GoldenEye Review By Jake

Pierce Brosnan Goldeeye

 "She always did enjoy a good squeeze."

By 1995 the James Bond franchise had been absent from cinema screens for six years. Litigation over tv rights had delayed production and put the series into mothballs. The bleak outlook was exaccerbated by the less than astonishing box-office returns of 1989's Licence To Kill and a general feeling that Timothy Dalton was not a huge draw as Bond - especially in the important US market. In 1994 Dalton announced he did not wish to return to the role of 007. The gap between his last film was too long and he wished to move on. Whether he jumped or was pushed is another issue but Timothy was out. Enter 41 year-old Irish actor Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan had originally been cast as James Bond in 1986's The Living Daylights but a television contract was re-activated at the last minute and a (I'm guessing) furious Brosnan had to reluctantly go back to shooting 'Remington Steele' instead of doing Bond. Dalton had replaced him and played Bond in The Living Daylights but now Brosnan was replacing Dalton. The James Bond persona and numerous 007 rumours had followed the darkly handsome actor for several years and now for 1995's GoldenEye he would finally take the role he had coveted for so long.

GoldenEye begins in the best possible way. A spectacular bungee jump from a dam announces that Bond is back. This remarkable stunt reminds one of the pre-credit ski jump in The Spy Who Loved Me and makes for an atmospheric and cool opening. The pre-credit sequence in GoldenEye is a flashback set in the former Soviet Union. 007 is on a mission with Alec Trevelyan aka '006' (Sean Bean) to destroy a chemical weapons factory. It's great fun to see Brosnan finally playing James Bond and although the pre-credit sequence does get a bit ludicrous towards the end you let them off because it's been six years and they obviously wanted to throw the kitchen sink at the start of the film. The title sequence by Daniel Kleinman, replacing the great Maurice Binder for the first time, is a glorious update of a much loved James Bond staple and quite brilliant. The less said about Tina Turner's theme the better.
Pierce Brosnan Sean Bean

The film begins with the caption 'Nine Years Later'. Bond is driving his Aston Martin around the hills above Monte Carlo with 'Caroline' played Serena Gordon. Caroline is an agent sent to guage whether or not Bond is ready to be activated again. A red Ferrari appears driven by Xenia Onatopp ("Onattop?") and soon Bond and Xenia are bumping cars together in suggestive fashion and nearly running over a large group of cyclists. It's intetresting to see how quickly they deploy the Bond trappings; Aston Martin, Casino etc. The casino scene is a bit stilted but Brosnan is very much the archetypal cinematic James Bond. One thing that the early sequences illustrate is that director Martin Campbell is great with action and not so great in other areas. GoldenEye is a film that could have been edited a bit more. I'm not quite sure if I can describe what I mean but something about Campbell's pacing never quite sits right with me.

The plot of GoldenEye involves a satellite weapon that falls into the wrong hands. I enjoyed a great deal 007's early investigation which takes in the theft of a high-tech helicopter from a warship in Monte Carlo. Brosnan is very suave and composed in some of these scenes. From there the action moves to Russia and, as usual, other exotic locations. Izabella Scorupco is well cast as the female lead Natalya Simonova and has a natural and likeable quality. They keep her in relatively dowdy clothes throughout and this adds a slither of realism to the character and the film. GoldenEye has been criticised for being a mite colourless in look but I think it was probably a deliberate attempt to give it a slightly 'real world' feel. Janssen is fun as Onattop, a nutty villain who crushes men between her thighs and Sean Bean makes a credible foil for Bond although his 'posh' accent does occasionally slip. Desmond Llewelyn makes a very welcome return as Q and Brosnan slips very easily into some amusing banter during the Q scene. I hope one day that Eon, who currently act as if they've just discovered Euclidean geometry, can get over themselves and bring the character back. 

Samantha Bond is a bit wooden as Miss Moneypenny but she did get much better in later films while Judi Dench makes a slightly dull new M and struggles through some plot device dialogue. Much better is Robbie Coltrane as Valentin Zukovsky, a shady contact of Bond who has crossed swords with him a few times over the years. Coltrane has some amusing lines and moments. "Walther PPK, 7.65 millimeter," says Zukovsky when Bond puts a gun to the back of his head. "Only three men I know use such a gun. I believe I've killed two of them." There are loads more familiar faces in GodenEye in smaller parts like Michael kitchen as Tanner and Minnie Driver as a terrible singer in Zukovsky's club. Joe Don Baker, who actually played a villain in The Living Daylights, returns to the series as Jack Wade, a CIA friend/contact for Bond. Wade was obviously the 'Felix Leiter' character under another name. They didn't use Leiter in this one, probably because he'd been attacked by a shark in the previous film and lost a leg (!)

In my opinion some of the scenes at the MI6 HQ in London and some of the early Russian sequences could have been cut to give the film a better flow. GoldenEye does seem a bit jumbled at times and Eric Serra's sparse score isn't a huge plus. Serra was a bold and interesting choice after his work for Luc Beeson but it didn't quite come off and he seemed to go to great lengths to avoid using the James Bond music. Personally, if I watch a James Bond film I want the James Bond theme!

Now, having picked over the flaws, I'm now going to explain why all of this is negated by a general sense of fun that runs through the whole film with many entertaining moments. The pre-credit sequence, the Aston/Ferrari chase, a scene where Bond derails a train belonging to the villains and a terrific climax set around a huge satellite dish located in the middle of a jungle. In fact, with GoldenEye, Campbell probably pulled off to date, the last really grand-scale fun climax to a 007 film. There is also an excellent close quarter fight between 007 and the baddie at the end that is very well done and edited for extra punch. You could add to this a Die Hard 2 style sequence where Bond is trapped in a helicopter programmed to destroy itself with its own missiles and probably the biggest set-piece in the film - a scene where 007 attempts to rescue Natalya on the streets of Russia with a tank! GoldenEye has more big moments and set-pieces to look forward to than the films that have followed in the series so far and while you can nit-pick individual scenes and sections the overall effect is enjoyable and fun.

Brosnan, looking alarmingly youthful and handsome, is still finding his feet at times in GoldenEye but would quickly become far better than the films and scripts that the increasingly Talbot Rothwell inspired Eon threw his way. Brosnan certainly looks the part and is perfectly at home with a quip or action-sequence. Despite all the nonsense that has been written about him retrospectively I feel Brosnan (the last actor to be chosen by the late Cubby Broccoli) was a fine James Bond. There is a moment when Brosnan is onboard a yacht and notices someone racing up behind him in a reflection. In a split-second he wraps a small towel around the man's head and flips him down a flight of stairs. He admires his handiwork for a second and then calmly dabs at a bead of sweat of his forehead.

The economy of effort, coolness under preassure and grace of the tall, lean Brosnan is pure cinematic James Bond.

- Jake



c 2008 Alternative 007