• Year:  1995
  • Director:  Martin Campbell
  • Series Rank:  #11
  • Year Rank:  #39
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  none
  • Bond Girl:  Izabella Scorupco (Natalya Simonova)
  • Bond Villain:  Sean Bean (Alec Trevelyan), Famke Janssen (Xenia Onatopp), Gottfried John (General Ourumov), Alan Cumming (Boris Grishenko), Robbie Coltrane (Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky)
  • Bond Support:  Judi Dench (M), Samantha Bond (Moneypenny), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), Joe Don Baker (Jack Wade)

It had been six years since the last James Bond film.  The Dalton films were great for Bond fans like myself, but they had not been as financially successful as had been hoped and there were many who weren’t ready for that kind of colder, harder Bond after the years of Roger Moore.  So, in comes Pierce Brosnan, who everyone had been agreeing for years should be James Bond (and was actually supposed to be back before Dalton was hired), and we get a bit of a hybrid.  He’s got a bit more of that Roger Moore charm (although, as Veronica points out, he has the looks to pull it off – I agree, as when I ran Freshman Orientation at Pacific my senior year, instead of using a picture of myself for my bio, I used a picture of Brosnan) and a little bit of those silly lines keep crawling in, but he’s a bit harder-edged as well.  When he’s asked, at the end of the film, “For England, James?”, he replies “No.  For me.”

I’m a bit mixed on Brosnan.  I had really liked Dalton and wish he had done more.  I think Brosnan is a good Bond and I like watching him.  The four Brosnan films, however will have continually diminishing returns.  The problem though, isn’t with Brosnan, it’s with the writers who, having now left Fleming’s books behind, can’t seem to come up with plots and villains that are really worthy of the character.  But that will start with later films; we’re in fairly good hands here.

This is the first Brosnan outing and it’s a strong one, partially because it’s a new fresh Bond, partially because they really came up with a good villain, partially because the plot works well enough and partially because, hey, there’s a new M in town and she’s not gonna take your shit, Bond.

GoldenEye_-_M_briefs_BondThere have been a lot of choices with the Bond films over the years, some of them good (Desmond Llewellyn), some of them not so good (sticking with Roger Moore so long), some of them terrible (Sheriff J. W. Pepper).  But few of them have been as good as the choice to cast Judi Dench as M.  “I think you’re a sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War,” she tells him.  But, she also reminds him, before he sets out, “Come back alive.”  She is the right person for the job and she does it well.  We only get a couple of scenes with her in this film but they’ll use her more and more because they realize what a great thing they have here.

The plot is a key component of why this film is as good as it is and I’ll go ahead and give away the key dramatic moment since the trailer had done that away.  Even though, in the opening scenes we see 006 killed on a mission with Bond, he actually has survived and is the primary villain, setting a scheme in motion to steal the Russian Goldeneye system (named after Fleming’s Jamaica home where most of the Bond books were written) and wreck worldwide havoc (and steal a lot of money).

seanbeanThe opening scene is a hell of a scene.  It starts with a truly magnificent stunt (Bond leaps from the top of a dam with a bungee cord, then, when he gets to the bottom, hangs on and releases the cord).  It also ends with another magnificent stunt, riding a motorbike off a cliff to catch up to a falling plane.  In between, we see 006 get killed (which Veronica was hesitant to believe – “That’s too early to get killed in the film,” she said, “even for Sean Bean.”), but that’s just a tease.  Still, it shows the level of excitement we’re going to get in this film.  Later, we’ll get a great car race (not really a chase), a chase where Bond demolishes St. Petersburg with a tank (after trashing the archive – Veronica does not approve) and a few really great battles at the end.  The action in this film is fantastic and Brosnan is up to the challenge, as is Bean as his counterpart.

coltraneBean isn’t the only villain.  We have, in order, Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp (a great name), Gottfried John as General Oumurov, Alan Cumming as the computer whiz Boris and Robbie Coltrane as Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky.  There is also Izabella Scorupco as Natalya Simonova.  She’s not a villian, she’s the Bond girl, but I mention her here because the five of them, in order, are Dutch, German, Scottish, Scottish and Polish-Swedish.  bond-janssen-3_4In spite of that, their Russian accents are fantastic (especially Coltrane).  Janssen is delightful as one of those “bad Bond girls”, although Bond never gets a chance to sleep with her, but, since she kills the men she sleeps with by crushing them with her legs, that’s probably for the best (“You don’t need the gun,” she tells him in the sauna and he replies “That depends on your definition of safe sex.”).  John is solid as the general who will be betrayed by Bean and the one I actually thought was Russian.  Cumming is perfectly over-the-top as the sexist programmer so obviously ogling the curvy Scorupco while denigrating her skills (even though her computer smarts are all that manages to keep the scheme from working).  Coltrane’s accent is probably the best and it’s too bad we only get him in one scene but he’s the one of the group who will be back in a future installment.

is005Then there is Scorupco.  The more I think about her, the more I think she should rise on the list of all-time Bond girls.  She’s great-looking, she has a reason to actually fall for him (they’ve been through more than one near-death experience together and he comes back to save her, even choosing to save her over getting the bad guy, plus, as Veronica pointed out, he’s Brosnan, not Moore) and her computer programming skills are a key asset.  She doesn’t give a great performance, but I was fooled enough by her accent to think she actually was Russian and she seems to understand what is going through Bond’s head (“He was your friend.  And now he is your enemy and you will kill him”) but is also quick to call it like she sees it (“You are like boys with toys.”).

But in the end, the strengths of this film come down to the stand-off between Brosnan and Bean.  Both of them are fighting for the cause they believe in.  Bean is actual a Liens Cossack, a group of fighters who turned themselves over to the British at the end of World War II only to be handed over to Stalin for execution.  He is in this for revenge against the country who he feels betrayed his parents.  Bond, on the other hand, fights for queen and country.  But, in the end, what it will really come down to, is the battle between the two men on a more primal level, and as I said, it comes down that line “No.  For me.”