CAST: Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Izabella Scorupco, Famke Janssen, Joe Don Baker, Judi Dench, Gottfried John, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Cumming, Tchéky Karyo, Desmond Llewelyn, Samantha Bond, Michael Kitchen, Billy J. Mitchell, Minnie Driver, Serena Gordon
RUNNING TIME: 130 mins
BASICALLY…: When a space weapons program is stolen, James Bond (Brosnan) must stop a Russian crime syndicate from using it…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
With No Time To Die being pushed back all the way to November, the world needs its fix of Ian Fleming’s ace secret agent to tide them over until then. That’s why, every week until it finally comes out, we’re going to be taking a look at each previous movie in the series to see if, and how, they hold up today.
This week, it’s time for Pierce Brosnan to take over the role as James Bond, and he finds himself in a very precarious situation. The Cold War had ended in the six years between this and the last Bond film, and a character like James Bond was in danger of becoming irrelevant after so many years of fighting foreign threats to national security, which was part of what made him so appealing to audiences during that period of the 20th century. Could the producers find a way to keep Bond afloat in a braver, newer world? Yes they could, because GoldenEye is an all-out action extravaganza, over-the-top in all the right ways but also mindful that the world has swiftly changed around the explosions.
Brosnan’s Bond is sent to investigate a mysterious attack on a Russian satellite base, which was made possible by an elite space weapons program called GoldenEye that has fallen into the hands of a crime syndicate known as Janus. For his mission, Bond heads to Russia where he encounters the attack’s sole survivor Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco), and together they must fight their way through numerous adversaries, including the sex-starved henchwoman Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) to the mastermind of the whole operation – who turns out to be Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean), a former MI6 agent and associate of Bond’s who was thought to have died during a mission some years earlier.
Perhaps this film’s biggest achievement is its ability to prove that James Bond can exist as a fully-fledged action hero in a more modern society, without the backdrop of the Cold War to assist him. Several of Bond’s personal assets, such as his rampant womanising, are no longer considered to be safety nets; as Judi Dench – making her memorable debut as Bond’s boss M in the series – plainly puts it, Bond is a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur” and “a relic of the Cold War” whose view of the world appears to be radically behind everyone else’s, but in typical Bond fashion he doesn’t let it bother him and instead appears to channel that energy into further dedication to his mission and to serving his government and country. Just because the Iron Curtain has now been lifted and there is significantly less chance of all-out nuclear threat, doesn’t mean that there aren’t any more dangers to society that need taking out, and it is a smart move to have Bond adapt to this new way of life rather than stubbornly stick to what he is used to, making him a modern hero that can use what he knows from the past while also compromising his methods for the present, so that he can improve in the future.
The movie combines a fresh look at a character and his environment with some fast-paced and adrenalin-pumping action, from tank chases in the streets of Moscow to a climactic showdown on a giant satellite dish, with director Martin Campbell making effective use of his action sequences and their staging to deliver a very kinetic style to the usual Bond heroics (Campbell would later bring a similar pace to Daniel Craig’s own debut as Bond, Casino Royale). Speaking of Bond, Pierce Brosnan makes a good first impression as 007, as a composite made up of both Timothy Dalton’s much firmer interpretation (though Brosnan is a lot softer spoken) and Roger Moore’s cheeky attitude, albeit nowhere near as silly. Brosnan certainly has the agility to pull off his action scenes, as well as the natural charm that made Sean Connery shine in the role as well, though even he can sometimes fall afoul of the odd groaner of a one-liner, not to mention some questionable visual effects which look off-putting even for mid-90s CGI.
Nonetheless, Brosnan proves he has the chops to bring Bond into the modern era, and as an introduction to his version of the character this isn’t a bad one to get started with.
SO, TO SUM UP…
GoldenEye is a high-octane action thriller which successfully transplants James Bond out of the Cold War and into a more modern era, with Pierce Brosnan making a good first impression in the process.