With the 23rd film in the James Bond trilogy, Skyfall (2012) (unfortunately starring Daniel Craig once again) starting to get publicity, I decided it was time to check out a few of his predecessors, and see how they stack up. First up: Pierce Brosnan’s debut in GoldenEye.
As most viewers know by now, Pierce was slated to be James Bond much earlier. Due to his signing with the show Remington Steele (TV), however, his debut as the debonair super spy was postponed. Finally able to step into the role with GoldenEye, he makes his debut with a perfection that makes viewers wish the Timothy Dalton era had never happened.
As the debonair spy, Pierce has the wit, the charm and his own brand of gleeful enthusiasm for the role that captivated viewers right from the start. But he’s not the only milestone to GoldenEye, as the film also marked the introduction of a female M. Played by Judi Dench, this tough-as-nails boss is a nice counterpoint to the rather misogynistic Bond of yore, and helps Bond cross over into the new era where women aren’t merely playthings.
That’s not to say that Bond isn’t still sleeping his way through his female cast members – he is. But it does show that not all women are just easy pushovers, which is at least a start for the series. Then there’s the alluring Ivana Onatopp, played by X-Men (2000) star Famke Janssen. She eems to pose the greatest threat of all to the playboy spy, using sex as a weapon. While there seems to be a running gag throughout the film that she derives a bit too much pleasure from causing pain, this sadistic villainess nearly overshadows the real villain of the pic.
In a world that relies more and more on computers, having an EMP weapon that effectively destroys all electronic devices within a specified range sounds like a viable threat. By the time GoldenEye hit, however, it was already a rather old idea. Unfortunately, with the fall of the Soviet Union – once the biggest enemy to Bond – the filmmakers had to go with something else, and EMP seemed like their best shot. The main villain’s revenge idea is also an old one, and never really comes across as a viable reason for his actions. Instead, it seems more like an excuse to justify those actions to himself.
The stunt work is spectacular in GoldenEye. From the first breath-taking leap off of an enormous dam to an exhilarating race through the streets in a tank, Brosnan’s first outing is packed with action. Thankfully, it’s all top-notch, and viewers will never be pulled away from the excitement by an ill-timed edit or a view that reveals the true face of the stuntman. Okay, so some of it does go a bit overboard (the leap from motorcycle to plummeting plane earned groans from the audience when this was in theaters). For the most part, the stunts will elicit gasps of excitement rather than groans of disbelief.
Unfortunately, none of those stunts involve the use of the car, this time a BMW Z3 roadster. A fun sequence near the beginning involving the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger (1964) is a nice twist though. Still, with all the gadgets attached to Bond’s car these days, it was a shame the new model isn’t put to good use – it only appears for a short time on a rather dull drive to a plane, then is taken over by CIA man Wade who quickly puts it through more paces than Bond did.
While viewers may wish there had been a pre-Dalton appearance by Pierce Brosnan, he seems more fit for the role in GoldenEye than he would have been back during his Remington Steele (TV) days. Having established that he could play the dashing agent in that series, he seems to have gained a confidence for his role as Bond, and his debonair style seems to have only increased with age. Toss in a few more dry witticisms that actually elicit a laugh than any Bond film of recent memory, and Brosnan makes GoldenEye into the rollicking action thriller that re-invigorated the series and assured it’s continuation into the next millennium.
Sure, it’s probably not his best entry in the series. Goldeneye does let Pierce Brosnan get off to a good start with his long-awaited debut as the British super spy James Bond 007. Fans will enjoy going back and re-visiting this entry again and again.