Pierce Brosnan 1995-2002

The fifth official James Bond actor, despite widespread popularity with the general public, starred in only four 007 adventures. It's a slightly paltry return for a man who was a viable Bond from the mid-Eighties until, well, now possibly or 2004/2005 at least. A TV  contract cost Brosnan the part in 1986, and in the following years he popped up in numerous adverts in a Bondish persona. It was perhaps unavoidable that he would always be linked to the part until he finally had it for real.
Bond was all but dead when Brosnan finally got the job in 1994. Licence To Kill had bombed in the US and litigation had kept Bond off the screen for six years. People were starting to wonder if it was even worth bringing him back; but when Dalton officially stood down, Eon began to test actors in preparation. Barbara Broccoli was rumoured to be behind Sean Bean, although there were alarming rumours of Liam Neeson being courted; but in the end Brosnan was signed for the make or break film. Still only 41, Brosnan was free to commit to the role, and while his career hadn't set the world alight of late, he still had name recognition for the important US market and an unquantifiable but palpable sense of support from the general public.
Brosnan's debut film would be GoldenEye, directed by Martin Campbell. The b-list British cast was gently mocked when announced by a cynical press. They sensed a cost-cutting operation. Clearly Eon had a lot to prove. Like a singer finally returning after a flop Album, they were about to put out their first new material in six years.
Far from killing off 007, GoldenEye launched a mini-boom. An anachronistic mixture of Die Hard 2 style action and Bondian (and PC) trappings, the film did brisk business and was received warmly. In the safe hands of Pierce Brosnan (who does all that is asked of him) James Bond was back. Things to enjoy included: nearly Bond Sean Bean as 006: wonderful model work by the great Derek Meddings; and two memorable Bond girls in Famke Janssen and Isabelle Scorupco - one good, one bad, in the classic Bond tradition. From the bungee jump to 006 v 007 fight, GoldenEye was fun, despite a slightly mechanical "by the numbers feel" that would surface again in the new era. Watching the film in the cinema, my main complaint was the murky photography and hodge-potch nature of some of the action; but overall there was enough to generate a feelgood factor. Brosnan looked great; and although he lacked the darkness of Timothy Dalton, seemed to be having a lot of fun. He played the role with a slight nod to the audience  - and it worked.
The second Brosnan film suffered from publicised production difficulties. Jonathan Pryce said that the film he ended up acting in was completely different from the original script he signed on for. Parts were re-written during filming, and that mechanical feel I mentioned before is never more evident than the second half of what would become Tomorrow Never Dies. Shame, because the first half contains some of Brosnan's best work; and Roger Spottiswoode is probably the best director he got during his tenure. Brosnan's attempt to display emotion does not really work. It just isn't his strong point: especially in an uneven film. David Arnold's overstrung music and Teri Hatcher's terrible acting really don't help matters either. But when the film does play to Brosnan's strengths - the escape from the Newspaper offices for example - he is simply superb and you can't imagine anyone else in the role. Tommorow Never Dies at its best showcases Brosnan wonderfully. The film went head to head with a film about an Ocean Liner hitting an iceberg, and actually held its own for a while.
I could be locked up for saying this, but I think that The World Is Not Enough is the best of the Brosnan films. A lot of fans find it bland and cheap looking; but for me it is the most solid and even of the films made with Pierce and features his best performance. He is completely at home with the character now and  - in Sophie Marceau  - is given a skilful actress to work off. It was fitting that Brosnan's Bond got to say farewell to the original Q. His scenes with Desmond were a delight. Denise Richards will probably never win an Oscar and Robert Carlyle simply didn't have enough to do,  but The World Is Not Enough was an intriguing Brosnan era film, and the speedboat chase was a high-water mark. Brosnan is simply excellent in this film. He is even and rounded, restrained and subtle. He is given a bit more to do by Apted  - and responds magnificently. Unlike Tommorow Never Dies, the balance is struck at the right point.
Die Another Day is reviewed elsewhere on this site. It has flaws a-plenty - but honestly IS NOT THAT BAD. A fantastical Pierce film was there for the taking; but a shoddy, not to mention eccentric, script compromised the project. That Pierce managed to keep his head above water in the chaos of this film is a testament to his onscreen presence. Again the film did boffo business. $175 million in the US alone. Not so long ago they could only have dreamed of those figures.
The Brosnan films were patchy. A great James Bond never got the scripts or directors he deserved. His legacy was to make James Bond films viable again. During his reign Bond TV specials went from zero to through the roof. Every film magazine I bought had his image somewhere, instantly recognisable and iconic. The man himself seemed to truly love playing the part and was never anything less than a fine Ambassador. It wouldn't be an understatement to say he saved the franchise.
Brosnan bashing seems to be in vogue in some quarters now as a way to 'big-up' Daniel Craig. Those of that inclination should bear in mind that if it wasn't for Brosnan there probably wouldn't be a James Bond series at all anymore.

- Michael Cooper
c 2006 Alternative 007