Turner Classic Movies
Written by A.J. Hakari   


Though it may seem like another day at the office for James Bond, 1995's GoldenEye, featuring Pierce Brosnan taking his first steps into the superspy's shoes, actually had a lot to live up to. At the time, Bond hadn't seen the light of a movie screen since 1989's Licence to Kill, and with then-leading man Timothy Dalton stepping away from the role, not to mention that the Cold War that had helped give the character life had since been over, the franchise's future was on shaky ground.

Filmmakers who stepped up to the plate and took a crack at the series ended up doing well by old 007, as GoldenEye. It was still a little rough around the edges and lugging around some of Bond's more dated elements, but came across as a rousing adventure liable to please Bond aficionados and action junkies alike.

Sean Bean
Following an explosive prologue in which Bond loses fellow MI6 agent

Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) whilst on a mission, GoldenEye flashes nine years forward, where things are business as usual for Her Majesty's top secret agent. The latest individual to catch Bond's eye is Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen), a mysterious beauty who turns out to have quite the criminal streak. Including a tendency to crush the men she beds with her own thighs, Xenia proceeds to swipe a high-tech helicopter, spirit it away to a Russian radar station, and, with the help of a traitorous general (Gottfried John), make off with the access key to GoldenEye, a top-secret satellite that can fire an electro-magnetic pulse at anywhere on Earth.

Bond is on the case immediately, although he's quite surprised to see that the whole affair is being orchestrated by none other than the supposedly-dead Alec. Up against a foe who knows every trick up his sleeve in advance, Bond definitely has his work cut out for him, teaming up with a beautiful computer programmer (Izabella Scorupco) to track down Alec and stop him from utilizing GoldenEye's deadly capabilities.

GoldenEye was designed to be a franchise re-boot of sorts (though not as drastic of one as Casino Royale, also directed by this film's helmer, Martin Campbell), and for the most part, it does a decent job of dragging Bond kicking and screaming into more modern times.

The most obvious tweaking of the formula comes in the form of Judi Dench being cast as M, dealing with not only being the first female to serve as the head of MI6 but also with Bond's womanizing shenanigans, leading her to brand him a "misogynist dinosaur" as a result. But despite this refreshing and interesting moment of the series looking back on itself, such attitudes don't remain for very long.

GoldenEye still embraces the idea that no matter what the situation, women will inexplicably fall in love with Bond after mere moments spent with him. I get this, as the entire series is to be taken as pure fantasy come to life, but it just comes across as awkward to see Scorupco's character hate Bond's guts one second, only for the hanky-panky to commence mere moments later.

It's not uncommon to see at least a few rough patches like this scattered throughout GoldenEye. The music, also designed to give the film a more modern edge, is often incredibly cheesy, and fans of the series may be confused to see Joe Don Baker, who prevously appeared as a villain in The Living Daylights, pop up as Bond's stereotypical, "ugly American" CIA ally.

Nevertheless, there's nothing here that seriously impedes the action-packed good times that GoldenEye is ready and willing to deliver. As much as I dig the underrated Dalton, I have to admit that Brosnan brings the best of both worlds to the role of Bond, delivering a combination of cold-hearted dedication to the job and moments of dry humor that prevent him from being a complete stiff. He also handles himself wonderfully in the action sequences, the highlight of which is an incredible tank chase through the streets of St. Petersburg. Bean provides quite the intimidating performance as Bond's comrade-turned-antagonist, coming across with a character who has more layers than your usual Bond baddie.

Famke Janssen &
Pierce Brosnan
As for the Bond Girls, Scorupco is plenty easy on the eyes, but the show is completely and utterly stolen by Janssen's gleefully over-the-top character, a sado-masochistic assassin who would just as soon hop in the sack with you as she would strike you down and love doing it.

I have to say that while 2006's Casino Royale did a much better job of adapting the character of James Bond for an increasingly changing audience of moviegoers, GoldenEye didn't do too shabby of a job its first time out. The action is crisp, the pacing is quick, and, most importantly, Brosnan proves he can wear a tux just as well as Sean Connery could.

Director: Martin Campbell

Writers: Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein, story by Michael France

Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Izabella Scorupco, Famke Janssen, Joe Don Baker, Judi Dench, Gottfried John, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Cumming

Rating: PG-13 (violence and sensuality)

Classic Movie Guide Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Run Time: 130 minutes

Studio: United Artists

Format: Color, widescreen

Photo credits: United Artists




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