I like James Bond, but I wouldn’t exactly call myself a fan. Sure, I’ll watch the films, but I’ve never sat down and either read all the books or watch them all à la Alan Partridge style. It might be a generational issue, but I don’t find them in any way engaging. I wouldn’t say that the older James Bond films are bad, it’s just I find the older films rather boring. I always end up turning over, or half-heartedly watching them, whenever I see them on the television (something which, thankfully, is becoming more and more a rare occurrence. Further continuing my potentially heretical views, the only James Bond films I have watched and have enjoyed have been the recent ones with Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig. The action, adventure and acting talent (most notably Judi Dench, who is perfect as M) have always acted as the major draws for me, with the very first Pierce Brosnan film – Goldeneye – establishing a winning formula for James Bond in the 21st century.
One of the reasons why I think I hold Goldeneye in such high esteem is probably because of the hype generated by Goldeneye 64. I had played the game through to completion, but had not ever seen the film. When we finally bought it on DVD when I was younger and sat down to watch it, the accumulated hype and excitement automatically transferred across from my experiences whilst playing the game. Digging beneath the surface of the film poster, and the history of Goldeneye’s trouble development makes for interesting reading. TImothy Dalton was initially set to reprise the role for a third time, but legal battles over the franchise meant that development was stalled for 5 years, leading Dalton to withdraw from the role completely. Pierce Brosnan (who, as our Fun Friday Fact, was originally set to succeed Roger Moore in the pivotal role) was eventually cast as Bond, with the film eventually being released in 1995. Such a long gap between the last Bond film might have helped in the process of recasting the character within a post-Cold War context, as well as being long enough for people to forget Licence to Kill’s dismal box office takings.
The film opens at the height of the Cold War, with 007 (Pierce Brosnan) infiltrating a secret Soviet facility with fellow agent and friend 006 (Sean Bean). The mission goes awry, leading to 006’s death at the hands of the ambitious Russian colonel, Ourumov (Gottfried John), with Bond escaping in reality-busting style: jumping off a ramp, on a bike, through the sky, into a falling plane and then stopping the plane from crashing into the rocks. More fantasy than thriller perhaps? As the film starts proper, we see 007 attempting to thwart the plans of the illusive Janus crime syndicate. After following one of the groups agents, Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) to Monoco, Bond is unable to stop her from carrying out a heist of a new, prototype helicopter, capable of withstanding an electro-magnetic pulse. When MI6 tracks the helicopter to a secret Russian weapon facility, the groups motives in stealing the helicopter become apparent; with the assistance of Ourumov, now General and Head of Weapons Division in Russia, Onatopp succeeds in destroying the facility with a powerful, Cold War, weapon known as “Goldeneye”. This weapon – surprise, surprise – is capable of causing a wide-spread electro-magnetic pulse that cripples and destroys anything with an electric pulse. 007 is tasked with travelling to Russia, settling an old score with Ourumov and unmasking the identity of the Janus syndicates mysterious leader. Oh, and to have a few salacious encounters with members of opposite sex in the process. Nearly forgot that one. Phew.
The Bond theme for Goldeneye is probably the best one out all of the Brosnan films. Written by Bono and The Edge (remember them?) and sung by Tina Turner, it certainly tops the list out of all the Brosnan Bond films combined (a pyrrhic victory perhaps, considering that in this list is the god-awful Madonna Bond theme). The video is laden with some overt political messages, chief among them being the destruction of symbols and statues from the Soviet Union ‘girls’ in the video. This may sound somewhat off-putting, but, as previously mentioned, this helps to recast the character of 007 within a new – and potentially exciting – context. Turner’s vocals are also reminiscent of earlier Bond themes, signalling at once to the audience a return to the “golden age” of Bond films. All in all, it’s one of the finest Bond modern themes; just don’t Adele!
Goldeneye has everything that Bond fan or, indeed, any thriller fan, could ask for: an intriguing plot with surprises, an array of classic 007 hallmarks such as gadgets, girls and suaveness and a healthy abundance of Sean Bean. The film succeeds in showing that James Bond is not a character defined by, and situated fixatedly within, a Cold War context. Did I also mention the film stars Sean Bean? Had the film not doing as well as it did, it is entirely possible that the character may have retired. So, even if Goldeneye and vaguely-Irish sounding James Bond’s aren’t exactly your cup of tea, we can at least thank the film for allowing the character to survive for another generation and in producing what some critics are calling the best James Bond yet. I’ll be hopefully seeing Skyfall myself in the next few days, and am eagerly hoping that it matches high expectations. I’ve already mentioned Sean Bean I believe, and I believe Sean Bean really helps Goldeneye become Sean Bean’s finest Sean Bean. Ahem. Hopefully you get the message; Sean Bean helps to make Goldeneye just that little bit better. Because, as we all know, Sean Bean is awesome, and anything starring him by association fits this definition. My borderline-obsessive feelings for Sean Bean aside, I would recommend that anyone averse to James Bond start with Goldeneye, as it’s a great way to get a feel for the traditional Bond experience in a digestible and modern form.
(Image courtesy of wikipedia.org)