Monday, December 10, 2012

GoldenEye - Excuse Me, I'm a Bond Movie

GoldenEye - 1995

Bond:  Pierce Brosnan
Directed by: Martin Campbell
Produced by: Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli 
Theme: "GoldenEye" performed by Tina Turner, written by Bono and The Edge

Connery was the "Man's Man" Bond.
Lazenby was the "Sensitive Renaissance Man" Bond.
Moore was the "Gentleman" Bond.
Timothy Dalton was the "Brooding Angsty" Bond.
Pierce Brosnan was the "Self Aware" Bond.

Every second that Brosnan is on screen as Bond, he looks like he's having the time of his life. Even when he has to be all serious and act. He's the first Bond to really have fun with the part. Everyone previous to him had a love/hate relationship with the part, except maybe Dalton who had a hate/hate relationship with the part. Connery quit the role three times. Lazenby fought for the part, then pissed it away. Moore spent nearly a decade signing one-movie deals to play Bond just one more time. Dalton turned the role down, twice, then resigned with one movie left to go on his contract. 

Cassandra Harris with Roger Moore in FYEO
This was Brosnan's dream job. He'd had it, and he lost it, and when he got a second chance he was going to enjoy the fuck out of it. His first wife, Cassandra Harris, was a "Bond-Girl" in For Your Eyes Only, Countess Lisl von Schlaf. During filming, she introduced her husband to producer Albert Broccoli, who immediately started considering him as Moore's replacement. Sadly, after his first shot at the part fell through in the Eighties, she was diagnosed with cancer and died before he finally landed the role in the Nineties.

Legal disputes caused a six year delay between License to Kill and GoldenEye. In that time, the Soviet Union and the Iron Curtain had fallen, and critics openly wondered whether a Bond film could be relevant in the post Cold War era. Would his womanizing philandering ways play to a modern audience? How would they make it work?

Scorupco as Natalya
They made it work by doing a brilliant thing. They didn't shy away from any of the criticisms. They attacked them head on, and by naming them, diffused them. They send Bond to Russia to remind the world of the problems resulting from the chaotic breakup of the Soviet Union. Then they send him to Cuba, the last bastion of communism. He gets called a "dinosaur" twice. M, now a woman, criticizes him as misogynistic. Moneypenny calls Bond out on his sexual harassment. In a way, this movie is constantly apologizing for itself, but at the same time is saying "Yeah, yeah. We know, but we're making this movie anyway." And it works.

I remember a friend of mine seeing it just after it came out and saying "Bond is back!" In the first fifteen minutes of the film, Bond bungee jumps off a bridge, has a quipy assault on a super-lair, has a ridiculous parachute/airplane stunt, seduces one woman while chasing another in a classic car down a mountain road, dons a tuxedo, and beats an attractive mysterious woman at baccarat in a casino. They crammed in every classic trope they could as quickly as they could. They even get him in with Moneypenny, M, and Q right away. That's how you reintroduce Bond with a bang.

Janssen as Onatopp
Which is interesting considering director Martin Campbell and the producers took rather the opposite approach when they introduced Daniel Craig, but with just as much success.

This movie is a fun ride, with an all-star cast (see my "Everyone's In GoldenEye" post) that holds up very well almost twenty years later. The tank chase through St. Petersburg is one of the best "car" chases of the series. Sean Bean as the villain and Famke Janssen as the henchwoman put in solid performances. While Janssen steals the show with her raw sex appeal (and several near orgasms on screen), Izabella Scorupco is easy on the eyes herself. There's lots of tension, some character development, a tacked on romance. Everything you need really.

This movie marks the first time we see another "00" agent as a fully realized character. We saw glimpses of them in Thunderball. We saw one in clown makeup in Octopussy. I think we saw one or two of them die at the beginning of The Living Daylights. This is the first time we get an actual character in "006" Alec Trevelyan turned master criminal Janus. (An idea we'll see done even better in Skyfall.)

The movie even tries to bridge the gap between the Dalton years and the Brosnan years by setting the pre-title sequence in 1986, just before the events of The Living Daylights. Or maybe they were trying to pretend the Dalton years never existed and Brosnan got the part back then. It's hard to tell. It's a little confusing actually. Then they try to give us some backstory by revealing that Bond is an orphan (a fact taken straight from the books) to make sure we realize this is really the same character, except how could he be, given that Pierce Brosnan was 9 when Dr. No came out? It's one of those "suspension of disbelief" things.

GoldenEye is the second Bond film to have an original title not taken from one of Fleming's stories, and the first since The Spy Who Loved Me to not draw any plot elements from one of Fleming's stories. I think that's a testament to Fleming's productivity. The title does have very close ties to Fleming. He wrote all of the Bond novels and stories at his estate in the Bahamas which he named 'Goldeneye' after a secret mission he had worked on as a member of British Naval Inteligence during WWII. It's part of a hotel complex now. You you can rent the "Fleming Villa" for between $6,000 and $9,000 a night. It still contains Fleming's original writing desk.

Personal Rankings: I'd forgotten how much I like this movie.
  1. Goldfinger
  2. From Russia With Love
  3. The Spy Who Loved Me
  4. Live and Let Die
  5. You Only Live Twice
  6. GoldenEye
  7. The Living Daylights
  8. For Your Eyes Only
  9. Dr. No
  10. Octopussy
  11. Diamonds Are Forever
  12. A View to a Kill
  13. License to Kill
  14. Thunderball
  15. The Man with the Golden Gun
  16. Moonraker

1995 Context
President: Bill Clinton
Queen: Elizabeth II

Star Trek: Voyager premiered on UPN.

Best Picture Nominees:

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