GoldenEye (1995)

James Bond film #17 (Pierce Brosnan Bond)

GoldenEye (1995)

GoldenEye was released in 1995 after 6 years of a world without Bond, still the longest gap between any two 007 adventures. Because of the delay and all the legal tanglings that caused it, Timothy Dalton opted out of the role and Pierce Brosnan stepped into his place, a man who has come to define James Bond for pretty much all of Generation Y. Also huge is the fact that this is the first post-Cold War Bond, a point referenced to extensively and used to hang the plot on. In a lot of ways, it seems like a reboot of the series; the big change-up in production personnel is clearly evident. GoldenEye brings Bond up to speed in the modern world, finally stepping out of the mold it crafted in the 60s and 70s.

Of course, it’s still acutely aware of the history it follows. Brosnan basically acts like the descendant of a long line of super suave macho men, completely cocksure but, as always, with the skill to back it up. His first pre-credits sequence OutBonds Bond, sky diving into a falling plane and pulling it up before it crashes into a mountain. The rest of the film meets the high bar this sets with harder hitting fight scenes, automatic weapons galore, and a record number of explosions. This is big-budget action with the money on the screen.

The film also takes the opportunity to explicitly address the misogyny of the series. Robert Brown has been replaced as M by Dame  Judi Dench, who wastes no time in telling Bond he’s a sexist relic of the Cold War. Moneypenny gets a more assertive make-over as well, with Samantha Bond (ha!) replacing Caroline Bliss. While Bliss had mimicked Lois Maxwell, who established the character as hopelessly (and helplessly) in love with Bond, (Samantha) Bond gives James more shit, teasing him and bringing up sexual harassment in the workplace.

Natalya Simonova, played by Izabella Scorupco, is also a new kind of Bond girl. She’s not the crossbow-wielding human hunter that Melina Havelock was, but she’s tough and resilient, surviving a massacre and fire at the bunker through her own strength and will power. Most striking, though, is how she’s never sexualized. Sure, Anya Amasova could kick some ass, but she was always dressed in the skimpiest halter tops possible, conveniently before winding up in water.

Even Famke Jenssen as Xenia Onatopp, the hypersexualized henchwoman, dons relatively modest S&M outfits as she squeezes victims to death between her thighs. Sure, her offputting and perverse aggression might represent some latent fear of the liberated woman, but there’s no denying GoldenEye is a giant leap forward in terms of women in Bond films. It’s telling that one of the earliest scenes is Bond getting analyzed by a psychiatrist, symbolizing how the filmmakers know everything about what makes Bond tick. Of course, it’s also telling that Bond seduces the psychiatrist immediately after scaring her to death and probably bangs her in his car.

The rest of the film is just a lot of rejuvenated fun the whole way through. Sean Bean plays Alec Trevelyn, a former double-0 agent who plans to blow up a nuke with a space laser (classic!). Alan Cumming plays a greasy little hacker, Boris; he and Joe Don Baker as CIA Agent Jack Wade provide “comical” side characters, Baker basically playing an updated version of the worst Bond character of all time (J.W. Peppers, the bastard). Tanks are driven, trains are blown up, and Desmond Llewelyn is there to tie us all back to the first 16 Bond films.

GoldenEye is a classic Bond film of the modern era. It was released to a lot of acclaim and became the highest-grossing Bond film at the time. More importantly, it re-established the Bond films as a leader in action films, not a series stumbling behind in its shackles of precedent. Fresh creative minds and an actor seemingly born for the role make GoldenEye one of the best films in the Bond series.

Final rating: 7.5/10

–James A. Janisse

Stray Observations:

  • I think the filmmaking quality that most separates GoldenEye (and “modern” Bonds) from the “Classic Bond” era is editing. Bond directors have always experimented (at least lightly) with compositions and moving cameras, but the average shot length here has to be at least half of what it was before.
  • It’s weird to me that they acknowledge Judi Dench is a different person in the same role, but I guess they have to. They kind of ignored the change from Bernard Lee to Robert Brown, and the fact that M’s just an apparent title lends credence to the fan theory of James Bond being just a codename.
  • Also weird: The fact that Joe Don Baker, who played the villain Brad Whitaker in The Living Daylights (15), is ally Jack Wade just two films later. I’d make a joke about how forgettable The Living Daylights was, but we are talking about the same series that used one actress for Andrea Anders and Octopussy.
  • Daniel Kleinman takes over for Maurice Binding on the opening credits, and just like everything else in this movie, he uses the same style to make something better. Still full of silhouetted dancing nude girls, Kleinman’s CGI-filled credits are the first sign this isn’t your father’s Bond, and he even uses the time to set up the film story-wise, the symbols of Communism crashing down as the Cold War ends.
  • Brosnan and Bean did most of their stunts themselves and it freakin’ shows. Obviously not done by Brosnan: the big opening scene stunts, including that world record-setting bungee off the Contra Dam in Switzerland.
  • Cumming was having a good time with those geeky hacker lines – “SPIKE THEM!” and the infamous “I am invincible!”
Bond Girl Fate

Natalya Simonova

(Izabella Scorupco)

Main Bond Girl:A Russian programmer who bangs Bond in a beach house after he rescues her from an exploding train. She ends up disabling the GoldenEye laser and rescuing Bond with a helicopter.

Xenia Onatopp

(Famke Jannsen)

Villainous Bond Girl:A Georgian member of Janus, Xenia is a masochist that gets off on gunning down scientists and crushing Canadians. She never actually bangs Bond, but she tries to kill him with her thighs twice, and that’s kinky enough. Gets killed by Bond and a shitty pun later.

Caroline

(Serena Gordon)

Brosnan’s Starter Bond Girl:A psychological evaluator for MI6, Bond scares the crap out of her racing with Xenia early on. She’s miffed at first, but swoons in the face of his glovebox champagne.

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