GoldenEye (1995)

Untitled-1Before I begin this review, I should point out that GoldenEye was my very first Bond movie. So if I fall into sentimentality at any point, forgive me.

Having said that — and having seen the previous sixteen in this James Bond odyssey — GoldenEye is still a very different movie. For one, its opening titles are not designed by the legendary Maurice Binder, who designed every opening title sequence in the series, with the exceptions of From Russia With Love and Goldfinger. John Barry is no longer composing the music, and the theme song is written by Bono and The Edge. It has the usual gimmicks. Girls, danger, romance, crazy stunts, maniacal bad guys, world domination. But it is darker, perhaps even melancholy. For once, we are given a Bond who doesn’t laugh in the face of danger, but accepts the danger as part of who he is, and it’s how he survives. When asked by his Bond Girl how he can behave the way he does, and how he can be so cold, he responds with the utmost seriousness, “It’s what keeps me alive”. Roger Moore would have turned it into a sideshow.

We are brought deeper into the mind of Bond. His jokes no longer seem to be for laughter’s benefit; they seem to conceal a very dark and troubling interior. He is played by Pierce Brosnan, the fifth actor to take on the role, and he is the most down-to-earth version. Maybe it’s the way Brosnan talks, or the way his face cringes when he gets punched, but he comes across as a very conflicted man. He is suave, sexy, heroic, and filled with libido, but maybe now all that is just a cover up. Maybe deep down inside, he is hurting. The innocence of the character has been replaced by a lifetime’s worth of killing and meaningless sex.

And it’s probably about time all this is happening. Not only are the Bond movies slowly growing up and learning that they cannot go on being carbon copies of each other, they are also morphing and evolving the man, which is a great thing, because after thirty-three years of watching the same 007 get himself into and out of trouble, we are finally discovering that there is more to him. The movie gives us a new M in Judi Dench, and she too brings changes to the character that are revolutionary. M is Bond’s superior. That’s all we have to know, and since the introduction of the character, that’s all we’ve ever known. None of the movies have told us anything of value about M, and about M’s relationship with 007. They quarrel, fight, joke around, but that’s it. It never goes anywhere. Judi Dench’s M finally adds depth to their relationship.

There is a poignant scene in the movie where M gives Bond his assignment. She’s recently come on board, and perhaps Bond is weary of her potential. But she is ready for him, and she lays out all her cards on the table. “I think you’re a sexist, misogynist dinosaur. A relic of the Cold War, whose boyish charms, though wasted on me, obviously appealed to that young woman I sent out to evaluate you.”, she tells him. This line is as new to the franchise as the person who says it. Immediately, there is tension between the two; a solid foundation on which their relationship can progress. The people in the movie are familiar with Bond’s ways, but GoldenEye is the only one where the people don’t tolerate it.

The plot: A group of Russian separatists have stolen an illegal device, called GoldenEye, that sends a gigantic EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse) blast wave through its target, effectively wiping out any electric device. In Bond villain terms, it clears tax records, upsets the stock market, and disrupts firewalls and security systems. All data will be erased. The mastermind behind this scheme is someone I shouldn’t mention, but I will say that GoldenEye’s target is London, and London specifically. It’s a good plot, because the mastermind doesn’t want to destroy the world; he wants only to create a financial meltdown that will make him rich rich rich. “You’re nothing but a petty thief”, Bond tells him. Sure, but he doesn’t care.

GoldenEye is an interesting Bond movie in that it plays like an amalgamation of new and old. Like I said earlier, it has the usual Bond trademarks (it even goes back far enough to have a Bond Girl with a suggestive name; Xenia Onatopp), but they take place in a Bond world that has grown up tremendously. James drives a tank in this one. A tank. But instead of being clumsy, he is actually stylish in its cockpit. He mocks the trademarks as if he has never lived through them, and yet he reinvents himself as if he’s seen all the Bond movies a hundred times over, and learnt from their mistakes.

Best Moment | Bond in the tank. Oh yeah. We’ve seen him do it all before: Skiing, diving, flying planes, parachuting, mountain climbing. But we’ve never seen him operate a tank before, and he looks good doing it.

Worst Moment | Boris.

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