“Don’t touch that! It’s my lunch!” – Q, GoldenEye (1995)
I was very tempted to publish a review of GoldenEye for the Nintendo 64 to coincide with this movie review. It may still happen in the coming days, I certainly don’t see why not. Still, here we are with GoldenEye the film. A Pierce Brosnan Bond film. You didn’t even make it to the end of that sentence did you? You stopped reading after you saw the words “Pierce Brosnan”, that’s a fairly normal reaction. But hold out on this one, because GoldenEye may be one of the most insane and ridiculous Bond films of all time. Forget realism, why have that in a spy action film?
Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is tasked with following the Russians in their pursuit of acquiring “GoldenEye”, a weapon that can target anywhere in the world through satellites. With help from Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco), a Russian hacker, they track down Bond’s lost ally, Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean). With a supporting cast consisting of Judi Dench, Robbie Coltrane and Desmond Llewelyn, we’re in for a blast. A Bond film really is built on the cast, right? All that matters really is who is playing Bond. That just so happens to be Pierce Brosnan.
When I first started watching Bond films, way back in 2005 or so, I always got confused with Pierce Brosnan and Timothy Dalton. Mainly because they were both the odd one outs for the series. Obviously you had the amazing talents of Sean Connery and Roger Moore beforehand, so these two seemed like a step down. Come on, you know you think the same. For me, Pierce Brosnan took a long while to grow on me. By the end of the film I was really enjoying his performance though, which is more than I can say for David Niven in Casino Royale (1967). Still, by the end of the film Brosnan turns into a fairly competent Bond. Better than Dalton, worse than Moore, that’s how I’d rank it.
The main villain for this one is played by Sean Bean. That’s not a spoiler really this film came out over twenty years ago. If you haven’t watched it by now then you’re not going to watch it are you? Still, he plays a competent Bond villain, not the most memorable but certainly a very good villain. He’s not broken into the top five, but you know, you can’t expect that from a Brosnan film. By the time Robbie Coltrane has showed up and done a Russian accent I was about ready to call it quits. But then something amazing happened. Something truly miraculous, so good it literally saved the film for me. Everything got mental.
This film really is more or less a B-Movie version of the Bond series. Desmon Llewelyn appears once more as Q, I’m fairly certain this was his final film as Q. John Cleese took over at some point and that’s all I know. Although Desmond is a legend to the series there was something lacking within his performance here. Maybe it’s age or something, but to be honest it’s just not very good. He’s a competent Q, but when you compare it with others in the series, he doesn’t bring his best efforts to the film. He doesn’t really need to though to be honest.
What you can expect from a Brosnan film though is one of the most balls to the wall films of all time. If you ever wanted to hear the Bond theme play while Pierce Brosnan drifts a tank around the corner then this is the film for you. I genuinely had to rewind that bit of the film and watch it again. Those parts of the Bond films are the stuff I absolutely love, mainly because it feels like you’re not watching a Bond film. Sure, it was a bit unrealistic, but who the hell cares? It was the perfect blend of both realism and gritty action coupled with some zany chases and dialogue.
Speaking of dialogue, it was genuinely terrible. Brosnan is basically forced to deliver one liners in almost every scene. He delivers them with the most deadpan expression possible, you can actually see him losing the will to live as he says these catchphrases. There’s a scene where Bond and Natalya are trapped in a helicopter and tied up. Bond says “I’m a little tied up here” and then starts slamming his head against the side of the helicopter. Genuinely one of the weirdest film scenes of all time. But to be fair, I do consider the tank crashing through the wall as the greatest scene in film history, that’s not a joke.
Obviously one of the most important parts of the Bond films are the action sequences. The thrill of adrenaline as you see Pierce Brosnan literally defy the laws of physics. He catches up to a plane that’s falling towards the ground, manages to climb inside and pull the plane up. Presumably around this time they were thinking Bond was in need of a little shot of crazy action and I have no idea why. See, at times it does work. But when you remember the plot is solely based on blowing shit up with a radar, it seems to go beyond the realms of wacky. If you’re looking for gritty Bond then this is most certainly not the film to watch.
To be honest one of the best parts about the film is the soundtrack and even that has its flaws. The Bond theme is definitely at its best in this film, I think this is the best rendition of the actual soundtrack in general. However the rest of the soundtrack is really nothing but filler. It doesn’t add to the mood of the film nor does it contract. Honestly, the game version of the film has a better soundtrack, but that’s because of Grant Kirkhope.
Really if you want the definition of where Bond started to run out of ideas, GoldenEye is definitely the best example. You have Bond taking on Sean Bean as he tries to destroy London with a satellite. But to get there Bond hijacks a tank and drives it like a motorbike, defies the laws of physics and manages to do anything and everything Bond shouldn’t be. Really it’s a film that isn’t afraid to mock the source material but that’s where it begins to go wrong. For me, it lost the charm of the previous Bond films, and also doesn’t hold the charms of the Daniel Craig films. The film is good, but the impact it has on the franchise is either negative or extremely limited. There’s nothing positive.
Still, as a standalone film it’s a hell of a lot of fun. GoldenEye is a lot of fun for both Bond fans and action lovers. If anything it’s sort of a comedy. Pierce Brosnan will eventually grow on you. Sean Bean is stellar and if anything the film is just well rounded and crazy enough to actually work. I can’t say it’s my favourite Bond film of all, but it’s just as good as Quantum of Solace (2008). Take that as you will.