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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6 responses to “The 007 Series: 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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