Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bond Is Forever: "GoldenEye"

British secret agents, James Bond (Pierce Brosnan), aka 007, and Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean), aka 006, are attempting to decommission a Soviet chemical weapons plant. In the course of the mission, Trevelyan is captured and killed, and Bond, after detonating explosives, narrowly escapes. Nine years later, 007 tracks Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen), engaged in a questionable relationship with a Canadian admiral. Onatopp kills the admiral to steal his identity and commandeers a helicopter that can withstand an EMP (electromagnetic pulse). She and General Ourumov travel to a Severnaya complex, confiscate the controls to the GoldenEye satellite, and fire an EMP at the complex. Bond is initially upset upon learning that Ourumov is behind the plot, as he blames the man for the death of his friend, Trevelyan. Unfortunately, 007 soon discovers that the true mastermind is Trevelyan himself, who had faked his death and sworn revenge against Britain for the death of his parents during World War II. Bond and computer technician Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco) must stop Trevelyan, who plans to aim a second GoldenEye satellite at England.

The six-year gap between the previous Bond film Licence to Kill (1989) an
d GoldenEye (1995) was the longest period that James Bond stayed off screens. In 1989, the Australia-based Qintex group was negotiating to acquire MGM/UA, the studio currently distributing Bond films. That deal fell through, as Qintex didn't quite have the financial assets to secure the rather sizable down payment, but an offer from Pathé Communications was accepted in 1990. However, Danjaq, parent company to EON Productions, brought legal action against MGM-Pathé chairman and Italian businessman, Giancarlo Parretti. MGM-Pathé was working deals to broadcast the Bond films on TV in various foreign countries without the consent of Danjaq. In 1991, Crédit Lyonnais, the French bank which had financed Parretti's purchase of MGM, took ownership of the company. Parretti and Crédit Lyonnais were tied up in legal disputes, and, fearing bankruptcy, the French bank removed Parretti as chairman and hired former Paramount Pictures CEO Frank Mancuso to chair MGM/UA in 1993. At the time, United Artists had not released a film since Rocky V in 1990.

During all of the legal battles, producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli stayed committed to Timothy Dalton as James Bond. Despite disappointing box office returns on the last Bond film, Licence to Kill, Broccoli maintained that there was a three-picture deal with Dalton. However, by 1993, when it seemed that all of the legal turmoil had settled, production on a new 007 film had yet to begin. In April 1994, Dalton officially resigned from the role, and Pierce Brosnan was then approached. Brosnan had actually been offered the part after Roger Moore left the series, following A View to a Kill (1985). Brosnan was starring on the hit TV series, Remington Steele, but the NBC series had been canceled. Reportedly, once it became clear that Brosnan might be the new 007, the network renewed the show, and the actor, still under contract, was unable to accept the offer. In 1994, Brosnan, with no contractual obligations, agreed to play Bond... James Bond.

Brosnan was not the only introduction to the Bond series in GoldenEye. Dame Judi Dench took over the role of MI6 head, M, becoming the first female to portray the character and only the third actor, after Bernard Lee and Robert Brown. Dench is outstanding, and it comes to no surprise that she was asked to reprise her role in the 2006 Bond overha
ul, Casino Royale. Samantha Bond (no relation to 007) also makes her debut in the series as Miss Moneypenny. Lois Maxwell had played the character in every Bond film with actors Sean Connery and Moore and even the solitary film starring George Lazenby. Caroline Bliss was Moneypenny in the two films with Dalton. Bond (the actress) is an alluring Moneypenny, a role she would play for all the movies with Brosnan. (And in all fairness to Samantha Bond, she has yet to be replaced, as Miss Moneypenny has thus far not appeared in the latest Bond films, Casino Royale and 2008's Quantum of Solace.)

Cubby Broccoli was very ill during production of GoldenEye. His daughter, Barbara Broccoli, and his stepson, Michael G. Wilson, took the reins in the production department. Barbara Broccoli was only 22 years old when she was assigned the role of assistant director in Octopussy (1983), a job she also handled in A View to a Kill. She was credited as associate producer for the two Bond films with Timothy Dalton, The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence to Kill, but GoldenEye was her first movie as producer. Her stepbrother, Wilson, became a part of EON Productions in 1972. He was named assistant to Cubby Broccoli in 1977 with The Spy Who Loved Me, following the departure of producer and EON Productions/Danjaq co-founder, Harry Saltzman. Since Moonraker (1979), Wilson has been either an executive producer or producer of each Bond film. In 1996, seven months after the premiere of GoldenEye, Albert R. Broccoli died of heart failure.

The character of CIA agent Jack Wade (Joe Don Baker) was evidently meant to replace fellow agent Felix Leiter, presumably due to the injuries he sustained in the previous Bond outing, Licence to Kill. Interestingly, in the Bond film before that, The Living Daylights, Baker had portrayed the villainous Brad Whitaker. Robbie Coltrane, as Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky, would reprise his role in 1999's The World is Not Enough, which also stars Brosnan. In GoldenEye, his mistress is played by the (at the time) little known Minnie Driver. Driver was already garnering critical and commercial attention for the movie, Circle of Friends, released the same year and also starring Alan Cumming, who plays Natalya's co-worker, computer whiz Boris, in GoldenEye.

By 1995, audiences were anticipating gadgets in the Bond films. The mos
t significant gadget utilized in GoldenEye is an explosive pen. It is armed by clicking the pen three times and disarmed with three additional clicks. It leads to a fun sequence with a villain, unaware of the pen's true function, fiddling with the device and clicking it multiple times, as Bond nervously watches. GoldenEye, which was not based on any of Ian Fleming's novels or short stories, took its title from the name of Fleming's estate in Jamaica, which has since been turned into a resort. The film's title song was performed by Tina Turner and written by Bono and The Edge of the Irish rock band U2.

The general consensus for this Bond outing seems to place it as a favorite among Brosnan's movies. I, however, disagree with this assessment. While I admire director Martin Campbell's work (he would return to direct Casino Royale in 2006) and think Bean and Famke are standout villains, I find little else which makes this an exceptional part of the series. Natalya is a terrific character, but Scorupco's performance is a little bland. Likewise, the plot is cheerfully complex, but it hits a lull at the midway point, and there doesn't seem to be much left but explosions and near-escapes. Still, it's a good movie to welcome Brosnan to the series, and the Irish actor is undeniably dashing and debonair.

Any Pierce Brosnan or GoldenEye fans out there? Praises? Complaints? Any thoughts would be much appreciated.

Bond Is Forever will return next month with The Spy Who Loved Me (1977).


  1. Sark, thanks for a highly informative post in your terrific BOND IS FOREVER series. I pretty much agree with your assessment--GOLDENEYE is a decent Bond outing with good villains. But, you're right, the second half is sluggish and Scorupco is a bland heroine. On the other hand, I always thought Brosnan was a fine Bond--tougher than Moore, but more amusing than Connery. I rank GOLDENEYE #3 among his four Bond films, with my favorite now being THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH. By the way, the GOLDENEYE video game ranks among my all-time favorites, though there was one mission where I had to protect Natalya while she reprogrammed a computer...and she must have been killed almost 50 times before I completed the mission.

  2. Rick, I completely agree about the GOLDENEYE video game on the Nintendo 64 (one of the best consoles ever created). And the mission to which you referred, where Bond is on a train, was very difficult! Poor Natalya.

  3. Sark, your article is the best you have done yet. It reads like "War and Peace", stuffed so full of facts, long Russian names, fascinating political business deals and intriguing plots that I read it twice so I wouldn't miss anything! Kudos! Pierce Brosnan and Timothy Dalton were the only Bonds besides Sean Connery that I ever liked. I couldn't stand Roger Moore (too soft) and I really don't like the new one, Daniel Craig (too beefcake, and Bond is not a blonde!). I'm hard to please with Bond movies, because I believe Ian Fleming's books to be truly great, and I wish the movies had followed them more closely. Barring that, I do enjoy the good ones, of which I agree Goldeneye was not much; however, Brosnan is always a good Bond, and if I can't have Connery, I'll gladly take him!

  4. Sark, I just love reading your Awesome, Bond is Forever reviews!! Pierce Brosnan, does not lack charm, there is something about Pierce that makes him the ultimate ladies man on screen.(sigh)..

  5. Sark, you did it again! Another excellent review, this time featuring a new Bond. I like Pierce Brosnan quite well as 007. He has the looks and class to play the part well and did so.

    I also loved the introduction of Judi Dench as M. She is a phenomenal actress and added a depth to M that was remarkable.

    I am looking forward to your next Bond installment, Sark. I truly appreciate your impeccable research and reviews.

  6. Am sure I'll incur the wrath of Connerians but Brosnan was the best Bond. He was vulnerable but decisive. Charming but lethal. This was a good review of "GoldenEye" which wasnt the best Brosnan. But it was still pretty darn good.

  7. Thanks, everyone. I'm glad to see that there are some Brosnan fans out there! toto, I also like Dame Judi very much; she's a most excellent M. Anon, I like Connery, but it's so nice to see someone have a favorite Bond other than Sean. Dawn and Becky, you're clearly Brosnan fans, and Becky, I like Timothy Dalton, too, and think he's vastly underrated.

  8. Sark, this is a really good review on Goldeneye. I like Brosnan as Bond and he is handsome and a good actor. However, Brosnan was given mediocre scripts and plots in all his Bond movies. Tomorrow Never Dies and The World is Not Enough are watchable, but Goldeneye is pretty bad and Day Another Day is just plain awful! I like Bean as the villain and thought he had the best script. I miss the good Bond music in Brosnan's movies. The only good one is The World is Not Enough performed by Garbage, one of my favorite bands, so that is the reason I liked it. As for Daniel Craig, he isn't Bond. He is a agent in a spy movie named James Bond. I would have preferred Ewan McGregor as Bond with some wit and charm like Roger Moore. I am glad Brosnan has moved on to play better roles because he is a good actor and deserves it.

  9. Aki, I think I like the Brosnan films more than you, but I understand your aversion to the latter Bond films. They are considerably different films. I actually like all of Brosnan movies. GOLDENEYE is a bit mediocre, but I really like THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, and there are elements to both TOMORROW NEVER DIES and DIE ANOTHER DAY (the latter film which is very unpopular) that I really enjoy, most notably Michelle Yeoh in TOMORROW. As for the title songs, I liked Tina Turner singing GOLDENEYE. I thought that was reiminiscent of something like GOLDFINGER. I, too, like Garbage's "The World is Not Enough", and I think Madonna's "Die Another Day" is okay (my wife really likes that one). I completely agree about TOMORROW NEVER DIES, however, as I am not a fan of Sheryl Crow's song. We can talk about Daniel Craig more later when I write about CASINO ROYALE, but I like his interpretation of the Bond character.

    Thank you so much for your thoughts, Aki! You said so much, and my responses aren't very good, but I appreciate your comments. Ewan McGregor would be an unusual Bond... but I'd definitely like to see that!

  10. Sark and Aki, I know this is off the main topic but just wanted to add that THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH and TOMORROW NEVER DIES are quality Bond outings in my book. Much better than Connery's YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE or Moore's MOONRAKER.