Sunday, April 26, 2015

#1,714. Goldeneye (1995)

Directed By: Martin Campbell

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Izabella Scorupco

Tag line: "You know the name. You know the number"

Trivia: The Rolling Stones were offered the chance to sing the title song, but declined

With 1995’s Goldeneye, Pierce Brosnan joined the ranks of the actors who portrayed the finest spy in her majesty’s service, James Bond 007. And as debuts go, this one’s pretty damn entertaining!

Nine years after he teamed up with agent 006 (Sean Bean) to infiltrate a Soviet base (a mission that ended in disaster), James Bond (Brosnan) once again finds himself in Russia, going head-to-head with a criminal organization known as Janus. Having swiped a military helicopter, Janus operative Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) and her associate, General Ouromov (Gottfried John), fly it to Severnaya, Siberia, where, for decades, an underground control center has been monitoring "Operation Goldeneye", a pair of satellites equipped with an electromagnetic pulse so strong that, within seconds, it can cause a blackout in a major city. With the help of programmer Boris Grishenko (Alan Cumming), a double agent who works at the facility, Janus raids the Severnaya bunker and gains control of the satellites.

Following a successful test of Goldeneye, which reduces the Severnaya bunker to rubble, Bond makes his way to St. Petersburg, where he teams up with Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco), the lone survivor of the attack at Severnaya. Together, the two try to figure out who’s behind all this (for years, the leader of Janus has been something of an enigma). When Bond finally does come face-to-face with Janus' head honcho, he receives the shock of a lifetime, and to make matters worse, learns that the group’s next target is London! Can Bond stop the attack in time?

Like most Bond pictures, Goldeneye begins with a pre-title sequence, one that takes us back to the mid-‘80s mission where 007 and 006 tried to sabotage a Soviet chemical weapons plant. From the first few moments, which feature an amazing stunt (using a bungee, Bond jumps from the top of a tall dam, dropping hundreds of feet to the ground below) to the finale, a thrilling chase involving a plane that's fallen off the edge of a cliff, this sequence gets the audience’s pulse pounding in a big way.

Despite it being his first appearance in the role, Brosnan seems very comfortable as Bond, showing a penchant for comedy and a way with the ladies, both of which harken back to Roger Moore; while at the same time maintaining the character’s rough edge, a trait he shares with his immediate predecessor, Timothy Dalton (a scene set in a bathhouse proves that Brosnan’s Bond has no problem whatsoever roughing up a female enemy agent). In addition to Brosnan’s debut, Goldeneye marked the first appearance of Dame Judy Dench as “M”, a role she’d reprise in several subsequent films. During her initial one-on-one with Bond, "M" doesn't pull any punches, telling 007 she considers him “a sexist, misogynist dinosaur” and “a relic of the Cold War”, setting the stage for an occasionally turbulent relationship that would be further explored in the years to come. The rest of the supporting cast is also good, with Desmond Llewellyn getting a few laughs as “Q” (demonstrating his latest gadgets in his lab) and an even younger Moneypenny (Samantha Bod) putting 007 in his place (as the character has done many times in the past). Unfortunately, I can’t reveal too much about the film's villain, mostly because doing so would spoil one of its best twists, but rest assured he’s every bit as maniacal as Blofeld, Goldfinger, and A View to a Kill’s Max Zorin. Also keep an eye out for Joe Don Baker as Jack Wade, Bond’s CIA liaison; and Robbie Coltrane as Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky, leader of a Russian criminal organization.

Then, of course, we have the Bond girls, and man, are they amazing! As played by Izabella Scorupco, Natalya is more than a (very) pretty face (she can hack into any computer, a skill that comes in handy more than once), but the real standout in Goldeneye is Famke Janssen’s Xenia Onatopp, an incredibly sexy adversary whose primary weapon is her out-of-control sexuality (her first victim, an Admiral in the Royal Canadian Navy played by Billy J. Mitchell, dies with a smile on his face). These two beauties, combined with some cool gadgets (Bond gets a new car, a BMW equipped with all the bells and whistles of his old Aston Martin) and kick-ass action scenes (the craziest of which has Bond leaping into a Soviet-era tank and chasing an adversary through the busy streets of St. Petersburg), help make Goldeneye a memorable Bond outing.

Thus far in the Bond series, the debut films for each of the previous actors (Connery in Dr. No, Lazenby’s one and only appearance in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Moore in Live and Let Die, and Dalton in The Living Daylights) have been solid, and Goldeneye in no exception. Admittedly, some of his later movies weren’t of the highest quality (one was downright awful), but with Goldeneye, Pierce Brosnan proved he was up to the challenge of playing Ian Fleming’s super spy, and in so doing ushered 007 into a new, exciting era.

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