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GoldenEye (1995)

Main image of GoldenEye (1995)
35mm, colour, 130 mins
DirectorMartin Campbell
Production CompaniesDanjaq LLC, United Artists, Eon Productions
ProducersMichael G. Wilson
 Barbara Broccoli
ScreenplayJeffrey Caine
 Bruce Feirstein
PhotographyPhilip Méheux
MusicEric Serra

Cast: Pierce Brosnan (James Bond); Sean Bean (Alec Trevelyan); Izabella Scorupco (Natalya Simonova); Famke Janssen (Xenia Onatopp); Joe Don Baker (Jack Wade); Judi Dench (M); Robbie Coltrane (Valentin Zukovsky)

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In post-communist Russia, an isolated Space Weapons Control station is blown up by Russian gangsters and an attack is threatened against the West.

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After a six-year hiatus, Goldeneye (d. Martin Campbell, 1995) was planned as a return to the traditional Bond formula. The casting of Pierce Brosnan in the pivotal role was heavily publicised and the film was extremely successful. It uses some elements from the past while adding a furious pace and more explicit sex and violence.

Brosnan's Bond is a suave killer, who tempers his skill with ironic humour and sexual magnetism. His unchanged attitudes to women sit uneasily with the fact that his boss is now a woman, who considers him a misogynist. He guards his emotions, unlike Timothy Dalton's more impulsive Bond, and gains evident enjoyment from frequent violent confrontations. He demonstrates more vanity than his predecessors, and Brosnan is perfectly at home with both the snobbery and the violence.

To give their new Bond security, the producers surround Brosnan with tried and tested elements. The plot is a spin on the 'doomsday weapon' theme and the renegade Soviet general recalls a number of earlier films. There are references to earlier films, with the casino scenes echoing Dr No (d. Terence Young, 1962) and the Swiss chase returning to the car and the locations of Goldfinger (d. Guy Hamilton, 1963). Even Tina Turner's title song recalls the Shirley Bassey numbers from the Connery era. However, the series is also updated. The casting of Judi Dench as M is an inspired comment on the real-life appointment of a female head of MI6, new computer technology plays an important role and the end of the Cold War is continually referred to. Making former MI6 agent 006 (Sean Bean, once considered a potential Bond) the embittered criminal mastermind would have been unthinkable in earlier Bond films, where 'the firm' was secure, staid and morally inviolate.

Martin Campbell's direction is stylish, carefully pacing the opening of the film to give equal time to the new Bond and to setting up the plot. The slightly repetitive narrative is given variation by well-chosen locations and some inventive fight scenes, staged by series regular Vic Armstrong. Campbell's handling of the violence recalls the grittiness of his TV work and the sexuality, more explicit than usual, exuded by Onatopp stretches the boundaries of the '12' rating. The film attempts, quite successfully, to compete with the action blockbusters of the era, with noticeably more destructive chase scenes and a plethora of explosions.

Mike Sutton

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Brosnan, Pierce (1951-)
Coltrane, Robbie (1950-)
Dench, Judi (1934-)
Griffiths, Richard (1947-2013)
Lamont, Peter (1929-)
Llewelyn, Desmond (1914-1999)
Rawlings, Terry (1933-)
James Bond