Sunday, June 15, 2008

GoldenEye marks the highpoint in Brosnan’s tenure as Bond. None of the subsequent films were as fun, as well written or as memorable. In fact, they were all disappointingly bland. Until Daniel Craig came along, the franchise regressed rather than moved forward.

But GoldenEye was a welcome return to form in 1995 (although I like the previous film Licence to Kill quite a bit) and it still stands up. The action scenes are superb, the dialogue is pithy and it has quite a few memorable characters, which makes the film stand out even more considering how forgettable most of the characters have been in subsequent films. I mean, who can forget that blonde bloke from Tomorrow Never Dies? Or the nuclear physicist with the large rack in The World is Not Enough? Or the bald geezer out of Die Another Day? They were characters for the ages...

But like I say, GoldenEye is stocked with great characters. Just take Xenia Onatopp. How can you not like a woman who crushes men to death between her thighs? Plus she also has a penchant for fascistic leather military uniforms and a desire to shoot people while moaning like a whore. I dig that. Then there's Alec Trevelyan – a plumy, lecherous, traitorous former MI6 agent who says things like, "You know, James...I was always better." I dig that too. And there's Zukovsky, computer geek Boris and General Ourumov. Out of these, Ourumov has to be my favourite, largely because he has a hip flask and a huge nose. Always a good combination. (I also have to mention that I love how camp his stance is when he 'executes' 006. All I'll say is, ‘I'm a little teapot.’) And Jack Wade is good too. Sure he's a concession to American audiences, but he represents them well – he's an overweight loudmouth.

Even the token totty stand up well. Izabella Scorupco is a fine looking woman, but, get this, she can actually act. And the fact that she can act makes it easy to overlook the fact that she's far too attractive to be a computer programmer. The same can't be said of Denise Richards in The World is Not Enough.

And Judi Dench is a great M and Samantha Bond is a fantastic Moneypenny. Although I have to say that I'm always distracted by Samantha Bond's nose. It’s got a life of its own. Take a look when you watch it next; it bobs up and down like crazy. (I've seen this film too many times…)

The only negative is that Desmond Llewelyn seems to be reading his dialogue from cue cards. He seems to be looking beyond Bond in their scene. I guess he must have had trouble remembering the jargon-heavy lines. But I still find it rather distracting. (Again, I've seen this film far too many times…)

But I guess what most people judge Bond films by, is the action. Well, in that regard, it's more than adequate. The opening stunt has to be the highlight. Stunts are so much more impressive when you're allowed to believe your eyes, when they're actually done for real. And the dam jump is possibly the best stunt I've seen.

After that you have the plane sequence. This bit is silly as hell. Bond rides off a cliff, catches up to a free-falling plane – despite it falling under both the force of gravity and its engines – and pulls it out of its descent. It's ridiculous, but hey, that's Bond. Since when have the laws of physics and plausibility bound this immortal? Better, though, is the tank sequence. It's a novel spin on the obligatory car chase and it's well done – although whoever was responsible for the Perrier product placement should hang their head in shame. But my favourite piece of action, aside from the dam jump, is the fight between Bond and Trevelyan. It's just a good no-frills, no-holds-barred piece of fighting between the two main characters – usually, at the end of a Bond film, Bond has to stop some bomb or some device, or kill loads of faceless henchman or some effete villain. Therefore it's nice just to have a straight up fight end a Bond film. Sure you have a bit of extraneous detail to tie up the plot, but, as ever, it doesn't matter. It's just background noise. But although I like the fight, there's still more silliness. After falling a few hundred feet to a concrete floor, Trevelyan is not only still alive but only has a slightly bloody nose. I'm sure it was a concession to the censors, but it's quite amazing how indestructible movie folk are.

But watching the film back I was quite impressed at how intelligent the film is, certainly compared to subsequent Bond films. There's some good stuff about the end of the Cold War and Russia's transition from communism to capitalism. And the scene between Bond and M intelligently addresses the fears that Bond, as a character, is too dated. Quite rightly the film ensures that it's only the world that changes – Bond remains the same. And there are references to Stalin, the Second Word War and Roman mythology. It may just be a Bond film, but at least it doesn't insult the audience's intelligence. (It's also a nice detail that Bond and Alec meet up in a Soviet graveyard full of communist relics.)

But the film also has an excellent sense of humour. There are some real corkers: "How do you take it?" "Straight up…with a twist", "I like a woman who enjoys pulling rank" and "She always did enjoy a good squeeze."

Add all of this to a fantastic score (which I'm unusual among Bond fans in liking), some excellent miniature work (always better than bad CGI...I'm pointing at you Die Another Day) and a superb Bond in Pierce Brosnan, and you have one of the best films in the series.

You Might Also Like