GoldenEye Resets James Bond For Late 20th Century

Samantha Bond and Pierce Brosnan in GoldenEye. Courtesy of MGM.

At long last, Pierce Brosnan was finally able to step into the role of James Bond as GoldenEye finds the British spy in a new era.

GoldenEye‘s cold open more takes us back to 1986 where James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) and fellow MI6 Agent Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) are infiltrating a Soviet chemical weapons facility. Things quickly sour when the Soviets capture Trevelyan and Bond assumes they kill him, but not before Bond destroys the facility. The opening sets up the rest of the film, which reintroduces Trevelyan as the film’s antagonist. Cut to nine years later, Bond is back in action, where he is unable to stop the Janus crime syndicate’s Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) from stealing a helicopter. An investigation shortly ensues where they realize that Janus is operating a satellite known as GoldenEye. Bond encounters a programmer, Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco), in the field and works with her to stop Alec and bring down Janus.

Daniel Kleinman takes over the opening titles design from the late Maurice Binder. Kleinman uses the opportunity to progress the story forward and depict the fall of Communism. If there’s a flaw in the film, it’s Éric Serra’s score for the film. He doesn’t incorporate the Tina Turner/Bono/The Edge song into the score like other Bond films. Serra also leans too heavy into the synthesiser rather a traditional orchestral score. But aside from the issues with the score, GoldenEye offers audiences a solid update for the franchise after a longer-than-preferred layoff. Behind the camera, director Martin Campbell has a solid grasp of the action. Speaking of action, Brosnan does the large majority of his own stunts in the film.

In a perfect world, Brosnan would have started years before GoldenEye. We have NBC picking up Remington Steele for a second season to thank for this. Well, there were also some issues involving MGM and then a lawsuit on Danjaq’s part. Timothy Dalton initially had a three-film contract but it expired in 1993. As such, it was back to the drawing board and Brosnan was finally introduced to the press in 1994. The rest is history but one can only wonder how many films Brosnan could have done without all of the legal issues delaying the film let alone the Remington Steele series, which was ultimately cancelled during its second season.

Pierce Brosnan playing Bond would not be the only first for the franchise. GoldenEye would mark lot of firsts for the James Bond franchise. It is the first to not use any of Ian Fleming’s Bond novels or short stories. Albert R. Broccoli also stepped aside as a producer. Meanwhile, this is the first film of the franchise to use CGI special effects. Since it is the first film following the end of the Cold War and breakup of the Soviet Union, it would also force a franchise reset. Bond was unable to use the traditional stage at Pinewood. As a result, the crew set up shop at Leavesden Studios for the shoot.

When it comes to moving the franchise into the late 20th century, M (Judi Dench)–the first female M in the franchise–says it the best:

“Good, because 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 wasn’t wrong. The previous films may have helped make Bond what he is but the character needed a change. This change could have come sooner but we all know what happened. Better late than never, I suppose. With Brosnan being Irish, he injected his humor into the role. But beyond the change in actor, the entire production puts in the work to reflect the world in which they were releasing the film. If they didn’t change up Bond for a new generation, a hard reboot would have come sooner than later. As we all know, the producers would take things back to the start following Die Another Day.

GoldenEye remains the best Pierce Brosnan film of the James Bond franchise.

DIRECTOR: Martin Campbell
SCREENWRITERS: Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein
CAST: Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Izabella Scorupco, Famke Janssen, Joe Don Baker, Robbie Coltrane, and Judi Dench

MGM/UA released GoldenEye in theaters on November 17, 1995. Grade: 4/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.