Welcome to your briefing 007. Your mission: GoldenEye. We have suspected the Russians of developing a weapon codenamed GoldenEye which would shut down the electronics of the enemy, crippling them, if used. We believe that whoever stole you Tiger Helicopter from Monaco stole the device and left the Russian base, Severnaya, in ruins. There is one survivor who knows the thief. Find her and stop whoever stole the device from ever using it 007. And James, try not to stir up too much trouble with the Russians.
In what has become one of the best and most iconic opening sequences, the mysterious new 007 bungee jumps off the top of a dam and meets up with 006 inside a Soviet base in order to blow it all to hell so they can no longer use it. And it all culminates is a tense standoff where 007 has to outsmart the Soviet Colonel Ourumov to get away and commit the biggest death wish in the series to this point: jump off a cliff after an empty plane in order to get away from the base. There is great action, great stunts, and a great set-up for the story in terms of amping up the audience for them to see a new Bond in action. Mission Accomplished.
This gives way into the title sequence, which features a little more development than just silhouettes of naked women, which pushes the creativity of the sequence forward in subsequent installments. But the theme song strikes again with Tina Turner singing a song by U2’s Bono and The Edge. The fact that they wrote it was something I realized for the first time in this viewing, but it is definitely one of the better and catchier theme songs in the franchise.
USSR, Siberia, Monaco, St. Petersburg, Cuba
It has been some time since I have cited M as an ally in this section and really she doesn’t add that much more than any other M in the past, but she bears mentioning. Did you catch that? I said “she”. That is significant I think because it has always been a man and this time the great Judi Dench steps in to further prove that the series is getting a jumpstart. Not only is she a woman, but she also has an attitude and seemingly much more backbone than any of the other M’s when it comes to Bond. She makes it clear she doesn’t like him and his archaic methods. But at the same time she also makes it clear that she intends to succeed, and to succeed she must make the right decisions and not get her agents killed. She may look like a motherly figure, but she takes the job in stride and comes off as knowing exactly what is demanded of her position.
The return of Joe Don Baker, who appeared earlier in the series as the terrible Brad Whittaker, which makes his return somewhat surprising if it wasn’t for the fact that they give him the perfect role for his style. He is out of whack and has a certain easy way about him, even asking Bond if he gardens. Wade is kind of a Felix Leiter replacement, a CIA contact for Bond but this time he is in Russia and not near the US, where we usually see the Leiter character. Wade is basically just a connection to make a connection in Russia. And that connection just so happens to be the next ally, Valentin.
Valentin is a fun character if for nothing else than the fact that he used to be a Bond enemy. We don’t see when that was, but it makes for some fun interaction between the characters. Valentin, played by the marvelous Robbie Coltrane, is the competitor of the man Bond is looking for and in a sort of you scratch your back I’ll scratch yours way they make a deal. In this regard Valentin is a bad guy helping Bond and reminded me a bit of Draco from OHMSS. I also love how Minnie Driver is his mistress and Bond refers to her strangling the cat. Classic Brosnan Bond moment.
Alec Trevelyan (006)
The classic buddy turned enemy, Alec Trevelyan is an interesting villain because he too is a 00 agent, which means he has roughly the same skills and at least the same training as Bond. But because he has gone rogue and holds a grudge against the British government, it is apparent that he has much more emotion than the cold Bond. The son of Lienz Cossacks, Russians who betrayed the Russians during World War II to help the British, but who were then turned upon by the British and sent back to Russia, where they were subsequently slaughtered for being traitors, Trevelyan is looking to exact revenge for his ancestors by destroying London. The evil plot of the film is bizarrely underplayed, as is the central villain, but those are not reasons why the film is so entertaining.
Ourumov is what would be considered the henchman in this film, but what makes him unique is his standing, he is a general for the Russians, and as such he has top secret clearance and other resources that most other henchman would never dream of, but he ever comes across as all that threatening. Gottfried John plays him with a great coldness and stiffness, but he only ever hints at being truly capable, even missing the fact that Natalya was not found among the dead at Severnaya after he stole the GoldenEye.
Boris is a really lowly enemy. He exists simply to create an interesting connection for Natalya to the criminals, but really he just stands as the egotistical brains behind the operation. A computer programmer who was an insider at Severnaya for the bad guys, Boris is both a nerd and an annoyance, but the delivery of Alan Cumming never comes across as so cartoonish that the character is actually an annoyance to watch, just a clear annoyance to what Bond is trying to accomplish.
Q returns for some more fun here and this is what made me fall in love with Desmond Llewelyn. The outfitting is perhaps the best in the series, at least to this point, with Q demonstrating anything from an exploding pen to an edible submarine sandwich. I love that moment and will never forget it for both Brosnan and Llewelyn when Q remarks: “Don’t touch that! That’s my lunch.” But the gadgets are more sophisticated as well, including a binocular camera complete with HQ sync and printer in his car. He also has a nifty watch laser to help him out of a jam.
Natalya is actually a pretty cool Bond girl for the simple fact that she is Russian and she is a bit of a nerd, which is kind of sexy. Her scene at Severnaya makes her out to be a plain looking girl (not true, Izabella Scorupco is a knockout) and gives the audience the sense that she is just another grunt who is smart, probably underpaid, and sits behind a computer all day for work. But once it calls for it, Natalya is one of the more courageous Bond girls in the series, doing what is absolutely necessary to survive, but also to protect. She takes it upon herself to help Bond do what needs to be done in terms of GoldenEye and indicates to him that he couldn’t do it without him. She has sass and smarts. When Severnaya got compromised, she went around with a chip on her shoulder trying to take down those responsible almost as if what they had done was make her miss her evening television that night.
Xenia is a freak, end of story. I place her under girls half because there were already plenty of enemies, and half because her sheer sexuality qualifies her in this category more than any other female character to ever be in a Bond film. Seriously, she is frightening, and intimidating, for how sexual she is. Pretty much everything seems to turn her on or get her off, which is both extremely dirty and extremely disturbing, especially when it entails killing people. Famke Janssen plays her with that glint in her eye that says either: I want you so bad, or I want to kill you so bad, which makes the character unsettling and fascinating to watch.
The Car & the Chase
Bond actually gets a couple of cars here, and there really isn’t much of a chase, though the one that would qualify is actually quite fun because it is a friendly competition and not a getaway chase. Bond races Xenia’s Ferrari in his Aston Martin and the two have quite a bit of fun, especially with a woman in the passenger side of the Aston Martin, there to evaluate Bond. She calls him egotistical and then subsequently falls for his charm. The second car is a BMW Z3, the first German car for Bond and the single reason why I am obsessed with that car to this day. It never gets to be used, but has missiles behind the headlights and is all decked out by Q.
Oh! And never to forget is the actual chase scene which doesn’t involve a car, but instead a tank. Bond commandeers a Russian tank and sets off after Ourumov who has Natalya. It is a ridiculous scene, which seems to be the norm for this film, but gosh darn if Bond running around the streets of St. Petersburg in a tank isn’t a heck of a ride.
I think it is important to make this first paragraph a bit of a history/disclaimer for this review of GoldenEye. This was the first Bond film I ever saw, as it was pretty much the first one released in my lifetime (Licence to Kill was when I was all of 1). I have cited pretty much three series of films that I saw in my youth that spurred my love of film on: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and James Bond; and Bond started with this one. Not only that, but the N64 game that went along with the film was the game of my youth and remains just as iconic as the film to this day. I spent countless hours playing single player and of course the best multiplayer. That game was/is awesome and my copy pretty much is completely worn out from playing it along with family and friends. I would be lying if I said that the game does not directly influence my love for the film as well. I can’t help but relive the movie when I play the game or relive the game when I see the movie. They are connected just as the whole idea of GoldenEye is connected to both my childhood and sense of film love.
Now that is out of the way, I must also say that it had been about 5 years since the last time I had seen GoldenEye, so revisiting it was a pleasure as well as a chance to re-evaluate it after having seen hundreds of films in the interim and being much more educated in film. For the most part the film holds true of my memories of its brilliance. I have mentioned that the opening scene is spectacular, but I really think the fun is there for the whole film. What is interesting is that in this marathon I have somewhat ridiculed the implausible, with some exceptions, but this film falls under the implausible in my opinion. Others may call it kind of grounded, but I don’t think so, but I also don’t think that hurts the film. Bond fans were missing their ridiculousness with the Timothy Dalton Bonds, which after reviewing them I think were wrongly criticized. So when the producers were finally able to reboot the franchise, they gave it a jolt, and Pierce Brosnan was at the center of that too.
Brosnan is not my favorite Bond in the franchise, but his work, especially here definitely sets him apart from the other performers, which is certainly a good thing. Brosnan’s James is much prissier I think. I would even call him a stiff-ass Brit. But what he does with that demeanor and style is take advantage by becoming the funniest Bond in the series. Connery had great jokes, but I still think Brosnan bests him when it comes to humor, especially here. he has such a dry way of delivering the lines that comes off as funny He also isn’t afraid to smile, which it seems most of the others were afraid to do. He has enough toughness to be convincing, is handsome and smooth enough to be a ladies man, but he does it all in his own style, which makes for a fresh take on the character, even if the basics of the character remain the same.
What I found most surprising about this viewing was how uninvolved I was with the actual plot of the film. GoldenEye should be a threatening weapon, but I never felt threatened, and I think that’s because the villain remained mysterious for so long and even when he was revealed the reasons behind his treachery was whatever. As a kid I guarantee you I had no idea what was going on but still loved every minute of it. Now that I know what was going on, it seems like a pretty standard payback plot which I found neither convincing or really all that interesting as they never really did anything with the fact that Alec was a Cossack. I mean they never really established it other than a quick speech and summation of what a Cossack was. The evil never really seemed to matter except to be there to spur on the action.
However, GoldenEye will remain a film close to my heart for many reasons, including its importance in my own personal film history. But I can honestly say that it is a great film. Yes, it has its fair share of faults which I can point out and have done so in a few of the above paragraphs, but it still remains one of the most thoroughly entertaining installments in the Bond franchise. I am sure when this came out the fans were excited for a whole new era of great Bond filcks after a 6 year hiatus, which must have felt like a lifetime. Even now looking back I can easily point to this film as the sole reason the series is where it is today. Without GoldenEye the series could have easily died, or if not died, taken a turn to the South upon a reboot. Martin Campbell was a great choice for director, and despite what some may say of Brosnan once his career as Bond was over, Brosnan was a great choice to give Bond a shot in the arm. I look back at GoldenEye with fondness, but I also have no problem ranking other Bond films above it because despite its importance, there are still better films in the franchise.
James Bond will return in…
Tomorrow Never Dies