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Bond Blog: GoldenEye – A James Bond Retrospective

When GoldenEye came out six years after License to Kill, it felt as if the Bond franchise needed fresh blood. There was the U2-penned Bond song, sung by Tina Turner, a new director in Martin Campbell who had previously made his name with the BBC TV drama Edge of Darkness, and a new Bond. Going to the cinema in 1995, I had almost forgotten about Bond. I was certainly no longer in the childish stage of enjoyment. I was 23 years old; almost done at university with my first degree and not yet ready for the sweet but sickly intoxication of nostalgia.

Although Timothy Dalton had originally been hired for three films a protracted legal dispute delayed production to such an extent that his contract expired and he decided to decline the offer to continue as Bond. He was never a particularly enthusiastic Bond and with only two films he remained – a little like George Lazenby – an oddity in the cannon, though one who has his fans, including (now) me. Pierce Brosnan had already been tapped to fill 007’s shoes when his TV show Remington Steele looked due to be cancelled, but ironically the sudden interest in the actor as a potential Bond led producers to order another series which then nixed the deal as producer Cubby Broccoli didn’t want a TV star to take over the role. The show then folded after a few episodes and poor Brosnan had to bide his time. But he makes an excellent Bond. First, of all he looks the part. Suave and handsome, slender and athletic. He also has a wry humour, while never being properly funny. He also isn’t that good an actor. Which for me is a plus. I don’t want Daniel Day Lewis wasting his time on Bond movies. It would be excessive and we’d miss all those other films he could be making instead. Neither do I want someone quite as oaky as Lazenby and Moore. But Brosnan is right in the middle – good enough, looks the part and I’m not worried we’re missing an otherwise brilliant Hamlet.

The film starts with an immediate 1990s phenomenon: the bungee jump. As with the introduction of Dalton and Lazenby, Martin Campbell delays the reveal and also emphasizes Bond’s athleticism, further erasing memories of Roger Moore needing a stunt double to run up the stairs. The opening has a video game smoothness and in fact, inspired a massively popular game version. Sean Bean’s arrival as 006 also establishes Bond as part of a functioning team, a bureaucracy headed by Judi Dench’s M with number-crunching efficiency. There’s also a new laddishness to Bond in his blokey friendship – ‘order me a pint’ he says. A pint? I’m not sure Martinis come in pints. But just in case you think this is getting too realistic and serious, Bond quickly jumps off a cliff and skydives into a plummeting airplane, seizes the controls and flies away, returning us happily to the land of the preposterous. Likewise, his psychological evaluation can be dismissed with the same hunky irony that Connery employed in Goldfinger when he talks about his gun making up for his inadequacies. The plot seriously begins with the hijacking of a helicopter and the stealing of a device called Goldeneye that can do something or other.

Russia returns as a more direct adversary now the Iron Curtain and Berlin Wall are a fading nightmare. Once more it is a rogue general (Gottfried John) who appears to be behind the plan aided by Famke Jannsen’s glorious Xena Onnatop who crushes men with her thighs and comes to climax while killing people. Izabella Scorupco plays a computer programmer who survives a massacre and ends up aiding Bond and Alan Cumming has a comic role as Boris, a toxic little incel who keeps on claiming to be invincible. This is the sort of film where computers have guessable passwords and avatars are cartoonish, a little like Newman’s computer in Jurassic Park. Robbie Coltrane also appears as a Russian gangster who will help Bond and will also return to the franchise later on. Joe Don Baker returns to the franchise, this time as a Felix Leiter placeholder called Wade.

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