The James Bond Film Festival. Part 17: Goldeneye

The James Bond Film Festival. Part 1: Dr. No
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 2: From Russia with Love
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 3: Goldfinger
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 4: Thunderball
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 5: You Only Live Twice
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 6: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 7: Diamonds are Forever
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 8: Live and Let Die
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 9: The Man with the Golden Gun
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 10: The Spy Who Loved Me
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 11: Moonraker
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 12: For Your Eyes Only
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 13: Octopussy
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 14: A View to a Kill
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 15: The Living Daylights
The James Bond Film Festival. Part 16: License to Kill

I apologize for being late. It’s been a rather stressful couple of weeks.

Goldeneye changes the cast of the James Bond series once again. Pierce Brosnan makes his deput as our favourite secret agent, and Judi Dench appears as “M”. Joe Don Baker re-appears, only this time as CIA agent Jack Wade. He was previously in 1987’s The Living Daylights as evil soldier wannabe Brad Whitaker. Bond gets a BMW and an Omega instead of an Aston Martin and a Rolex.

The Cold War is over in 1995, so Bond must battle new enemies. This time it is Janus, a Russian underworld organization. Janus steals the new Tiger helicopter, which just happens to be shielded against electro-magnetic pulses. General Arkady Grigorovich Ourumov (Gottfried John) and henchman – erm, henchwoman – Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) steal the key to Goldeneye (a spaced-based EMP weapon) and destroy the ground station, surviving the EMP in their stolen helicopter. There are only two survivors, Boris Grishenko (Alan Cumming) and Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco). Bond is sent to find Goldeneye and deprive Janus of its terrible weapon.

The pre-title sequence has Bond (Brosnan) and 006 Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) breaking into a secret Russian facility. 006 is killed, and Bond makes his most spectacular – and unbelievable – escape yet. Fleeing the Russians, he tries to commandeer an airplane (a Helio Stallion, I believe). But the pilotless aircraft plunges over a cliff. Bond leaps after the plane and, freefalling, catches hold of it and flies to safety. A nice stunt shot (aided by special effects), but pretty unbelievable.

The film plays out well as a spy drama, until Bond and Simonova are captured by the Russians. How? Well, it seems 006 wasn’t quite dead. In fact, he had joined forces with Ourumov and his execution was a hoax. 006 is in fact “Janus”, named after the Roman two-faced god. The jig is up for Ourumov once Simonova tells Defense Minister Dmitri Mishkin (Tchéky Karyo) that Ourumov was the one who stole Goldeneye, killed the staff, and destroyed the ground station. But Ourumov is too quick for the Minister. He shoots a guard and Mishkin with Bond’s PPK, planning to pin the murders on Bond. And here’s where things start going a bit downhill. I just didn’t buy Bond’s escape. Those Russians are lousy shots! I didn’t buy the tank chase either. Sure, it was exciting; but I consciously had to suspend my disbelief. I’ll always wonder how Bond got the tank ahead of the speeding train.

If you’re wondering how computer geek Grishenko was not killed at the ground station, he was, of course, Janus’s “man on the inside”. Using his own computer tricks against him, Simonova traces him to Cuba. Here again reality breaks down as the CIA and USMC seem to have free reign to romp about this enemy nation. And what an Evil Lair! Much more complex than the “official” Goldeneye ground station in Russia. Why? Naturally the big dish antenna (I think it was Arecebo doubling for Goldeneye’s antenna) was hidden in a lake. Why did it have to be so big? The “home unit” was moderately sized.

Infiltration, capture, escape, confrontation. Pretty “formula” stuff. The former 006 is killed as his plans literally collapse around him.

I liked Goldeneye. But the beginning was, in my opinion, better than the last half. I like Epic Battles, but I got the sense that this was “battle for battling’s sake”. Overall, however, I think this one is superior to most of the Roger Moore films and a couple of the Connery ones.

I think Goldeneye is a really good Bond flick, one of the few of the Brosnan ones that has been watchable. And the dam shot was pretty impressive back when the movie came out (I caught it in the theater).

I also liked Goldeneye. I think Pierce Brosnan does a good job of portraying Bond. I think you have to suspend some belief to enjoy the film, for example in the tank chase, and when Grishenko clicks the pen about 20 times without it blowing up. All in all, I thought the action sequences carried the film.

I caught Goldeneye again on TV recently, and was pleased to see how well it has stood up over time … if only the Brosnans that followed were as good!

Sean Bean made the perfect anti-Bond.

Yeah that was a good one, capitalizing on the popularity of bungee jumping at the time.

Yeah, that bugged me too.

Very good.

Let me just say that Izabella Scorupco is wonderfully gorgeous.

I think this one saved the franchise. They had to update to the 90’s and could easily have killed the series by doing so. M is Judi D, he uses condoms, he was an orphan that may/may not have been used by the state … but still it was true enough to the orginals to pass muster.

That is not to say this was the greatest Bond ever, Indeed its greatest merit was introducing a good-but-not-great-Bond that could last 10 years or so & act as a bridge from the 80’s to the new millenuium … I submit the series was creaking mightily by the 80’s.

Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp was a stupid villianess. She loves nothing more than crushing men to death with her thighs – say that twice & it is just silly … but the fight between her and Bond in the sauna is very, very good.

& the whole movie is like that. Silly dive for the plane – but sort of kick butt too. Same with the bungee. Same with Robbie C as a Russian crime boss …

Overall I give it more than a gentleman’s “C”, maybe a B-

  1. I thought that ierce Brosnan would make a good Bond. I was disappointed whn they wouldn’t let him breal from Remington Steele to do the series (although I liked Dalton as Bond).

  2. Good to see Judi Densch as the new “M”. Nice abrasive relationship there.

  3. They tried to capture the spirit of the by-now-deceased Maurice Binder in the opening title sequence. They did a pretty interesting job.

  4. I could like happily without ever seeing Joe Don Baker in another Bond film. His turn as Brad Whittaker was OK, but I can;t stand this character.

  5. On the other hand, I asn’t really happy with the plot.

  6. Doesn;t the end remind you just a bit too much of Luke hanging from the city of Bespin at the end of The Empire Strikes Back?

  7. “Goldeneye”, of course, was the name of Ian Fleming’s getaway home on Jamaica, where he wrote the Bond books. Cute way to name the movie, now that we’ve run through all the Fleming book titles.

Oh, allow me to disagree. I can’t tell you what she did to this then-teenaged boy’s libido…

Yes, Johnny, that is the Arecibo radio observatory (talk about your freakin’ whoa-inspiring structures), with Puerto Rico doubling for Cuba.

Overall, very good, and an exceptionally good job of updating the series. There’s the scene just after the credits with Bond still driving the old Aston Martin, racing with a new Ferrari (and we later see some upgraded gadgets in the car. Brosnan makes a good Bond, Judi Dench is smart and tough as M, and the new Moneypenny flirts without being hopeless about it.

I wish there was someone to rein in the silly excesses of Bond movies. A tank chase through St. Petersburg is bad enough without a statue of a horse getting stuck on top of the tank. Except people obsess over the stunts, and it’s only gotten worse in the films since this one.

Which is even more of a shame because this movie does little moments so well. James has a couple great exchanges with Jack Wade:

Jack Wade: His name’s Zukovsky. Tough mother. Big guy with a limp.
James Bond: Valentin Dmitrovitch Zukovsky?
Jack Wade: Yeah, you know him?
James Bond: I gave him the limp.

And of course when they first meet, Bond gives the code phrase and Wade says “I mean, for crying out loud… another stiff ass Brit, with your secret codes and your passwords. One of these days you guys are gonna learn to just drop it.” which Bond flips right back at him a few minutes later.

This is also the best appearance by Q that I can remember, they don’t have the stick nearly as far up his ass as usual.

The scene at the very end almost ruins it. They’ve blown up Evil HQ, the world is saved, Bond and Natalya move in for the clinch. Not only are they still in Cuba, the helicopter pilot is about to summon island’s entire military, the Marine’s pop out of the ground because they knew, in advance, where Jimbo was gonna end up, they did absolutely nothing to help. But the thing that really drives me nuts is that James says there’s nobody around for miles, and then the U.S. helicopters surprise him by flying into the frame of the film. They were hiding by being off the top of the movie screen! WTF?

One more thing. Following my long tradition of falling for the wrong women, instead of Izabella Scorupco or Famke Janssen, I thought the babe in the car with him at the beginning was extremely cute.

Ooh. You too?

This is Brosnan’s second best Bond movie(Tommorow Never Dies is his best). It’s a great introduction to a new Bond and the best first Bond movie of any of the actors.

This movie saved the entire franchise.

Actually i think it is THE best of them all. It had the most engaging plot, greatest villainess (oh, Famke!) and the most mind-blowing action. Martin Campbell directed superbly as well and it is quite simply THE perfect Bond.
Especially having recently watched the godawful ‘Diamonds are Forever’…

Let me just say the video game based on this movie totally turned me on to Bond movies. It came out eight years ago (?) and you’ll still find people today who call it the best game ever.

I had a bit of a problem with the way Densch was introduced as the new M. It’s clear at the beginning that she and Bond don’t see eye to eye, but after he makes a (not unfounded) criticism of the department, her response is “You don’t like me. Well, I don’t like you either.” And then she launches into a string of personal insults. For someone who was supposed to be a tough-as-nails professional, she comes across at first as an stereotypical over-emotional woman who takes everything personally. This got better, though, as her character developed.

Incidentally, the ad campaign for this movie sort of got me to round out my knowledge of things Bond. One of the local TV stations was cashing in on the renewed interest in 007 by playing some of the old movies late at night, and I ended up watching Goldfinger for the first time. I realized that, having grown up on 80’s Bond, I’d missed a fair amount, so I went to the video store and over the next few weeks watched every Bond film (including Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again) more or less in chronological order.

Actually, one of my favorite Bond films, and probably the best of the Brosnan efforts, despite some glaring plot and continuity holes. Famke Janssen and Isabella Scorupco are both smokin’ hot. Lots of stuff blows up real good. The tank sequence requires a bit of suspension of disbelief (hey, what Bond flick doesn’t?), but still gets my vote as best. chase. scene. ever. in the series.

One of several scenes that do bug me is the sequence where Brosnan and Scorupco are strapped into the helicopter, and it’s missiles are set to fire, then loop back to the heli and destroy it.
I can think of at least three reasons why that would be impossible.

That plane is a Pilatus Turbo-Porter. A yellow one was our regular transport out to a wellsite in Guatemala, back when I was working on oil rigs. Made a nice, slow-moving, highly visible target for the local guerilla, but that’s another story.

My joint favourite Bond film, along with Goldfinger.

Fast-paced without being silly; high-tech without an over-reliance on comedy gadgets; attractive, assertive women; enjoyable action sequences that while not necessarily entirely convincing (but then again, rockets launching from an extinct Japanese volcano base?) were entertaining and struck the right balance between humour and drama.

Here is a Helio Stallion, and here is a Pilatus Porter. Very similar looking; but indeed, I stand corrected. And it makes sense, since I think there are more Porters around than Stallions and it’s a Swiss aircraft.

I think there was a lot of references to the Bond flicks of yesteryear. The theme song, by Tina Tuner (and written by the two lesser known guys of U2) could’ve been Shirley Bassey in the 60’s. Bond on a narrow curvy road, in his DB6, racing from the mountains to the casino to play Baccarat (sp?) was also a nice nod towards older flicks.
Brosnan plays Bond in a gritty way*, where the danger is glimpsed under the barely polished surface, as it was with Connery.
The plot and gadgets are stupid, of course, but that’s why we love these films. However, even if the movie saved the franchise in many ways, it also ruined it. EON started going crazy with product placements and endorsements in this one and it’s gotten steadily worse. Brosnan was a bit embarrased when asked about it during his latest outing. It starts to show in the next flick with that incredibly long and boring motorcycle chase with the (product placed) BMW.
*I would like to see Brosnan play Bond, in the same halfway evil way, that he used for the spook in ‘Tailor of Panama’, possibly Brosnan’s best part so far.