My parents have watched most all of the James Bond films, but Pierce Brosnan is my mom’s favorite Bond actor, so those were the movies that went on when I was growing up. So I’m starting with those; I’ve seen bits of the older movies, but I have not watched a Sean Connery Bond film all the way through (I’ll get to it, someday).
James Bond started as a novel series by Ian Fleming. His main character, James Bond, goes by the codename “007” (the double-O status means he has “license to kill”) and is a member of the British secret service (MI6; which is a real thing). Bond is also known for beating up bad guys and seducing women along the way; I believe I’ve heard “women want him and men want to be him.” He’s suave, charming, and deadly. Usually seen in a well-cut suit sipping a vodka martini, shaken, not stirred, and a different Bond girl on his arm in every movie.
GoldenEye is Pierce Brosnan’s first Bond movie; he was supposed to star in The Living Daylights, but the show Remington Steele (which has some Bond elements to it; I recommend you check it out) held on to Pierce. Sean Bean (Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings are two of his later hits, but he’s also appeared in Patriot Games and National Treasure [which I’ll get to], as well as Troy, the show Medici [which also starred Thrones‘ Richard Madden and Merlin’s Bradley James], Sharpe, and Percy Jackson) is Alec Trevelyan. Famke Janssen (Jean Grey in the earlier 2000’s X-Men) is Xenia Onatopp, Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid in Harry Potter) is Valentin Zukovksy, Alan Cumming (“Rooster” Hannigan in Disney’s production of Annie, he was also in the 2000’s X-Men movies as Kurt Wagner/ Nightcrawler) is Boris Grishenko. Samantha Bond (Lady Rosamund, Robert’s sister in Downton Abbey, and is part of the Who-verse from her appearance in The Sarah Jane Adventures) appears as Moneypenny, Desmond Llewelyn continues as Q (Coggins in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), and the iconic Judi Dench is the new M. [This is the only Bond movie where James Bond, M, and Miss Moneypenny were all re-cast with a different actor or actress. Desmond Llewelyn as Q is the only holdover]
The film starts with Bond bungee-jumping off a dam. We also meet 006, a friend and co-worker of Bond’s. They’re doing their job, to save the world, for England, on a joint mission to blow up a chemical plant in the USSR. 006, Alec Trevelyan, is caught by the bad guys and Bond re-sets the timers on the bomb. He witnesses Alec shot in the head and manages to make it out of the building while bullets fly. Then he runs after a plane taking off and when that doesn’t work, drives a motorcycle off the cliff and free dives into the falling plane, bringing the plane up in time to not run into the mountains and witness the explosion of the chemical plant. A rather thrilling opening [and one of my parents’ favorites]. The theme plays with the customary silhouetted women.
We next see Bond, presumably several years later, driving his car over the speed limit to impress the woman seated beside him. Then he gets more reckless when a pretty woman in a Ferrari drives by and they start racing each other, until the woman orders Bond to stop. Then, he charms the woman, who is his psychiatrist; classic Bond. And another Bond classic, a casino. Where he meets the mysterious woman, Onatopp (oh, isn’t that just laden with innuendo). They flirt, but she leaves with another man. Bond follows and spies on them. We see Onatopp kill the Admiral “in the act.” Come morning, Bond sneaks on, finds the dead Admiral, realizes something is up, and starts to make for the military demonstration of a new stealth helicopter. Onatopp is apparently also a pilot and takes the place of the actual pilots, then makes off with the helicopter. She flies it to a remote Space Weapons Control Center in Russia. There, we meet Natalya and Boris. Boris likes to hack in his spare time, and make lude jokes to his female coworkers. He goes out for a smoke and the helicopter lands. Natalya is making a coffee when Onatopp and the general from the start of the movie enter. The general goes through the procedure to retrieve the GoldenEye device, then lets Onatopp open fire on everyone. She oddly enjoys it. Natalya hides, until a space laser, activated by the GoldenEye, fires into the center, starting a fire. She eventually escapes in the aftermath of the damage.
Meanwhile, Bond is being briefed on the situation on the helicopter in England. Through satellites they witness the destruction of the control center, well, not all of it because the laser also emits an electromagnetic pulse, knocking out all electronics [that part, I get. The laser and such, not so much]. Bond is also introduced to the new M; there is a mutual dislike at the beginning; M believes Bond to be a relic of the past and she has no compunction about sending a men to his death. However, she will not do it on a whim and does urge Bond to not let this mission be all about revenge (since the general was the man who shot Alec) and asks that he comes back alive. Q has the obligatory gadgets including a pen grenade for Bond and reminds him “you have a license to kill, not to break traffic laws,” please return the equipment.
Bond gains a CIA contact in Russia and meets an old friend; well, former enemy who has at least decided to not kill Bond for the time being. Then he has another run in with Onatopp (in a pool because Pierce looks very good shirtless) and Onatopp of course tries to squeeze the life out of the British agent, but he breaks her hold. Natalya also meets up with Boris, which ends up being a trap (smart movie goers could guess that). Bond gets another blast from the past; turns out Alec isn’t dead! No, he wants revenge against the British government and Bond by extension due to his loyalty, for the betrayal his parents endured years ago. Onatopp works for him and they trap both Bond and Natalya in the helicopter, rigged to fire a missile at itself. Bond brilliantly ejects them. They’re picked up by the government and Bond attempts the typical spy banter, but Natalya gets down to business, which saves them. Until the traitorous general comes in and literally blows their burgeoning plan to pieces. Bond pulls Natalya behind him, though they get separated. Bond then decides that a tank is a suitable vehicle to drive in the streets of St. Petersburg to chase after the general and Natalya (causing mass destruction, and cue the Bond theme).
Everyone meets up on a train, after Bond positions the tank to derail the train and fires. He jumps out and boards the train. Alec quips, “why can’t you just be a good boy and die!” “You first,” Bond responds. Alec points out that the situation is hopeless for Bond, he has no back-up, no escape route, and Alec holds the bargaining chip in the form of Natalya. He knows Bond’s secrets and weaknesses and attempts to get in his old friend’s head. Alec and Onatopp escape, Bond shoots the general, and Natalya hacks into the train to find out where the villainous couple are headed. Bond cuts through the floor of the train before it blows. “Do you destroy every vehicle you get into?” Natalya asks later. Bond claims it to be standard operating procedure.
The CIA unofficially helps Bond and Natalya get to Cuba [there’s an unneeded scene on a random beach before between Natalya and Bond simply to give another excuse for them to kiss and demonstrate that Bond gets the girl] , but they can’t spot the giant satellite dish required to run the GoldenEye. Well, that’s because they hid it under a lake. Onatopp is sent out to take care of the heroic couple after they’re shot down. Bond gets the upper hand again and rigs the cords so Onatopp is strangled by her own helicopter. Bond and Natalya sneak in and Bond begins to place bombs, but he’s captured. Alec knows to disarm Bond and even take his watch [fun fact, this is the first Bond film that features an Omega watch, previous films showcased Rolex watches and occasional Seikos for technology features]. But Boris gets a hold of the pen when Natalya punches him.
Alec’s big plan? Is to hack into the British bank then set off the GoldenEye EMP directly after so his tracks are covered, and creating a worldwide financial meltdown. Bond points out he is simply a petty thief. Natalya was busy when she was near the computer and messed up the guidance system on the satellite that controls GoldenEye, then encrypts it. Boris is confident he can break it, but he struggles. Bond notes that Boris has the unconscious habit of clicking his pen; with the Q pen he’s constantly arming and disarming the grenade inside. Bond times it right to duck when Boris drops his pen, setting off an explosion (though random liquid nitrogen freezes Boris hilariously). Alec goes after Bond, resulting in hand-to-hand fighting. The explosion sets off more fires and Natalya demonstrates she’s an action girl too and rescues Bond. Alec falls into the satellite dish, but doesn’t die until the antenna spears into him. Bond and Natalya escape and Bond takes the time to start kissing Natalya. They’re alone, he promises. Until Marines pop up.
Since this is my mother’s favorite Bond film and the primary Bond film I’ve watched, I do have some fondness for it. Oh, the technology in it is laughable now, but Boris is kind of funny, though he needs a good kick somewhere for his attitude. Sean Bean makes an excellent villain. GoldenEye has all the trademarks of a good action-adventure movie. Some fights. Save the world storyline. Quips and banter. Hero gets the girl. Overall, it’s a fun movie to watch. And I agree with my mother, Pierce is my favorite Bond; he’s more suave than Daniel Craig (but more on that later)
Next Time: Tomorrow Never Dies