Goldeneye (1995) — The Pierce Brosnan era begins

“One rises to meet a challenge.”

Kyle’s rating: Pierce Brosnan is The One

Kyle’s review: It is impossible to overestimate the importance of Goldeneye to the James Bond franchise. The last series installment had been License to Kill in 1989. It was a film that infuriated many, and in terms of complex financial numbers was very nearly the least popular Bond film ever, save only The Man with the Golden Gun. Now it was the 1990s, with grunge, irony, and a strange political global structure. Was James Bond relevant anymore, without a Cold War or clear-cut enemy to target? Looking back, it had to have been a weird time. I think I only got through by being too young and dumb to know any better.

In terms of Bond fanaticism, I had just regained my mojo by the early 1990s. I had been raised on Goldfinger and The Spy Who Loved Me discs (my parents didn’t mind violence, though my mom would tsk if a film had near-explicit sex scenes) and while I’d occasionally play spy games running around my house (with my cheap blue plastic 007 gun — licensing was a lot more lenient back in those days) by the late 1980s it was more about Die Hard than stealth and being debonair. But then, on an otherwise boring Christmas trip to Chicago, I discovered TBS’s James Bond holiday movie marathon, and never looked back.

So when I heard that Pierce Brosnan (Remington Steele!) has been cast as Bond and they were finally going to make a new film, I was pleased as punch. Would it be fun? Would it have gadgets? Would Bond still be a force to reckoned with? Does Q go to the bathroom in the woods with a special portable toilet gadgets?

Yes!

Goldeneye delivers on nearly all counts. They had to deliver a great Bond film to get the fever going and the money rolling in, and Goldeneye is just what you’d expect and more. A typical criticism is that its strength is in its individual parts rather than the whole, and I have to admit that observation does have some merit. Goldeneye is above all else a showcase for how cool Bond is (and by extension, Brosnan) and how necessary a blunt instrument like himself is in any setting, even a complex and variable-filled modern one. There’s sex appeal, a mind-boggling plot that doesn’t make much sense but ultimately is so cool you barely notice, and villains that seem authentically dangerous. Did I mention how good Brosnan is? Man, he’s good.

Goldeneye is a lavish production, highlighting the variety of locales Bond moves through and the potential violence and/or sexual encounters that lurk around every dark corner. Brosnan is an absolutely perfect James Bond (calm down, Connery-freaks), Famke Janssen is absolutely incredible as Xenia Onatopp, and Sean Bean as the apparently doomed 006 proves that Bond isn’t the only Double-0 agent with style and an edge. Izabella Scorupco is great as the good Bond girl, and Alan Cumming uses his considerable charms to avoid making his role, Boris the programmer, too annoyingly over-the-top.

Thinking Bond films are the bomb is an excellent first step in digging Goldeneye, but based on the accomplished and highly photogenic cast and the beautifully-shot on-screen action, anyone looking for a cool action movie that requires some thought and attention would do well to give Goldeneye a chance. It’s that good!

Yes, looking back it’s amazing how much they got right with Goldeneye, considering some of the chances they took. James Bond get analyzed by the touchy new M (the fabulous Judi Dench), among others, but stands up the scrutiny and proves that even though he’s somewhat of a relic of the past, he’s still important enough to be useful. It’s a point that serves the plot and the real world questions about Bond, so it’s pretty cool how the film deals with meta-questions like that one on multiple levels. There’s plenty of violence, death, and sexually-charged goings-on, so you don’t need to worry that anything is being lost in the translation. It’s the usual madman-has-world-threatening-plan-that-only-Bond-can-foil, but with plenty of postmodern twists and juicy performances to make it all fresh and entertaining.

And I can’t stress how awesome Brosnan is enough. He’ll get a bit thicker and muscular for Tomorrow Never Dies, and then a bit more suave and world-weary for The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day, but for the I-have-to-prove-myself-and-look-good-doing-it Bond of Goldeneye, he’s perfect. He’s got some super-Bond moments in here, especially the towel fight, the tie adjustment in the tank, and the flick of his head at the impact of bullet inches away. The entire hotel pool/sauna scene is easily one of the best Bond-encounters-a-new-girl scenes in the entire series, and the whole tank sequence is killer, too. Brosnan makes it all look fun, easy, and like being James Bond is the greatest thing is the world. Who can disagree?

Didja notice?

  • In a bit of a departure from past Bond film, especially the Sean Connery ones, James Bond doesn’t technically sleep with the bad Bond girl. But there’s sort of a good reason for that…
  • Even Ourumov seems impressed and/or repulsed by Xenia’s penchant for ultra-violence. Perfect!
  • Later events in the film make you wonder how 006 looked when he gets shot in the head pre-credits.
  • The whole Goldeneye set-up seems pretty complicated. But the Goldeneye trigger thing (the big oversized credit card) is really, really cool, and would make an awesome paperweight gift… for me!
  • Natalya’s escape in the coffee room proves that she’s one smart cookie. And the way she gets computer access in Russia is great!
  • We find out, I think for the first time in the film series, that Bond’s parents died in a climbing accident.
  • Bond clearly enjoys playful flirting with Moneypenny, but gets serious fast when he gets to the Situation Room; a very nice little bit of acting by Brosnan
  • “The Evil Queen of Numbers” is a really funny nickname
  • Desmond Llewelyn appears to be reading all his lines off of cue cards. It’s strange and slightly sad, and especially weird since he seems on the ball in the next two films
  • It seems statistical analysis isn’t as precise as M would like to think it is. Who says you use math in everyday life?
  • The fuse on the gadget pen doesn’t seem to match up to Q’s description, but that’s fine. That scene at the end is pretty tense: I can never keep track of all the clicks. Can you?
  • Joe Don Baker is one the few actors to appear in different roles in different James Bond films. It’s kind of weird that he’d play a good guy after playing a main villain, but at least we get the rose scene. Cute! “Muffy?”

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