Bond is back after his longest absence from cinema screens with GoldenEye, the first Bond film of the 90s and the debut for new Bond actor Pierce Brosnan.
In a world where Skyfall made a billion dollars at the box office and Spectre is currently busting blocks in cinemas, it’s hard to believe on its release that GoldenEye was far from a sure thing. After some complicated and tedious legal wrangling had blocked a follow up to the commercially disappointing Licence to Kill for six long years, there was a good chance that audiences wouldn’t care about Bond any more. After all, a lot had happened between Licence to Kill and GoldenEye. Directors like James Cameron, Luc Besson and John Woo had changed the face of modern action movies, and the franchise lost Timothy Dalton when the lack of a movie saw his contract elapse. Perhaps most significantly the Cold War had ended, making a globe trotting spy like 007 seemingly irrelevant in this post Soviet world. It’s fair to say that things had moved on a little since we’d last seen ol’ Jimmy.
GoldenEye’s masterstroke is that it decides to directly tackle the changing times, instead of carrying on as if nothing had ever happened. The collapse of the Soviet Union is foregrounded in the plot – a large chunk of the film takes place in St Petersburg – and Bond’s problematic attitude towards women is raised directly by, his now female, superior M. Audiences lapped it up and somehow, against all odds, GoldenEye was a massive box-office hit and gained favourable notices from the critics. It’s not hard to see why either. It’s sleek, modern and fun, something that the darker toned Dalton movies aimed for but never quite pulled off.
Brosnan cuts a dashing figure as the suave super spy. Handsome and lithe, he’s perhaps a little too pretty for the role, something not helped by the seemingly perpetual duck face he puts on whenever at rest. He lacks the cruelty and sadism of Connery and Dalton before him and has none of the brutality that Craig brought to proceedings later in the series, but he’s still far more believable as a man of violence than Roger Moore ever was. However it’s probably closer to the Roger end of the scale on the Bond pendulum; the wisecracks are back after their relative absence under Dalton, and as befits Brosnan’s preening, slightly narcissistic take on the character, there’s a few bits of business involving Bond adjusting his tie, watch or hair.
Just like Roger Moore before him (and possibly Daniel Craig after him) Brosnan never tops his first outing as Bond. Streamlined and action packed, GoldenEye breathed new life into an ailing franchise, becoming the template for the property over the next few features and re-established Bond as a potent brand in the global box office. After six long years away, Bond was back to prove that nobody does it better.
Bond theme: A brassy number in the style of Shirley Bassey, belted out by everyone’s favourite bow-legged ruler of Thunderdome, Tina Turner. Could well be the best thing Bono and The Edge have written in the last 20 years.
Best one liner: After a fairly vicious wrestling match in a sauna, Bond finally frees himself from a female assassin’s death grip and grabs his gun. Pointing it at her he softly admonishes: ‘No, no, no. No more foreplay’ a threat that perfectly encapsulates Bond’s blend of sex and violence.
Glamorous Locations: Opening with a flashback in the Soviet Union, the film then moves to the casinos and yachts of Monte Carlo. Bond then visits St Petersburg where he takes in the sights of a post-communist Russia riding roughshod through the streets in a tank. The climax takes place in Cuba on top of a huge satellite dish.
Girls: Main Bond girl duties fall to Izabella Scorupco as computer programmer Natalya Simonova, while early in the film Bond is seen seducing a mousy Ministry of Defence employee sent out to assess him. The real star turn though is Famke Janssen’s Xenia Onatopp, a deranged murderer with a silly name who orgasms as she kills.
Gadgets: GoldenEye sees Bond driving a BMW for the first time, something which jingoistic tabloids at the time were amusingly appalled by. Still, if the Daily Mail need intimidating, this German made car can launch missiles and self-destruct like most of Bond’s other British made cars. Bond is also given a belt that doubles as a rappel cord, a watch that houses a laser cutter inside it and a grenade that’s disguised as a pen.
Classic moment: It’s not very often we see Bond get bollocked, and even rarer to see him called out on his smarmy sexism. GoldenEye features both when Judi Dench tears strips off 007 in her office, calling him a sexist, misogynist dinosaur and asserting her own authority over him as M. Judi Dench played M for seventeen years, and this is perhaps her defining moment from all of the seven films she appeared in.
Low point: Joe Don Baker is back in the Bond franchise after his villainous turn in The Living Daylights. This time though, Baker plays Bond’s American ally Jack Wade; a sort of low-rent Felix Leiter who insists on calling 007 Jimmy and seems to have no sense of professionalism.
TELSTAR’S BIG BOND COUNTDOWN WILL RETURN WITH… TOMORROW NEVER DIES