Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Brandon Peters dissects the 007 series part 17: GoldenEye

With Skyfall dropping in theaters in just a couple months, along with the 50th anniversary of the James Bond series, a close friend and fellow film nerd, Brandon Peters, has generously offered to do a comprehensive review of the entire 007 film franchise. Today is the seventeenth entry, with a full review of  Pierce Brosnan's smashing debut (and my personal favorite of the whole series*) GoldenEye. I hope you enjoy what is a pretty massive feature leading up the November 9th release of Skyfall. I'll do my best to leave my two-cents out of it, give or take a few items I have up my sleeve (including a possible guest review from my wife as she sings the praises of her favorite 007 film, you won't believe what it is). But just because I'm stepping aside doesn't mean you should. Without further ado...

Director:  Martin Campbell
Starring:  Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Judi Dench, Famke Janssen, Izabella Scorupco, Alan Cumming, Robbie Coltrane, Gottifried John
Rated PG-13

Need I remind you, 007, that you have a license to kill, not to break the traffic laws.

Kills:  25 (estimate)
Girls:  Natalya Simonova, Xenia Onatopp, Caroline
Car:  BMWZ3, however Bond’s casual vehicle is the Aston Martin
Locales:  Monte Carlo, St. Petersburg, Cuba
Odd Villain Trait:  Xenia Onatopp gets off on violence (literally) and can crush a man wrapping her legs around his waist
Song:  “Goldeneye” performed by Tina Turner (written by Bono & Edge of U2 fame)
Other notable song:  “The Experience of Love” performed by Serra

After 6 ½ years removed from theaters around the globe, James Bond reloaded and returned in a big way for GoldenEyeGoldenEye was a major cinematic event for 1995.  The Berlin wall had fallen and many felt Bond’s legacy should go with it.  It was questioned as to whether the character could remain relevant with no cold war.  Also, debuting in the role of James Bond was Pierce Brosnan, an actor who many had been clamoring to see play this part (and as we all know my mother was one of those people).  Would he be able to live up to expectation?  Could Bond manage to win back audiences and pick back up where he had left off?

The story of GoldenEye features James Bond facing off with friend and former MI:6 agent 006, Alec Trevelyan.  Trevelyan is vowing revenge on the British government for the death of his parents, due to their background in assisting Nazis in WWII.  He plans to use the GoldenEye satellite to wiping out all financial records from the Bank of England, but not after he’s taken some dough for himself.  In 1989 MGM/UA was sold to a company called Qintex.  Qintex then merged with another company called Pathe.  Pathe then began a plan to broadcast the Bond films all over the globe without permission of Danjaq (parent company of Eon Productions).  Danjaq then sued Pathe, putting the 007 series at a halt for many years.

During this long delay, Timothy Dalton grew tired of waiting.  The script for Dalton started as using the short story title The Property of a Lady and through many rewrites became GoldenEye.  In April of 1994, with no Bond movie in production any time soon, Dalton resigned from the role.  He was only Bond for 2 films, but spent 7 years as the face of the character.  There were many back up names, such as Mel Gibson and Liam Neeson, but James Bond was pretty much handed over to Pierce Brosnan if he wanted it.  It marks the only time there wasn’t some sort of grand search for James Bond.  In GoldenEye, Brosnan comes off as a hybrid featuring the best of Connery, Moore and Dalton.  He’s able to pull off the suave so damn well too.  Pierce was definitely born to give this role a shot.  One of the greatest attributes to his Bond is the script.  It actually transforms Bond into a three-dimensional person.  Comments are made about his past and his reputation.  And while living up to some of it, you feel a sense of the character moving forward and progressing.  

He’s also given a villain with personal ties.  The Bond in GoldenEye has depth, emotion and is far more than just a one note sideshow.  They even drop that Bond’s parents were killed in a climbing accident.  What Dalton was able to accomplish with his performances, Brosnan is able to add thanks to his performance and the words on paper.  In this film, Bond also does everything you’d want him to do here, from car chases, to cards, to skydiving, to shooting right down to the hairy chest.  A fun side note, Brosnan’s Bond contract prohibited him from being in a tux in other feature films.  However, Barbara Streisand’s The Mirror Has Two Faces snuck this by the 007 police.  GoldenEye is by far the best cast, best directed and best acted film of the entire 007 series thus far and likely until Casino Royale (2006).  The only possible weak link on paper looks to be the female leads, but jump on that presumption and it’ll bite you in the ass.  Izabella Scorupco plays ball with the best of them in this.  If she’s a model turned actress, just wow.  This is always attempted in the series and comes across as quite obvious.  Her character is well written, fits greatly into the story and never feels awkwardly forced into the plot.  

Do I really need to say much about Famke Janssen here?  She is incredible in this film and gives us one of the most memorable Bond villains in history, stealing some of the thunder from Sean Bean’s 006.  Both actresses give performances that would make you think they were far more experienced than they were going in.  This is one of the only times both major female attractions in a Bond film excel simultaneously.  Speaking of actresses, M is now a lady.  Judi Dench debuts and infuses some life and importance into the character of M.  She isn’t friends with Bond and doesn’t agree with his methods, but likes the results.  We are given a complex M that we’re not sure if we like or not.  There’s a terrific scene early on in M’s office where Bond and her square off a bit.

Sean Bean proves terrific as 006.  His character digs deep into Bond, knowing some of his most personal trappings.  Bean plays it good, just being on the edge of going over the top, but holding back before he ever gets there.  His character gets the Dr. Loomis “I was in a massive explosion but I managed to get away with some scarring on only one side of my face” as a nice little evil touch.  His final battle with Bond is edge of your seat excitement.  And I always give high merits to his death.  ALWAYS in films of this time and before, when someone fell to their death, the camera cut away just before they made contact with the surface (the film Terminal Velocity did show it, and my jaw did drop, but later it’s discovered that it was a cadaver anyway and so the fall didn't really take a life, lessening the impact of the scene).  I was shocked and thrilled to see Trevelyan actually hit the ground at the end of his death drop.  Still today, it’s a rarity.  Well done.

Martin Campbell makes his first appearance as director.  2nd choice by the producers too.  John Woo was flattered, but turned them down (how bizarre is that car chase between Bond and Onatopp knowing this.  Woo would do this same scene in Mission Impossible 2 five years later).  His film still holds up to this day.  At the time, GoldenEye delivered what Bond was supposed to do, and had been lacking.  GoldenEye took reigns and became THE action picture to be topped/copied.  The film features amazing stunt-work and real physical effects and action.  The only problem moment, that kinda doesn't fit the tone of the film is the tank chase, but its done pretty tastefully and nothing of that
stature had been seen since the early 80s.  Campbell was asked back for the next film, but turned it down, not wanting to do two Bond films in a row.  The opening credits look dazzling, modernized and enhanced.  From Spy Who Loved Me to License to Kill they were all pretty much looking the same, and without and few minute details, you probably couldn’t guess which sequence belongs to which movie.  Tina Turner’s “GoldenEye” is a great tribute to the works of Shirley Bassey, particularly “Goldfinger”.  It gives the classic, elegant and nostalgic feel to re-immerse ourselves into the world of 007.

GoldenEye was a massive success at the box office and with critics.  It was the biggest Bond film since Moonraker (16 years prior).  Bond had returned in spades and was back in high demand.  The film also coincided with a success re-release of the classic Bond films on VHS where many were reliving and discovering these films for the first time.  The film would also leave a massive legacy on the video game world.  The Nintendo 64 adaptation of the film successfully transcended the first person shooter to a multiplayer platform that is by which the industry still holds to the highest standard today.  The game is constantly in talks of the greatest of all time.  Younger people may know this game more-so than the film, that’s how big it has become.  GoldenEye was the first 007 film I ever got to see in the theater.  It did not disappoint.  I was excited to finally see Pierce Brosnan in the role.  Seeing Bond on the big screen for the first time was a huge moment in my movie going experience.  I’m sorry for those of you who’s first was something like Octopussy.  

One of the biggest and lasting memories of GoldenEye for me was the insanely awesome teaser trailer that got me incredibly excited and introduced the world to Pierce Brosnan as James Bond.  It was also attached to every film in the VHS collection from that time.  I love Brosnan’s breaking of the fourth wall (“You expecting someone else?”).  Perfect answer to the hype.  Try as they might, but there might never be a Bond trailer as good and that delivers as this.  No one could sell a Bond picture better than the GoldenEye trailer.  Hence, I leave you with it

Brandon Peters will return in TOMORROW NEVER DIES

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