went pop in Live and Let Die). Robbie Coltrane pops up as Russian gangster Valentin Zukovsky. Previous Bond villain Joe Don Baker cameos as the American-as-a-Bald Eagle burger Jack Wade. I also think Gottfried John and Tcheky Karyo are brilliant as Ouromov and Mishkin. Samantha Bond makes a great Moneypenny and Q is back- hooray!. Michael Kitchen also briefly appears as Tanner and gets to call M “the evil queen of numbers”.
I know the objectively GoldenEye isn’t the best Bond film. It is however, my favourite. I am forever indebted to it for introducing me to the world of 007. Watching it back, I was bracing myself for a moment when it all became shit and a cue to retroactively hate my younger self. I noticed more plot details and found a few flaws, but that dreaded moment never came. I think it’s pretty safe to say GoldenEye is a good film. Take this final rating though as the thick, sticky slice of personal bias it is though. Five stars bitches!