GoldenEye (1995)


M16’s James Bond (Pierce Brosnan, Robinson Crusoe) is assigned to stop an ex-colleague, Agent 006 (Sean Bean, TV’s Game of Thrones), who has gone rogue and is helping the Russians develop a weapon. With the help of an naive Russian computer programmer, Natalya (Izabella Scorupco, Vertical Limit), Bond must not only face 006, but also a deadly femme fatale, Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen, X-Men), and her nasty boss, General Ourumov (Gottfried John, Berlin Alexanderplatz).

Reaction & Thoughts:

“Governments change. The lies stay the same.”

After years of legal battles, James Bond returned to the screen to great acclaim and box office success. Competently directed by Martin Campbell (The Mask of Zorro and Edge of Darkness), GoldenEye clearly put the franchise back on track, but I’ve always counted this movie as one of the series’ weakest entries and this latest viewing only reinforced my initial disappointment.

Although GoldenEye was warmly embraced by most fans, I found the movie lacking in some key areas. More than two decades later, I still find myself arguing with friends about the film’s merits, or lack of them. Maybe it’s a matter of taste. This admittedly well-regarded movie remains one of my least favorite entries in the long-running franchise — I don’t think GoldenEye is as good as it could have been.

My main complaint is the script by Jeffrey Caine (The Constant Gardener) and Bruce Feirstein. GoldenEye feels a bit disjointed to me. Isolated sequences are good, very good, but I didn’t feel the gradual increase in excitement that a movie of this type is supposed to achieve. Simply put, I was a tad bored with the whole thing. And I found the climax — shot inside a real-life Observatory in Puerto Rico — a little dull. GoldenEye doesn’t have the big-bang ending I always expect in a Bond movie.

GoldenEye reflects cultural changes. “M” is now played by a woman, the great Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love), who scolds Bond for being a chauvinist pig. Miss Monepenny (Samantha Bond, TV’s Downton Abbey) is written as a strong independent woman who looks down at Bond’s sex escapades. I love the new attitudes but these changes don’t feel organic. It was all done crudely and awkwardly — the reshaping felt more like pandering than genuine concern for gender equality.

I did think Pierce Brosnan was very good. He moves like a real spy (he is probably the most agile Bond I’ve seen, so far). I do have a very personal problem with him. I was a huge fan of Remington Steel, the TV show that made Brosnan famous. Because I was addicted to the show, I still can’t separate Brosnan from Steel therefore I had a problem accepting him as Bond — it’s my problem and my problem alone.

The supporting cast is very good too. Who doesn’t love Sean Bean? He’s a worthy adversary. German actor Gottfried John is excellent as always. Famke Janssen also makes a strong impression as a brutal assassin. Joe Don Baker, who had played a villain in The Living Daylights, now plays Bond’s CIA buddy. Alan Cumming (Josie and the Pussycats) is a computer programmer and Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter movies) is a Russian gangster. Pre-stardom Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting) has a tiny role as a nightclub singer.

GoldenEye looks and sounds pretty good. Sensing the importance of this relaunch, the producers didn’t cut any corners. You can see the money everywhere. The visual and sound effects are top-notch. The excellent cinematography is by Phil Méheux (The Long Good Friday). The title song, written by Bono and the Edge, is sung by the great Tina Turner — it’s a really good song! However, Eric Serra’s (The Fifth Element) incidental music score is bland and I’m glad that he wasn’t asked to return to the series.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

GoldenEye isn’t a bad movie, it is just a film that leaves me wanting more. Being a huge fan of the series, it is nearly impossible for me to completely dislike a Bond movie — I simply like some entries better than others. All I can say is that GoldenEye doesn’t do much for me, definitely an unpopular opinion. Color, 130 minutes, Rated PG.

James Bond will return
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

8 responses to “GoldenEye (1995)

  1. I completely disagree with you Eric but you raise some good points. I think us fans if we’re being honest do feel the second half after Moscow is a little disjointed plot wise. I love the characters and to me the beauty of the finale is that knock out fight between two equally matched adversaries. For example I wanted that kind of intensity if The World Is Not Enough. What can I tell you I love it but I also enjoyed your review.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re not entirely alone in your opinion, it’s one of my least favourite as well. When I first saw this it was such a terrible disappointment, but I’ve warmed up to it a little over the years. It’s very studio bound and looks (and sounds – the score is mostly horrible) like a cheaper film than I expect from Bond, the PC stuff is laid on with a trowel and it all feels a little like it’s trying too hard, and bringing back the DB5 after 30 years seems a bit desperate. It, and the Brosnan films generally, seem like a big step backward over the Dalton ones to me. There seems to be a consensus that Brosnan had one great Bond film (this one!) and three duds, which I think is too generous to Goldeneye and unfair on the other three. Reviewers and the public were generous to it because they had missed Bond and this one deliberately pushes a lot of nostalgia buttons.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah … finally … a kindred spirit! I thought I was on a life raft, alone in a vast emptiness of ocean. I agree with you 100%. You did a better job explaining my feelings than I.

      Not sure if you agree with the comparison, but I thought GoldenEye was like Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Both movies are nostalgia trips that don’t really advance the franchise (J.J. Abrams isn’t an artist, he’s an antiques-restorer). As you said, I actually thought GoldenEye took Bond backwards — Dalton’s less celebrated movies are much better at pushing boundaries. I haven’t seen Craig’s movies, so I’m hoping that Casino Royale does what GoldenEye should have done.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lol, yeah he is. But he doesn’t use materials of the right quality. When you look closely at his Star Trek films, you see a lot of paste and glass where there should be diamonds!

        In fairness to Goldeneye, this sort of nostalgia trip Bond was probably necessary to re-establish the series at the time, but I just think it could have been done a lot better. I’m surprised you haven’t seen the Craig films, so I’m interested to see how you get on with them. I guess you’ll probably like them (except maybe QoS) if you like the Dalton ones.

        Liked by 1 person

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