In honor of the 60th anniversary of James Bond, I’m revisiting and reviewing all the movies. Next up, GoldenEye! Read on for my thoughts on this explosive entry in the James Bond film franchise.
It’s 1986, James Bond and agent 006, Alec Trevelyan, infiltrate a Russian weapons factory, but Trevelyan is killed by General Ourumov while Bond escapes. Nine years later General Ourumov and Russian mafia assassin Xenia Onatopp attack the Severnaya satellite control centre and gain control of the GoldenEye weapons system in outer space. Only computer programmer Natalya Simonova escapes Severnaya alive. In St Petersburg, Bond discovers that Trevelyan had faked his own death, and is planning to use the GoldenEye system to punish Britain for betraying his Cossack parents, who later committed suicide. After a dramatic tank chase on the streets of St Petersberg, Bond and Natalya join forces to track Trevelyan to Cuba, and infiltrate his facility. Natalya reprograms GoldenEye, and Bond fights Trevelyan to the death on the installation’s giant radio dish.
This was the first Bond film to use CGI, with computer graphics being used to create the iconic gun barrel opening reimagined by Daniel Kleinman who also produced the main title sequence
‘GoldenEye’ is the name of Ian Fleming’s house in Jamaica where he wrote the Bond novels and short stories
Brosnan drank water in place of his vodka martini on set
The famous tank chase took approximately four weeks to film, the tank was nicknamed Metal Mickey by the crew
This was Barbara Broccoli’s first Bond film as a producer
The film marked the return of the Aston Martin DB5, which had not appeared in a Bond film since Thunderball (1965)
Pierce Brosnan never travelled to St. Petersburg for filming. Peter Lamont recreated the Russian streets on the Leavesden film lot
In 1986, Pierce Brosnan was hired to play James Bond in The Living Daylights. However, those dreams were dashed when he couldn’t get out of his Remington Steele contract. Timothy Dalton stepped into 007’s shoes, delivering two stellar performances as the world’s favorite secret agent.
After License to Kill, there was a six-year James Bond film drought because of complex legal issues regarding distribution rights. The benefit of this gap is that the script got plenty of attention, and Pierce Brosnan was again offered the role of James Bond. This time around, the timing was perfect. Many fans argue that GoldenEye is Pierce Brosnan’s best Bond, and I can understand why. The story is intriguing, the cast is superb, and the visuals are outstanding.
It’s a case of spy versus spy, with Sean Bean portraying a devilishly wicked Alec Trevelyan. Dame Judi Dench as M was an inspired choice, and I’m thrilled she remained with the series beyond Brosnan’s tenure. Famke Janssen as Xenia Zaragevna Onatopp is the most exciting villain since Jaws, and Alan Cumming as Boris Grishenko is invincible! Seriously, Cumming is one of the most entertaining parts of GoldenEye; he was perfectly cast for this role. In elementary school, I remember having a friend who flipped a pen between his fingers like Boris because the character had that much of an impact on him.
The title track by Tina Turner is one of the greatest in the series’ history. The lyrics by Bono and The Edge were perfectly suited for Bond, and Tina Turner’s sexy, powerful delivery is spot on. Besides Shirley Bassey, Tina is the queen of singing a Bond theme. I could listen to this song repeatedly (and I have!). It’s that good.
Speaking of music, the score by Éric Serra is modern and industrial. Frankly, it is one of the weakest scores in Bond history because it sounds dated. I’m listening to it as I write this, and it screams 1990s cheese, replete with corny keyboard sounds and effects. Bond scores are always best when they lean into the timeless nature of an orchestral sound rather than whatever happens to be hip at the time. Not every track is terrible. There are a few worth listening to, but not many.
Director Martin Campbell did a fine job capturing the action on screen and keeping the visuals fresh and compelling. Plenty of striking moments were caught on camera, including the jaw-dropping dam dive that kicked off the film and the sun-soaked sky in the Cuba scene. And who could forget the tank chase? Commander Bond commandeering a military tank and creating all sorts of havoc continues to bring a smile to my face every time I watch GoldenEye.
Pierce Brosnan is the first James Bond I ever saw. He is my James Bond. Therefore, I have a soft spot for his films as 007. I think he was perfect for this role, and GoldenEye is an epic start to his formidable run as Bond, James Bond.
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