The 007 Series: GoldenEye (1995)

Synopsis:

M16’s James Bond (Pierce Brosnan, Robinson Crusoe) is assigned to stop an ex-colleague, Agent 006 (Sean Bean, Game of Thrones), who is helping the Russians develop a weapon. With the help of an innocent 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 boss, General Ourumov (Gottfried John, Berlin Alexanderplatz).

Reaction & Thoughts:

After years of legal battles, James Bond returned to the screen to great acclaim and box office success. GoldenEye, directed by Martin Campbell (The Mask of Zorro and Edge of Darkness)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.

Everyone I knew gave GoldenEye two big thumbs up. I felt that there was something wrong with me because 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 (credited to Jeffrey Caine 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 the climax — shot inside a real-life Observatory in Puerto Rico — was dull. GoldenEye doesn’t have the big-bang ending I always expect in a Bond movie.

GoldenEye updates the beloved characters in order to reflect new attitudes, but these changes don’t feel organic. “M” is now played by a woman, the great Judi Dench, and she scolds Bond for being a chauvinist pig. Miss Monepenny, played by Samantha Bond (TV’s Downton Abbey), is written as a strong independent woman who looks down at Bond’s escapades. I loved the new attitudes, but I wasn’t all that enthused with the way those attitudes were inserted into the storyline. It was all done crudely, awkwardly — the reshaping felt more like pandering than genuine concern for gender equality.

I did think Brosnan was very good — I can’t fault his performance. Brosnan 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. Interestingly, I also used to watch Roger Moore’s popular TV show The Saint, but I didn’t have a problem accepting Moore 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. I’m familiar with Gottfried John’s work via Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s movies. He’s excellent as always. Famke Janssen also makes a strong impression as an assassin — if you are only familiar with her work in the X-Men franchise, prepare to be shocked! Joe Don Baker, who had played a villain in The Living Daylights now plays Bond’s CIA buddy. Alan Cumming (Spy Kids) is a computer programmer and Robbie Coltrane (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) is a Russian gangster. Pre-stardom Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting) has a tiny role as a nightclub singer.

GoldenEye does look and sound pretty good. Sensing the importance of this relaunch, the producers didn’t cut any corners. You can see the money everywhere. The visual effects are top-notch. The title song, written by Bono and the Edge, is sung by Tina Turner. However, Eric Serra’s music score is bland and I’m glad that he wasn’t asked to return to the series.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

GoldenEye left me wanting more. There is something endearing about the franchise that makes it impossible for me to completely dislike any of the Bond movies — I just like some entries better the others. All I can say is that this is Bond # 17 and my least favorite movie, so far. Color, 130 minutes, Rated PG.

James Bond will return
in
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

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