Movie Review: James Bond – GoldenEye

James Bond: Goldeneye

So I think I will open with a dumb joke, James Bond might not have a Golden Eye, but he sure does have a eye for the ladies…haha. Okay got that out of the way early, let’s move on with the review.

First thing, as we progress, as more movies come out each year and as studios change, and things just evolve, it’s still enormously comforting to see the the Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) title sequence, the roaring Lion (called Leo the Lion) just gives me such strong feelings of nostalgia.

I have more to say on the issue which I will cover later in the review, but I did really like this film, especially when I got older, it’s not my favourite James Bond movie, that honour goes to either Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) or Die Another Day (2002) but it is a really good one. You’ll also notice that this and my other favourite Bond movies are from Pierce Brosnan’s tenure as 007. He may or may not be the best Bond, but he’s certainly my Bond, if that makes sense, and also in my opinion he balanced womansing, quipping and killing better than either the Bond who preceded him or replaced him. I think I like this movie, firstly because it was the first movie to introduce Brosnan as the character of James Bond, but also it had an immensely interesting story, introduced another 00-Agent, and made great use of the whole Russian aspect of it, something which would could have conceivably cause a lot of tension given that the Cold War (1947 – 1991) only finished roughly four years before this movies release in November 1995.

The interactions between Bond and Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean), even following certain events in the movie felt real and authentic, they really did feel like old friends. Speaking of character/acting, I think what I liked most about Brosnan’s bond, was that his charm and humour felt natural, you warmed to the character because of Brosnan, or at least I did.

One of my biggest and only complaints about the movie was that they used one of the biggest cliches in the book, the whole thing where the plane is hurtling towards the ground, and it only pulls up at the last minute once it’s gone out of sight of the camera. Sure it’s suspenseful, and I guess it worked for the scene, but I’m not a huge fan of narrative convention, it’s lazy, and since this scene was early on in the movie, it had to kind of dig it’s way out of a whole it dug itself with this scene, which personally I feel it did magnificently.

In modern movies, they’ve kind of got a little bit overboard, but in this movie, and certainly in this era of Bond movies I’m a huge fan of the intro sequences, they are a fun little cinematic masterpiece that managed to blend a particular aesthetic with a wonderful musical score, I really enjoyed Skyfall’s use of Adele’s song, of the same name, but there’s something about the complex simplicity of a sweeping orchestral that really worked for me. Also the intro sequence feels like we are in Bond’s head, all women and guns.

Also, there are a lot of ways that I would prefer not to die, but If I could choose how I would prefer to die then being straddled by Famke Janssen (who played Xenia Onatopp) to a violent climax would be relatively high on that list. Also thanks to that scene, and research I did for this review, I am now aware of the term ‘lust murderer’ which is something I didn’t know previously and I don’t feel particularly better for knowing, but as Off the Record claims to be an informative platform, no you know that term as well.

Having said that, Onatopp isn’t as hot as she seems to think, sure she’s attractive, and of course there’s the accepted convention that all men (at least all heterosexual men) are at least a little attracted to all women, but just once I’d like to see one of these femme fatale get knocked back by their unsuspected male prey, sure they’d probably end up dead either way but at least they’d die with their virtue intact. 

That’s the perfect segway, to a totally misogynistic next part of the review, where I talk about my personal top three Bond Babes. Number 1 is obvious, Terri Hatcher (who played Paris Carver in Tomorrow Never Dies), I’ve burned a torch for that woman since I first saw her as Lois Lane in the TV Series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and following very closely behind in the number 2 slot is Halle Berry (who played Jinx Johnson in Die Another Day) who was not only breathtaking and fantastically portrayed but was also the first heroic African-American Bond girl. Lastly, in third place, we have Izabella Scorupco (who played Natalya Simonova in GoldenEye) and was gorgeous, smart and Russian, she was the female lead in this movie, and was a softer and more appealing balance to Famke Janssen’s more sadistic character. 

Jumping back to casting for a moment, we had a young Alan Cumming as Boris Grishenko and while he was sneaky and underhanded, and *spoilers* was one of the antagonists of the movie, something about his weedy, nerdy charm won me over and he was secretly one of my favourite characters. I guess it was just a shame then that he wasn’t at invincible as he had claimed. 

Especially for something that was released in the 90’s, visually this film holds up surprisingly well. Some of the older Bond films do look a little dated, which isn’t a fault or a criticism, just an observation, but this one manages to come across rather well, all things considered. Sure the actual gadgets and equipment in the movie look old, but not too far out of place even today.

Also, there are so many strong casting choices and notable interactions in this movie, for example the flirting between Bond and Moneypenny is among the best, and I think it’s good for Bond to have at least one unattainable woman, so that his ego doesn’t become as big as his kill count, or god forbid his ego. Additionally, Judi Dench brings a breath of fresh air to the role of M, previously held by Robert Brown. Which is especially good considering she was already 60 years old at the time of the films release. What I like about her portrayal of the character is that she has a very matter of fact way of dealing with Bond, she slowly eases into a pseudo-maternal role, but the fact she was the first woman to play the role didn’t soften the character, instead she was more than willing to put Bond in his place should he need it, or as she puts it “sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War”. 

Also every time I re-watch this film I forget that Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky, the Russian gangster and ex-KGB officer, was played by Robbie Coltrane, who is now probably best known for his role as Rubeus Hagrid, the half giant in the Harry Potter film series. He even does a serviceable Russian accent. I also really liked the exchanges bt the two characters. It felt less like to old friends, and more like a pair of world weary professionals who acknowledge each other as dangerous, but respect one another, and more importantly they recognise that they can use one another for their own means. I feel like this is very realistic and makes it an important part of the film, especially since the backdrop of the film is the uneasy aftermath of the Cold War.

As I touched on above, this movie takes place relatively soon after the real Cold War, so quite surprisingly they were allowed to film in Russia, however Eon Productions made the wise decision to film the scenes where Bond gratuitously destroys St. Petersburg in London instead.

Something else that really disappointed me, and bear in mind I started off this review with a really weak joke, when Bond first encounters Alec again, I really wish he had asked him where he has ‘Bean’. I also understand if at this point you stop reading, but I couldn’t resist. 

This movie came after an extended hiatus for the James Bond franchise and was something of a rebirth for the franchise which had been getting stale. This movie then must have been a baptism by fire because it ratcheted up the explosions a bit more than I remember in other movies. I mean every other thing exploded. And while we’re talking about collateral this movie managed to raise the death toll to new levels. Apparently Bond kills 42 separate people from start to finish. He’s really taking advantage of that licence to kill  I guess it’s like purge rules. You do it while you can.

So with all that in mind, GoldenEye is a strong film, that revitalised Ian Fleming’s character, managed to be entertaining while remaining honest to the cultural context of the film, and so I think it more than earns a 7/10.


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