Bond 17 welcomes Pierce Brosnan as the tuxedo wearing MI6 secret agent. Besides Brosnan, a lot has changed since the last outing for Bond in the film franchise, and this film sees an almost re-birth of the franchise for the 1990’s. Before any of that though, let us start with the synopsis….
In 1986, 006 and 007, Alec Treveluyan (Sean Bean) and James Bond (Brosnan) are on a mission at a Soviet Weapons facility. While going about their business, 006 is captured and seemingly executed by General Arkady Grigorovich Ourumov (Gottfried John). Bond finished his mission and escapes. Nine years later he is tasked by M (Judi Dench) with observing the demonstration of a new hi-tech helicopter, arriving at a pre-launch party he meets a Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) who raced down a mountain while he was being assessed for duty before being given the assignment. She happens to be the mistress of a high-ranking officer who oversees the helicopter demo. That night she kills the officer using her thighs during intercourse and steals his ID. When Bond find this out the next day, he realises something is wrong, but he is too late to stop the helicopter being stolen. The helicopter turns up in Siberia, at a covert Russian satellite communication outpost. General Ourumov and Onatopp depart the helicopter and enter the outpost which is home to a satellite weapons system known as ‘Goldeneye’. General Ourumov takes charge of the activation keys and control disk, and the starts murdering all the staff with Onatopp’s support. They activate the weapons system and then quickly depart, unbeknown to them, leaving a single survivor, one of the technicians, Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco). Russian MIG’s are dispatched to investigate the location, and MI6 are watching events from a spy satellite. The ‘Goldeneye’ fires, it detonates an EMP in the atmosphere which wipes out all tech (only the helicopter can survive this due to it is high tech build). One of MIG’s crashes into the satellite causing destruction, but MI6 do not see until they are able to get another satellite image showing the destruction. On the image, Bond notices a single survivor walking around the wreckage. M then assigns Bond to investigate ‘Goldeneye’, and in particularly the connection between General Ourumov and a crime syndicate called Janus – she warns him to stick to the mission and not go to seek revenge against Ourumov for what he did in 1986. The outpost survivor, Natalya manages to get to St. Petersburg, she finds out that a colleague of hers, Boris Grishenko (Alan Cumming) also survived the satellite carnage. She agrees to meet him, but it is a tap, he turns up with Onatopp and they capture Natalya. Meanwhile, Bond also turns up in St. Petersberg He meets his CIA contact, Jack Wade (Joe Don Baker) who helps him get to a Russian Gangster who might be able to help. The gangster, Valentin Zukovsky (Robbie Coltrane), has crossed paths with Bond before, in fact Bond shot him in the leg resulting in a permanent limp. Zukovsky gives Bond some information about the leader of Janus; he was a child of a Lienz Cossack parents whose tribe collaborated with Nazis during WWII. The tribe was given refuge by the English government, but were then betrayed and given back to Russia, where Stalin had them killed. Back at his hotel, Bond encounters Onatopp, they fight but Bond gets the upper hand and demands she take him to the Janus leader. She takes him to a graveyard for Stalin statues where he meets the leader of Janus, its Alec Treveluyan, albeit slightly scarred from his apparent execution in ’86. He informs Bond that his parents escaped the executions by fleeing to England where he was born, and he joined the secret service to one day get revenge. Bond is knocked out. When he awakes, he is in a helicopter that is about to self-destruct, behind him in the cockpit is Natalya. They escape but are practically arrested straight away. While being interrogated Ourumov turns up and attempts to frame Bond but there is a fightback. Ourumov escapes with Natalya and Bond pursues, commandeering a tank and chasing Ourumov’s tank around St. Petersburg Bond tracks Ourumov down to a train, when boarding he realises that Treveluyan and Onatopp are also on-board. Bond distracts Ourumov by telling him about Treveluyan’s heritage, the general then takes a bullet for his troubles but Trevelyan and Onatopp escape and trap Bond and Natalya in the train with a bomb. While trying to escape, Natalya is able to trace Boris to Cuba. In Cuba Bond once again meets his CIA buddy, Jack Wade, who supplies them with a plane. They embark on a flight to find the satellite in Cuba but are shot down. When he comes to, Onatopp is there and Bond must fight her to survive. They discover that the satellite was being hidden under a lake. Alec and Boris have activated ‘Goldeneye’ with its target being London. They plan on causing chaos there, which also serves as Alec’s revenge for the betrayal against his heritage, but there is a sub-plot of stealing money from the banks before the computer records are wiped out from the ‘Goldeneye’ EMP blast. Bond and Natalya enter the facility to try and stop Alec from succeeding; Natalya trashes Boris’s computers, while Bond and Treveluyan fight it out to the death.
Released in 1995 this film was directed by Martin Campbell, who would later go on to direct Daniel Craig in “Casino Royal” (2006) too. Campbell replaced John Glen who worked on 5 Bond films and reinvigorated the franchise during the 80’s. Michael France steps in as writer replacing Richard Maibaum (who worked on 14 Bond films) and Michael G. Wilson (who stepped into a Production role), with Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein writing the screenplay. Ian Fleming of course is the mastermind behind the main characters in this, although the story is not based on any of his books – which is the first time that a completely original version of Bond has hit the screen. Eric Serra steps up into music department which John Barry previously monopolised. While some of Barry’s original scoring is present still, Serra brings an updated score to a fresh new generation of Bond. The theme song to accompany the open credits was “Goldeneye” which was sung by Tina Turner. Previously the production team for the film would work with the musical artists so that themes of the film were incorporated into the song, but not this time. This time the song was written by Bono and The Edge from the band U2. Also, noteworthy, Albert R. Broccoli took a step away due to ill health and was mainly a consultant, his daughter Barbara took up his production role with his stepson Michael G. Wilson. Unfortunately, Albert would die 7 months after the release of this film. Running at 130 minutes this film had a budget of $60 million and grossed a whopping $352 million – which makes Bond’s relaunch a massive success.
The most obvious refresh is in the title character, Pierce Brosnan replaces Timothy Dalton. Dalton was due to come back, but due to legal wrangling this production of this film did not start for 4-5 years, by which time Dalton’s contract had expired. He initially agreed he would come back for a single film, but Broccoli wanted him to sign on for 4-6 films which Dalton did not want to do. So rather than renewing Dalton at all, Broccoli turned to Irishman Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan had been considered for the role prior to Dalton, but he was committed to an NBC contract to play “Remmington Steele“. The writers did adapt the version of Bond for Brosnan as best as they could, but the fact of the matter remains, the film was written with Dalton in mind for the title role, which is why there is still a darkness to the character. It’s amusing to look back at other people considered for the role, the studio considered Mel Gibson (they considered him before choosing Dalton in the 80’s too), Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson and even Paul McGann were considered. In his role, Brosnan is brilliant, he manages to combine the approach other Bond actors gave; he manages to be as dark as Dalton, as witty and charming as Moore, and as direct and professional as Connery (sorry Lazenby, you didn’t get a mention because in one film you didn’t manage to stamp your mark on the franchise). Not only does he manage to combine other Bond performances, but he also manages to put his own classy stamp on the film, he is cool, stylish, and savvy. His Bond is every part an action hero but dressed down in comfortable clothes.
As well as Bond being recast, some of the regular reoccurring characters were recast too. Judi Dench replaces Robert Brown as Bond’s MI6 boss “M”. This was a bold move but was not the first time a female boss was considered. When Lois Maxwell was about to step away from playing Miss Moneypenny she suggested a female “M” which was actually considered, but the eventual decision was that the world wasn’t ready yet. In the 1990’s the world was a little more ready for a female boss, but regardless of is it was ready or not, Judi Dench absolutely commanded the role and stole the attention when she was in frame. Miss Moneypenny was recast with Caroline Bliss being replaced by Samantha Bond. She does not appear for a long time, but she is witty and charming for her time on screen. The only actor from the reoccurring characters to survive the refresh was Desmond Llewelyn as Q. There are some new reoccurring characters that are introduced here, which I can mention with the benefit of hindsight. Joe Don Baker is CIA operative Jack Wade, replacing the Felix Leiter character that came before him. The character is portrayed as a bumbling loud, chubby American which is in complete contrast to the mannerisms of Bond. Choosing this stereotype of a character seems like it’s very tongue in cheek, but because Wade doesn’t get a lot of screen time it works well. Robbie Coltrane’s Valentin Zukovsky is also a character that you will see again in the next Bond film. Coltrane’s portray is decent but not absolutely necessary. It feels like he is shoehorned in for a little bit of comedic relief – which is further backed up by his on-screen girlfriend (played by Minnie Driver) and her terrible singing.
There are three main villains in this film, General Ourumov (Gottfried John), Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) and Alec Treveluyan (Sean Bean). All three of which give varying but great performances that are different from other villains that Bond has faced before. Ourumov is the maniacal Russian general with a hidden agenda, he is menacing and dangerous. Onatopp is a very over the top henchwoman but she is unmistakably a powerful female in a Bond film who poses as much as threat as 007. Famke Janssen does well in the role and brings to life a performance which I feel could have been a lot cheesier. Sean Bean sits at the top of the bad guy pyramid and he is great. The character is supposed to the decedent of Lienz Cossacks, who worked with MI6 for a long time to cover up his plot for revenge. He does great to play a charming character that is extremely dangerous. I am not too keen on Bean’s quintessential English accent in this film, I prefer it when he’s true to his Yorkshire roots, but ignoring his accent his performance is very strong. Sean Bean’s role could have been played by Alan Rickman or Anthony Hopkins but they turned it down. Hopkins would again be approached for a role in “007: Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997) only to turn it down again then. The use of a former MI6 agent as the lead protagonist in the film was a change from using archetypal bad guys such as Nazi’s, drug lords, or mad scientists. This was partly down to the changing times of the era. Worldwide politics had changed dramatically since “007: License to Kill” (1989), this was actually the first Bond film after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and after the end of the Cold War; the Berlin wall in Germany had also come down too. The new bad guys were the ones sat at the end of a computer who had the power to bring down nations with the press of a keyboard button. It was important that Bond changed with the times and it did that by having Alan Cumming’s Boris character as the computer whizz, controlled by the former intelligence agent that Sean Bean portrayed.
Izabella Scorupco as Natalya is the typical Bond girl of the film, but with her computer knowledge she is more than just eye-candy. At different times she allows the plot to continue advancing with the information and solutions she puts in front of Bond. It is fair to say without this character the film would not advance the way it does. Scorupco does a lovely job in the role demonstrates a wide range of emotions that she puts on plate for the audience to empathise with her. Alan Cumming is her technical counterpart then nemesis in the role. I found this character to be slightly annoying at times but again he is integral to the plot. The fact that I considered the character to be annoying is testament to Cumming’s performance, if he invokes emotion then he has done well.
So, there were a lot of firsts in the film, more firsts came in the studio used. This was the inaugural film to be shot at Leavesden Studios. It was also the first Bond film to use CGI too. Add to that the casting changes and the production team changes, and you have a Bond film that on the surface may look familiar, but the parts are all new. Like a classic car that has had a new engine added, an approach that seemed to work as audiences loved this Bond film and it won plenty of plaudits and awards. The name Goldeneye comes from a manoeuvre that Ian Fleming took part in while with the Naval Intelligence Division, it is also the name of his estate in Jamaica.
All in all, I really enjoyed the film. I consider it to be a fantastic rebirth of the franchise and all the players from cast and the production team do a great job. Its family friendly enough that kids or grandparents can watch it without being upset or offended, but it is equally able to be a grown-up film with lots of action and intelligence in it too. The film is everything that you would expect or want from a Bond film and with Brosnan able to combine all the other Bond performances in his portrayal in this film, it should make fans new and old happy. I am happy to recommend this film and I am certain you’ll have fun watching it too.
Title Song: Goldeneye – Tina Turner
In terms of Bond films this is a 9 out of 10.
In terms of movies in the long and illustrious history of film I would give this a 8 out of 10.
Bond, James Bond, 007 – Ranking
|1||007: Goldfinger (1964) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Goldeneye (1995) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|2||007: The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: License to Kill (1989) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: A View to a Kill (1985) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Dr. No (1962) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: The Living Daylights (1987) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: From Russia with Love (1963) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|3||007: Thunderball (1965) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Moonraker (1979) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|4||007: You only live twice (1967) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Diamonds are Forever (1971) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: For Your Eyes Only (1981) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Octopussy (1983) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|007 (Unofficial): Never Say Never Again (1983) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|5||007: Live and Let Die (1973) ⭐⭐⭐⭐|