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Film Review No.189: GoldenEye


That’s an awkward capital “e” in the title isn’t it. Apparently that’s the correct spelling though. Guess I should adhere to it. Although based on my spelling and grammar you’d have to question why I’d start now. Anyway, Pierce Brosnan ladies and gents! Like Timothy Dalton before him Brosnan had been approached about playing Bond multiple times before. He came closest when The Living Daylights was due to enter production but the producers of the TV series Remington Steele, in which Brosnan was starring at the time, decided they wanted to make another 5 episodes. This caused a clash in schedules and so Dalton got the lead. After all sorts of legal wrangling caused production of Bond films to cease for a few years Brosnan was called up to finally take the role for the relaunch of the James Bond franchise, GoldenEye. So, was the film a success in a time when many felt Bond had had his day? Click the link to find out! Or remember the film cos you’ve probably seen it… Or you notice that there are still Bond films today…. Yes, it was a success.

It appears someone has stolen the keys to an experimental pair of Soviet satellites, code named GoldenEye, left floating in space after the end of the Cold War. The weapon detonates a nuke in the upper atmosphere causing a magnetic storm that will completely disable anything electronic I the vicinity below it. The perpetrator is believed to be the shadowy leader of a crime organisation called The Janus Crime Syndicate. On of the two satellites is used on the facility that originally contained the keys leading to Bond being called in to find out was behind the theft and stop them before they fire the second satellite at a much more populated part of the world. Also Bonds goal will be to ignore the story and play a lot of deathmatch multiplayer, possibly using Oddjob as his character because he’s shorter and thus harder to hit. Oh, hang on, that’s not the film. I’ll get back on track.

Rather than pull a full blown reboot on the franchise the Bond produces Michael G Wilson and Barbara “daughter of Cubby” Broccoli decided to instead make attempts to keep Bond relevant with the times. It’s not dissimilar to the approach used when starting Roger Moore’s run (with all the Blaxsploitation and Kung Fu references) or with Dalton’s run (A more grittier and drama focused Bond). For Brosnan’s take on Bond the series pushed towards a grander scale with flashier action and effects but avoided the really silly elements that have typified some earlier entries in the series. Well, at least with GoldenEye they did. God, I just remembered I have to watch Die Another Day soon. The result of this shift is a much more hyperactive Bond for the 90s and to be fair they pull it off very well here. Other than an action sequence involving Bond skydiving into a plummeting plane and managing to pull it out of it’s free fall during the pre-credits sequence the action always manages to at least be plausible while still being kinetic enough to thrill. The stunts may be a little more effects heavy with less focus on the kind of dangerous stunts the series was famous for but the sequences themselves are very memorable. Personally I love the hell out of Bond driving a T-54/55 Tank through St Petersberg. He had a whole car park full of vehicles and he chose a tank. Also, my great uncle worked on that scene when it was filmed at Leavesden.

The new Bond car wasn’t quite a glamorous as the Aston Martin.

Brosnan plays Bond as a much calmer character than Dalton who tended to visualise his internal conflict more than any other bond before him. Brosnan feels a little like a corked bottle that’s ready to be popped. He keeps his delivery calm but when scenes get more intense her gradually builds the aggression until he bursts. There’s a lot more of the roguish charm you would have got from Connery and he handles the dry wit with exactly the right amount of off the cuffness. He handles all the facets of being Bond quite well and really he can’t be faulted for the way the rest of his films gradually went. At times you’ll notice he’s maybe a little short to be Bond but that doesn’t stop him hitting the right look physically that Bond needs.

Director Martin Campbell is clearly a Bond fan. He understands just how to pace and piece together each set of sequences. Although there is one shot that feels like it’s about to go into an ad break after a Tiger helicopter is stolen. The camera lingers on Bond a little too long as he says nothing and we fade to black. Maybe a hold over from his TV directing days as he hadn’t made many large scale films by this point. Not really a complaint that, by the way, just something odd I noticed when watch the film last night. Of all the films he has made this and the later Bond reboot Casino Royale are easily his most memorable and, to be honest, best works. He makes the odd misstep with a few awkwardly shot sequences, such as the gun fire exchanges in the Russian library, but in general his direction shows a level of confidence and flair that was lacking from his predecessor John Glen’s films. To prove he cares about the source compare his two Bond films to the Green Lantern film he directed. He clear gave not a single rat’s arse right there.

The supporting cast is rounded out by a set of villains in the form of (SPOILERS!!!) former 00 agent Alec Trevelyan (Sharpe… err… Sean Bean) and Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen), who does like being On-a-topp! Har de har har!!! She crushes men with her thighs. I can think of worse ways to go. Along with them is computer programmer/comic relief Boris (Alan Cummins) who is pretty much the guy that does the computer stuff because in 1995 people didn’t know what the internet was. They cut him from the remake of the GoldenEye game. Apparently it’s not believable that one person would run all the computers in a evil lair. You’d think game programmers would want to boost the profile of one of their own kin. Trevelyan has a little extra back-story to him to at least allow for a little personal conflict between himself and Bond, what with him being a former MI6 agent now gone bad after faking his death whilst on a mission with 007, but that’s really as far as their conflict goes. Other than now being evil and needing to be stopped. He’s not a memorable villain for anything he does or says, but Bean at least carries out the role with the right amount of self assured villainous attitude.

Bond took to much harsher methods of seduction after going through a dry spell.

GoldenEye has a slightly mixed bag of quality when it comes to it’s score. The score is handled by composer Eric Serra, who had previously worked on Leon and Nikita, who manages to redefine what a spy movie can sound like and also create some of the most awkward sounding synth heavy music ever put to film. He uses a few of the pastiches found in previous Bond films but they get lost under a mix of electronica and broken tempo arrangements. But I do quite like the more restrained spy motifs used during the pre-credits scene. Possibly because I used to shoot a lot of my friend to that music in the late 90s. It’s not hummable music though. One scene, where Bond is racing his Aston Martin DB5 against a Ferrari F355, has a particularly poor arrangement or odd noises and very 90s TV style sounds. It’s hard to describe, imagine Eurodance synth meets the scene linking music from Seinfeld.

Overall GoldenEye is certainly one of the better Bond films, easily being worth a top ten position in anyone’s list, but it has started to show a few signs of ageing. The sort of sings that are unique to the films of the 90s where CGI flames on rockets look like sparklers and and model shots aren’t nearly as well done as they used to be as there was an attitude at the time to not spend much in that department. You know, cos CGI was the future and 1995 was the year to ditch practical effects. Brosnan makes for a fine Bond and as far as début entries go he really couldn’t have hoped for much better. Also, if GoldenEye didn’t exist the game wouldn’t and so for that I’ll always be grateful. As will EA and Activision’s marketing departments for the opportunities the Bond licence gave them to cash in on that game they didn’t make in the first place. Next up on my Bond review marathon, Tomorrow Never Dies!

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About lvl54spacemonkey

Just a dude who likes movies and games and has delusions of working in one of those industries. Write screenplays and work on short films in my spare time. Most of which never get finished. View all posts by lvl54spacemonkey

One response to “Film Review No.189: GoldenEye

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