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BlogalongaBond: Goldeneye
With 1989’s Licence To Kill being a worldwide box off success (though a more modest success in the United State), the Bond films looked set to enter the 1990s. But soon legal issues would overtake the series, delaying work on the seventeenth Bond film for years. By the time work would begin again in earnest, the Cold War that had dominated the first three decades of the series had ended. All this, combined with Timothy Dalton announcing his departure from the role of 007 left many fan and critics alike to wonder if 007 had indeed fought his last battle. 1995’s Goldeneye was a result touted as the film that would make or break the series for the 1990s. Thankfully for Bond fans, Goldeneye succeeded.

Goldeneye’s successful re-launch was in no part thanks to Pierce Brosnan’s debut as 007. Having barely missed out on playing the part in The Living Daylights, Brosnan had long been considered for the role and in Goldeneye, Brosnan shows why. His characterization is, to a certain extent, an amalgamation of what others had brought to the role previously. He has the sleek and dangerous shark quality of Connery, the charm of Moore (whom he outshines without problem) and yet also brings the sensitive and coldblooded elements that Dalton brought to the role as seen, respectively, in the scene between Bond and Natalya on the beach and in the final line he delivers before dispatching his enemy to his death. Brosnan’s Bond may be an amalgamation of his predecessors but it is certainly a successful one.

Izabella Scorupco as Natalya Simonova is an interesting character to say the least. Clearly, the filmmakers were trying to bring the role of the Bond girl into the 1990s by making her a more independent and well rounded character (continuing a trend seen in the two Dalton Bond films). Natalya Simonova does this, but with mixed results throughout the film. Even in individual scenes, like the entire section set at Severnaya, the character fluxuates between Bond girl extremes. The result overall is a character that works in some scenes, but not in others. Thankfully, Izabella Scorupco plays the role well though at times it’s clear that even the actress is struggling between the extremes the character keeps bouncing between.

More successful is Sean Bean as Alec Trevelyan, 006 and later Bond’s adversary. The character’s introduction is the film’s teaser sequence sets up the character as a good guy, a friend of Bond lost in the line of duty. That scene though is only setting the audience up for one of the best plot twists in the history of the Bond films: 006 has turned traitor. While Bean is clearly too young for the reasoning to be 100% believable, Bean makes the successful transition from ally to villain in one incredible scene. Bean is just as importantly believable in the climatic fight that bits two former friends against each other with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. While lacking all the three-dimensional characterization of his immediate predecessor, Alec Trevelyan comes across as one of the better villains of the series and a true threat to Bond.

The supporting cast also serves the film well for the most part. Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp has become one of the film’s most iconic elements though sadly the character rides the thin line between good and cringe worthy a bit too much with Onatopp, like Natalya, being all over the place in terms of quality. The rest of the supporting cast suit the film much better including Joe Don Baker as CIA agent Jack Wade, Gottfried John as General Ourumov, Robbie Coltrane as Valentin Zukovsky and Alan Cumming as Boris Grishenko. The film also introduces several new members to the MI6 staff including a female M played to perfection by Judi Dench, a more combative Miss Moneypenny in the form of Samantha Bond and MI6 chief of staff Bill Tanner played by Michael Kitchen as well as the ever welcomed return of Desmond Llewelyn as Q.

Goldeneye also boasts some of the best action sequences of the series, something that was all important for it to bring Bond into the 1990s. The teaser sequence features not one but two impressive stunts as well as gun play. The film’s most impressive action sequences though come in its back half from the running gun battle through a government archive and the iconic (and surprisingly still incredible impressive) tank chase through St Petersburg while the film’s climax harkens back to the Bob Simmons staged fights of the early Connery films. The results are impressive, even seventeen years on.

Perhaps the biggest problem that affects Goldeneye is that it has become oddly dated. The plot hinges heavily on the computer technology of the early/mid-1990s which looks oddly out of place when viewed from a perspective of seventeen years later. It isn’t just technology though that has dated the film but certain aspects of its plot as well. The reveal of Alec Trevelyan being a Lienz Cossack and the film’s setting in the early post-Soviet era Russia have also dated the film significantly. While this can be to the detriment of films as they age (see the space race elements of You Only Live Twice), Goldeneye manages to fall into the same category as For Your Eyes Only in that those elements date the film but don’t detract too much from enjoying it.

Then there’s the score from composer Eric Serra. Perhaps nothing else about Goldeneye has been as controversial as this one element. Serra’s score is admittedly a significant departure from the John Barry style of Bond scores, particularly with the score’s heavy use of synthesizer tracks. It is perhaps telling that the film’s best musical moment, the tank chase, wasn’t composed by Serra at all but by composer John Altman. Personally speaking, the Serra score is very mixed. It has moments where it works well particularly in action sequences (such as the teaser sequence and the climatic fight) while it completely fails at others (such as the car race between Bond and Onatopp). The one musical element that works beyond any doubt is the main title song performed by Tina Turner which, because of it not being composed by Serra, isn’t used anywhere else in the film. The score has, is and will certainly continue to remain the single most controversial element of the film.

As the vehicle to bring 007 into the 1990s, Goldeneye is an unqualified success. When viewed from seventeen years later, it has its elements which work better than others while it has oddly dated in some ways. Goldeneye though remains one of the better Bond films thanks to Brosnan’s excellent debut as Bond, memorable characters and action sequences that stand up years later. Bond was back in action and here to stay