Archive for August, 2020

Goldeneye (1995)

Posted: August 26, 2020 in James Bond


A six-year gap between Bond films. While these days this almost seems normal (or at least not abnormal) back then it was a big deal, prior to this the longest gap between films had been three years between The Man with the Golden Gun and The Spy Who Loved Me and then the same Bond returned. In this instance the shift was major, especially once Timothy Dalton stood down.  There were claims in some quarters that this might be the end of Bond, especially with action films like True Lies threatening to steal Bond’s thunder. On the cusp of the 21st Century wasn’t 007 a bit, well, old hat?

Then Pierce Brosnan drove a tank through those concerns. Don’t get me wrong, I wish Tim had done at least one more Bond film, but Pierce knocks it out of the park here, backed by a top drawer script, a great cast and robust direction by Martin Campbell, a man who would direct another Bond’s freshman effort 11 years later.

Nine years ago Bond and fellow agent 006, Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) infiltrate a Soviet chemical weapons plant in Arkhangelsk. It’s a great opening. We only see glimpses of Brosnan initially. Our first proper look he’s hanging upside down and punching some hapless Russian solider who just wanted to go to the loo…

There’s a nice banter between Brosnan and Bean right from the off, and while Bond had to undertake an insane bungee jump to access the base, I can’t help imagining 006 just wandered in disguised as the milkman or something.

Before they can complete their mission, alarms sound and Alec is soon shot dead by villainous Ourumov (or is he?) Bond’s down but he’s not out and he quickly escapes leaving an exploding base in his wake.

A great title sequence follows. Tina Turner is spot on, and the imagery of women smashing Soviet iconography is nicely done, as is the image of a two headed woman, just like Janus. One of the best Bond titles if you ask me (but the best is still to come in a few years though).


Next stop Monte Carlo for a collection of Bond tropes culminating in a Canadian admiral being squeezed to death between a beautiful woman’s thighs and a stealth helicopter being stolen. Then it’s back to London and the new M (cue Roger Moore incredulously saying “A woman?”) Judi Dench is great, and though she’ll never be quite as disdainful of 007 again until Daniel comes along, it fits perfectly within the tone of the film. The theft of the helicopter has been linked to the Russian Janus crime syndicate, and now it’s been spotted at a supposedly disused Russian base in Severnaya. MI6 analysts have discounted rumours that it’s a secret weapons testing site for an EMP weapon known as Goldeneye, so it’s a surprise for M when an EMP knocks out the satellite they had watching the base. Now it’s clear Goldeneye exists, M despatches Bond to Russia where he’ll make friends with one of the only survivors of Severnaya, cross swords with a sexy psychopathic, meet up once more with the man who killed Alec and, finally, meet the villain of the pieces, a familiar face he never expected to see again…

I always count Goldeneye in my top five Bond films, in fact I usually slot it in as number 2, yet much as I loved it when I first saw it, I recalled that it was a certain moment where the film clicked. Watching it again even now and it’s the same point. The moment where the tank bursts through the wall never ceases to make me smile. The epitome of James Bond, and a moment few other action franchises could ever hope to match, the perfect melding of the thrilling and the ludicrous, arguably one of the best set pieces of the franchise and one they’ve been trying to ape ever since (especially Pierce’s tie straighten- see him again in TWINE and Daniel Craig checking his cufflinks on multiple occasions) with variable success.


Let’s back up a bit though, because this is a film that deserves forensic analysis, certainly various elements of the script really stood out to me this time.

The pre-title sequence is a corker, action packed and amusing, and both Brosnan and Bean are great here (if it’d been made now I wonder if we’d have a 006 prequel spinoff film?) and the only slight quibble is over the plane jump; the CGI is a little ropey here.

The first act is a little off, but there is a reason for this. I hadn’t realised before just how many Bond tropes they squeeze in here. Shag bird after flirting with other bird during a car chase, check, casino, check, dinner jacket, check, “The name’s Bond, James, Bond”, check, “Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred”, check, double entendres, check. It’s a trifle wearying, but the reasoning is clear. Look he’s been a way a while, and maybe you didn’t like that Dalton guy, but don’t worry here’s the Bond you remember, a lascivious lounge lizard without a care in the world.

Don’t fret, the films tells you, this is the Bond you know and love.

And then the film pulls the rug out from under you, much as the plot pulls the rug out from under 007.

First there’s Moneypenny, I love Samantha Bond’s interpretation, she doesn’t pine after 007, and she’s dismissive of his advances. Yes, the reference to sexual harassment is a tad clunky, but god it’s better than Caroline Bliss’ simpering.


Similarly, Dench’s M. Sure M’s always been exasperated by 007, but the old M’s did at least understand his worth. No so this M. Remember what I said about Bond being old hat? She literally, lampshades it for the audience. Bond’s a sexist misogynist, dinosaur. A relic of the Cold War. The enemies Bond had no longer exist, who is it after all who aids 007 in St Petersburg? Zukovsky, a former KGB agent Bond shot (and Coltrane is great, and yes that is Minnie Driver strangling a cat). As Natalya says “All the heroes I know are dead.” They even manage to throw in a history lesson with the repatriation of Alec’s Cossack parents. “Hardly our finest hour.”

Then the ultimate rug pull. Everything Bond knew is wrong. His friend is a traitor, and the bad guy is a 00 agent (I’m amazed they didn’t do this before). Up is down, left is right, friends are enemies and enemies are friends. It’s a new world order, but 007 still has a place in it, after some mild (and again a little clunky) psychoanalysing courtesy of Natalya and Alex. “It’s what keeps me alive.” “No its what keeps you alone.” This was something very new for Bond. Sadly, now we’re used to Daniel Craig’s psyche being pulled apart in every bloody film, so it’s become old hat.

The theme of Janus runs through the film, not only with James and Alec as mirror images of one another but also Natalya and Boris. It’s the situations too. Watch how many times the pre-title sequence is played out. The scene in the archive (and small point or order, how many innocent Russian soldiers does 007 mow down?) for example. Outgunned by Russian soldiers Bond’s ally is taken hostage and he has to make a choice. He could just run, instead he goes after her. Again on the train, the friend or the mission, and again in the final act with the explosives set against tanks holding something unpalatable.


There’s some wonderful script tricks at work as well. See how Wade’s exposition is lightened by having him use a hammer to fix his car, so we don’t realise we’re being lectured too.

Let’s talk the cast, because frankly there’s an argument that, pound for pound, this might be one of the best Bond casts ever assembled!

Brosnan will never supplant Tim (or Daniel or Roger) and he is a little too smooth for comfort at times, but he is very good here, and for his debut is also his finest hour.

Bean is wonderful as Bond’s dark reflection, and you can see why he might have been considered for the title role himself, sure Trevelyan’s plan doesn’t make a huge heap of sense. He talks about having more money than God, but that secret base in Cuba must have cost a fortune!


At Alec’s right hand is Xenia Onatopp. My one and only encounter with Ms Janssen might have left me a little disappointed, but I will always love Xenia. She’s wonderfully bloodthirsty, practically orgasming when she kills people, and certainly has a thing about pain—I love the delight Famke puts into “He’s going to derail us.” I can’t be sure but Janet’s Leigh similarly murderous spy in the Man from UNCLE film ‘The Spy in the Green Hat’ surely formed a template (as must Fiona Volpe)? However, she came about it’s a perfect melding of actor and role, and it’s always nice to find a woman immune to James’ charms. Like Fiona she remains true to herself, right to the end. Shame about the end mind, she deserved better, but she’s still my second favourite Bond girl.

To have one great Bond girl is good, that Goldeneye has two is an added bonus. Izabella Scorupco is great. My favourite Bond girls are the (relatively) normal women who step up to the plate when thrown in at the deep end, and Natalya certainly does that. She’s smart and brave, and yes she has shit load of agency. Fooling Xenia, escaping Severnaya and making it to Moscow, conning her way into the IBM shop (500 meg hard drives, bless) before she even meets Bond. She eventually outwits Boris, foiling Trevelyan’s plan and hijacking the chopper that saves Bond’s life. She has her own mission, her own enemy. And she’s gorgeous into the bargain. Not bad for a level 2 programmer.


Ah Boris, how super is Cummings? He takes what could have been a one note character and imbues him with such disdainful charm. They’ve tried to replicate the character again and never come close. A smirking man-child, he’d probably be an alt right or an incel these days. Know what though, he’s invincible!

Coltrane doesn’t get much screen time, but is also a joy (you can see why they bought him back) and Joe Don Baker is far more engaging as Wade than he ever was as Whittaker. And there’s Gottfried John as Ourumov, whose facial expressions are a wonder, whether watching Xenia get a little too excited, or staring is disbelief as a tank follows him.

The action is top drawer; the pre-title sequence, Severnaya, the tank chase, the train, and the finale. Yeah the ejector seat feels a little too similar to Die Hard 2 (and Alec why didn’t you kill them before putting them in the chopper?) but these are quibbles (see also 007 driving a BMW).

Great script, great action, great cast…oh and one more thing, they pack all of this into just a shade over two hours. This is a well-paced movie, not a flabby Spectre of a film (see what I did there?).

Know what else? I’m even one of those rare birds that kinda likes the soundtrack.

A top five Bond film in my opinion, and probably always will be.

Anyway, James Bond will return, and you won’t have to wait six years this time!