What. An. Intro. Bond has always favoured an explosive entry, and GoldenEye takes the pre-title sequence to new heights. Literally. Twice.
Following Timothy Dalton’s (perhaps unfairly) early exit it was time to introduce a Bond for the ‘90s; a super-smart, super-suave, super-sexy super-spy. Everyone knows that feeling when you see the first scene of GoldenEye – that tingle down your spine, the goosebumps which raise your hair, the involuntary air-punch at its awesomeness. Repeat viewing does not dull the experience of watching a lone operative bungee-jumping a jaw-dropping 722ft down a dam to infiltrate a Russian base.
Young and handsome, with an arsenal of guns and gadgets at his disposal and a tongue smooth enough to get him into or out of any situation, even before the pre-title sequence was fully underway it was clear that this was a new Bond. Taking the best bits of the previous four double-oh-sevens, they created a chimera of charisma, confidence, courage and confidentiality. His name? Brosnan. Pierce Brosnan.
Fun fact: Pierce Brendan Brosnan is the only lead actor in the 007 canon whose name can be rearranged to spell BOND*. Fate? Maybe. Coincidence? Certainly, but that doesn’t mean that Brosnan wasn’t born to be Bond. As is chronicled in Stevan Riley’s superb Bond documentary Everything Or Nothing, Timothy Dalton may have never been Bond – The Living Daylights came within minutes of being Brosnan’s first shot at the Walther PPK, a full eight years before Goldeneye.
As is the life and death of many films, a contractual obligation got in the way; this time to Remington Steele, a television series about a sort-of crime-fighting thief. And it was close: Brosnan took the call to be told he would have to do Remington Steele moments before he was due to be announced as Bond at a press conference. If he just hadn’t answered the phone…
As is befitting for the first Bond film of the nineties, GoldenEye plays out like a video game. With levels of varying complexity requiring Bond to shoot certain objects and use a range of gadgets in order to proceed, this film racks up a series-topping 47 confirmed kills. This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, Brosnan’s Bond gave the world an even greater gift than GoldenEye the film – GoldenEye the game.
Anyone born after 1985 cannot have missed this Nintendo 64 classic. GoldenEye has such a special place in the hearts and minds of this certain generation that it could be a) the primary reason that many N64s were sold, and b) the primary reason that any N64s survive. As you know (you do know, don’t you?), GoldenEye’s legendary multiplayer mode saw friendships irrevocably destroyed when that guy who always chose Oddjob also found the golden gun; but it also gave hours of exhilaration as you reenact the archive film scene and Trevelyan ends up the victor.
Ah yes, Trevelyan. Double-oh-six. Sean Bean, a one-time viable Bond himself, as Bond’s ultimate friend then enemy (frenemy?). They say you can judge a Bond by the calibre of his villains, and Brosnan certainly had an interesting group, consisting of some of Britain’s finest character actors: Sean Bean, Jonathan Pryce, Robert Carlyle, Madonna. And, of course, it’s the back-and-forth between Bond and baddie where the glib remarks and pithy comebacks come to the fore. In this regard, Brosnan’s Bond is the Indiana Jones of 007s – there’s innuendo and then some, pushing further into comedy than anyone besides Roger Moore whilst still retaining the integrity of the situation. Mostly.
Brosnan’s Bond botched it up a few times. Many times. OK, quite a lot actually – but the problem wasn’t Pierce. Case in point, Die Another Day. Not only is Madonna awful in it, twice, nor is the inane Basil ‘R’ Fawlty banter the only grating element, and certainly the fact that Bond escapes from a giant death-ray harnessing the power of the sun by driving off a cliff before kite-surfing his way clear of the resulting tsunami (honestly, not as exciting as it sounds) is not a unique failing of that film. By the time Die Another Day came around Bond as a franchise had lost its way, but even after the critical mauling which that film deservedly received it was widely expected, and hoped, that Brosnan would be back for a 005th 007. His particular brand of sophistication, patriotism and resourcefulness was a major box office draw, demonstrating a resilience to whatever nonsense writers Purvis and Wade could throw at him.
There is, however, a stand-out moment of Brosnan making no effort to act his character; before the plot of GoldenEye is even set up James Bond, whose mother was Swiss and who was brought up a trilingual English-French-German speaker, has a brief exchange with a hotel valet which reveals the character’s inexcusably horrific French accent. No Pierre, all is not ça va bien. Thankfully this is a minor blunder. The same film contains arguably the best chase – potentially even the best scene – in any of the 23 films up to Skyfall: The Tank. Sliding around Moscow, completing formerly impossible handbrake turns in a behemoth of a machine, smashing down monuments and crushing cars, with a signature straightening of his tie for good measure, this scene exemplifies Brosnan’s Bond – fun yet ferocious, thrilling and ambitious.
After the bungee jump infiltration and explosive exfiltration of GoldenEye’s pre-title sequence, the introduction to Brosnan’s Bond ends with a leap of faith. The breathtaking, though questionably plausible, stunt sees our hero drive off a cliff-top runway and free-fall towards a plummeting plane, his “safest” getaway option. Casting Bond has always required a leap of faith, but this one got it right. Mostly.
*For your reference/revision, Thomas Sean Connery, Roger George Moore, George Robert Lazenby, Timothy Peter Dalton, Daniel Wroughton Craig. Bare Prance Bond Sinner is perhaps the best full anagram for Brosnan.