Directed by Martin Campbell
A rogue MI6 agent long thought dead resurfaces and plans on using a space-based weapon to cause a global financial meltdown. Now 007 (Pierce Brosnan in his first outing) must stop this menace.
After a six-year hiatus in films, the world’s most famous super spy was back. Pierce Brosnan finally gets to play James Bond. It is a great debut for Brosnan‘s portrayal of the world’s most famous superspy. Brosnan was originally up for it after Moore stepped away but those bastards at Remington Steele would not let him do it because they wanted to continue on with that character, so the role went to Timothy Dalton before a production halt due to behind the scenes issues left Dalton untethered and Brosnan now free from his Steele oppressors could finally take the role.
GoldenEye is an exciting film with everything you would expect from a James Bond movie. Given the changing times they did reduce the number of random sexual partners for the Bond character though. In the previous movies James Bond spent as much time bed hopping as he did fighting the bad guys. Here he is fighting the bad guys much more. Aside from the main Bond Girl of Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco) there is only one other woman that Bond seduces-a psychologist named Caroline (Serena Gordon) who is sent towards the beginning of the film to analyze the agent by the new M (Dame Judi Dench).
Brosnan as Bond mixes the playfulness of the Roger Moore portrayal with the seriousness of what Dalton was trying to do. Bond is still flippant and humorous, but it is alluded to during the movie that some if not much of what he does personally is to cover his guilt over past failures. It is something that manages to hold on to what had been done before yet allows for a then modern interpretation of the character. It changed the game without changing the material. The character had growth.
Dame Judi Dench makes her debut as M. She is always good, and it is no different here. As M, she has a more pragmatic approach which is in sharp contrast to Bond’s fly by the seat of his pants approach. M clearly does not like Bond, but she respects his abilities enough to let him do his job but not without pulling him back at times.
Miss Moneypenny gets re-cast with the appropriately named Samantha Bond stepping in to the role. They maintain the playful dynamic between the Moneypenny and Bond. You could see the two being a thing with Miss Moneypenny ultimately rebuffing him because she knows it would go nowhere. The workplace flirtation between the two was always a highlight of the dynamic. Moneypenny was always a character that could give as good as she got when it came to Bond. She does less overall as a character in this one than she has in some of the others. Her brief scene really just establishes the character rather than contributes to the story.
And what is James Bond without the villains? Sean Bean as Alec Trevelyan (006)/Janus plays what amounts to a dark reflection of James Bond. James Bond is dutiful and loyal and honorable while Alec is disloyal and murderous and seeks revenge. 007 must confront his past and I think this might be the first time that his past coming back to haunt him was a central theme in a Bond film.
Famke Janssen is good as Janus henchwoman Xenia Onatopp. Her character is a former Georgian pilot that kills with her thighs. She wraps her legs around her victims and prevents them from breathing. It even gets her off a little bit. Heck, death even does a little something for her. All good Bond villains need a good name and a cool gimmick, and she is no different.
Robbie Coltrane plays former KGB agent Valentin Zukovsky who is now a Russian criminal. Coltrane was a very good heavy here but not so dangerous as to make you question why Bond would even go to him. It is worth noting that Zukovsky owns a nightclub and one of the singers (who is also the character’s girlfriend) is played by Minnie Driver in an early screen appearance.
Joe Don Baker as CIA officer Jack Wade, Gottfried John as Colonel/General Arkady Grigorovich Ourumov and the man that makes Janus’s plot possible, and Alan Cumming as computer programmer and Janus member Boris Grishenko round out the rest of the significant cast. I enjoy Alan Cummings work and it was not until I rewatched this years later that I realized he was in this. That is not a cut on his performance. This is just such a different portrayal than other stuff he has done since. In total the supporting cast is great.
This has one of my favorite Bond themes of all time. Tina Turner was an ideal choice to sing the title song which is also titled “GoldenEye.” It is my understanding that the song was chosen late in production and they did not have time to incorporate it into the soundtrack of the film with the usual musical references. It is quite a shame because it is such an amazing song and the film’s score is sorely in need of help. The music you hear in the movie is not my favorite of the series and if this song could have been folded in at points it might have improved things. Most of it is okay but some of it sounds like it was shoved in at the very last minute from a preexisting music package.
The Bond films are beholden to the political realities of our world. I love how they work in the fall of the Soviet Union and the changing face of global politics into the story. A superspy needs to use real world events as a starting point otherwise the movies never click. Here real-world politics play a central part in the film.
GoldenEye is a great Bond film and if you are going to debut as the character you want to debut in a movie that is this good. This movie stands tall in the James Bond catalogue in my opinion. It is a worthy continuation of the series.