English director Martin Campbell had the unenviable task of bringing the world's longest running film franchise back to global cinema audiences after an six year hiatus and at the same time introduce us to a new Bond. Finally, after many years of false starts, Pierce Brosnan finally landed the plummiest of all action hero roles. Despite a poor recent track record (see No Escape) director Campbell delivers a highly effective and fun start to a new era for Bond. The pre-credits teaser sequence is not only one of the longest in the history of the series, but one of the finest. A great espionage sequence in which 007 has to destroy a Russian damn culminates in a truly heart stopping bungie jump off the top of the damn and instantly places the sequence high in the all-time Bond Stunts Top Ten. Bond movie stalwart Maurice Binder once more provides the opening title sequence but his imagination and certainly his originality was clearly on the wane - lots of tired female eyes and stilettoes.
Although not going quite so tongue-in-cheek as during Roger Moore's tenure in the lead role, GoldenEye does see a loosening up of attitude after Timothy Dalton's serious and more faithful to Fleming double bill in the late 1980s, and this is something that director Martin Campbell really enjoys playing with. For example, the dialogue in the first main sequence that pits agents 007 and 006 (played by Sean Bean) against a bunch of nasty Russian soldiers is a joy to hear. With true gentlemanly, archetypal Englishness (and whilst deftly avoiding being hit by a hail of enemy bullets) Bond says "After you 006" who just before they return the attack announces "For England James" - I almost expected another agent with a large handlebar moustache to pop up somewhere and shout "Tally ho! Ginger!". The plot has all the key elements (although occasionally too by-the-numbers for my liking) of exotic locations, gadgets, beautiful women and OTT villains, all done with style and class, so we have the regulation casino sequence, open-air theatre backdrop, etc., mixed with the expected action set pieces. The standout one of which is a tour de force tank chase through the streets of St. Petersburg during which virtually everything it comes into contact with is smashed or crushed beyond all recognition, and yet Bond still gets the chance to straighten his tie! (something that Brosnan reportedly came up with during filming).
Brosnan comes across well if slightly too over-rehearsed - there are just a few too many perfectly-struck poses for it to appear natural - but the effect is broadly all that the role demands. A haircut wouldn't have gone a miss though. Something the producers didn't miss either - ever since GoldenEye, Bond has rarely been so consistently well groomed. The one-liners, particularly those between Brosnan and Bond veteran Desmond Llewelyn as Q and a newly appointed Dame Judi Dench as a welcome female head of MI6. The gravitas Dench brings to the role a perfect foil to Bond's increasingly anachronistic character. The villains are largely made up of faceless Russian soldiers but this matters little when you have Famke Janssen as the erotic maniac Xenia Onatopp (!) who favours crushing her opponents between her thighs whilst licking their faces - great stuff and all credit to Janssen's acting abilities for making the character one of the most memorable of the entire franchaise. Look also for a young Minnie Driver as a night club singer.
The major weakness, and this has always bothered me, is Eric Serra's largely dreadful score. It's okay during the romantic movements but all the action pieces are cheesy and have dated remarkably quickly. Just take a look at the car chase sequence between Bond and Onnatop - visually terrific - musically terrible! Imagine what John Barry or, more recently, David Arnold would have done with that sequence. Former Thunderbirds model maker Derek Meddings (who has worked on the series many times before) is also showing his age and some of his model work is just out of place in a production of this calibre (Meddings died shortly after completing work on the film). Upon repeated viewing, GoldenEye is more talky and a darker film than I remember but this is no bad thing - far from it. I suspect it will be a very long time (if ever) that we get a real return to Ian Fleming's hard-edged espoinage source material but until then entries like this will more than just fill in time. Even the title song, performed by Tina Turner (and written by Bono and The Edge) is a corker.
Region 2 DVD (UK)
A pretty darn good
set of extras are included and therefore entirely in keeping with the majority
of MGM's Special Edition Bond DVDs. Wrapped in seductively slick animated
menus, the special features are:
Audio commentary featuring (director) Martin Campbell and (producer) Michael G. Wilson
Making of Featurette "The GoldenEye Video Journal"
"The World of 007" documentary
"GoldenEye" music video by Tina Turner
2 Theatrical trailers
12 (!) Television adverts
The mastering is first class with picture and sound quality (5.1 Dolby Digital) as one would hope. The picture ratio is, of course, the full 2.35:1. Subtitles are available in eleven (mostly European) languages and there is a Hard of Hearing option in English too.
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