In the cold open to GoldenEye, spy James Bond (Pierce Brosnan, in his first outing as the franchise character) bungee jumps off of a dam in Arkhangelsk in order to covertly infiltrate a Soviet chemical weapons facility. Once inside, he rendevouses with fellow agent 006 Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean). Together they easily break into the loading dock where gasoline tankers are kept. Here we get one of my personal favorite exchanges in the Bond series:
Bond: That was too easy.
Trevelyan: Half of everything is luck.
Bond: And the other half.
Trevelyan: [alarm sounds] Fate.
Bond plants explosive charges on the tankers, but Trevelyan is killed. Bond escapes by diving off of a cliff and boarding a free falling plane. It is a pretty great sequence.
Our next glimpse of Bond is nine years later. We see Bond drag racing with Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen), whose possible correlation with a crime organization known as Janus has caught the attention of MI6.
Onatopp is an interesting gal with very, very strong legs. She’s also sexually gratified by violence, but we don’t need to delve into that. Onatopp and Russian Commander of the Soviet space division steal a helicopter that can withstand an electromagnetic pulse. Why? Because they then travel to a Russian military facility to steal the keys to a powerful satellite weapon named GoldenEye and subsequently destroy the facility with an electromagnetic pulse. the CG visuals of the electromagnetic pulse don’t hold up.
Brosnan’s first outing as James Bond is a strong one. You can tell that he is trying to embody the positive elements of both Sean Connery and Roger Moore. You can also tell that his heart is in the role. Maybe he doesn’t bring anything new other than his name, but he has the cool wit and the smirk. In the end, that’s about 90% of the job.
GoldenEye may move slower in the middle than other Bond films, but the supporting cast keeps the project moving until we get to the big action set pieces. One thing that plagues many of the Bond films is poor casting in the supporting roles. Here, however, we get good turns from Janssen, Izabella Scorupco, Gottfried John, and Alan Cumming.
We also get a wonderful appearance by Robbie Coltrane as Bond’s Russian connection Valentin. His role may be small, but his scene is one of the better points of dialogue in the entire movie. Conversely, we get a strange and uneffective cameo by Minnie Driver singing “Stand By Your Man” in a thick Russian accent. No thank you.
GoldenEye is also the introduction of Judi Dench as MI6 head M. She doesn’t have as large a role as she will play later in the series, but her brief appearances are worth noting, as it is immediately clear that the franchise has finally found a worthy replacement for Bernard Lee.
GoldenEye may not be the most action-packed James Bond installment. It may have its campy moments (see: tank chase through Moscow). It may drag in the middle. But GoldenEye is a smartly-penned, well-acted addition to the James Bond oeuvre that, despite its low points, is still paced better than your average Bond film. It also finds suspense in the simple action of clicking a pen, and that has to count for something.
GoldenEye is one of my personal favorite Bond films. I grew up with it (and the classic Nintendo 64 video game). So, perhaps my review is more subjective than I would like it to be. Still, I stand by my opinion.
Comedians Matt Mira and Matt Gourley host a podcast on Nerdist called James Bonding. First off, it is a great podcast that every Bond fan should check out. The Matts have essentially done away with the Gregorian calendar; instead, a person’s birth year is based on the James Bond film that was released closest to that time. In my case, I am “GoldenEye – 1.” Perhaps, then, it is fate that I enjoy this Bond film more than the others.
As always, thanks for reading!
Goldeneye is currently available to rent/buy on Amazon Video here.
What do you think? What is your favorite Pierce Brosnan Bond film? What is your favorite Bond film, period? Let me know in the comments!
- GoldenEye: A-
- License to Kill: B+
- The Living Daylights: B+
- A View to a Kill: D+
- Octopussy: C-
- For Your Eyes Only: C
- Moonraker: D
- The Spy Who Loved Me: B-
- The Man With the Golden Gun: C+
- Live and Let Die: C+
- Diamonds Are Forever: C-
- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: B+
- Casino Royale (1967): D+
- You Only Live Twice: C+
- Thunderball: C-
- Goldfinger: A-
- From Russia With Love: A-
- Dr. No: B
—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)