Wednesday, September 12, 2012

50 Years of 007 - GoldenEye

Seventeen years ago, the build up to the release of GoldenEye made Cody a Bond fan.

Eon Productions' follow-up to their 1989 James Bond film Licence to Kill had been delayed for years due to lawsuits and script rewrites (see The Lost Dalton Film), but things were finally getting back on track for them and their seventeenth Bond film was set for release in 1995.

One of the last major hurdles they had to overcome was the fact that they had no actor to play James Bond. In April of 1994, Timothy Dalton had announced that he would not return to play the character for a third time, either a personal choice after his contract had expired or a reaction to studio heads pressuring the producers to recast. The search for a new Bond led Eon back to the man who had briefly been set to star in 1987's The Living Daylights before running into scheduling and contract issues.

On June 7, 1994, a press conference was held to announce that Pierce Brosnan had signed on to star in the next 007 film, GoldenEye, becoming the fifth actor to play James Bond in Eon's series.

I remember the day that press conference was held. I was ten years old and in one of the least Bondian locations possible, spending a week in a little, permanently parked camper trailer in the middle of a woodsy campground in southern Indiana called Hillbilly Acres. My only familiarity with the Bond series at that point was the two Dalton films, the VHS boxes for previous installments that I had seen in video stores, the factory car chase from Goldfinger that I had glimpsed on television but hadn't really paid attention to, Mad magazine parodies, and a used copy of John Gardner's continuation novel Win, Lose or Die that I had in my possession but had not read. I was not yet a Bond fan, but I was already a cinephile and this was an important event concerning a very popular movie franchise, so the report of the Brosnan announcement did interest me as I watched the local news on the small, black and white TV in the tin roofed enclosed porch that was built on the camper. I had no opinion on the casting choice, but Brosnan as Bond did meet the approval of my paternal grandmother and her sister, who I was watching the news with and who I assume were familiar with Brosnan from his TV work.

After the press conference, I didn't follow the production of the coming Bond film and didn't think of it much until over a year later, during the weekend of July 7, 1995, when I went to theatre to see the movie Species. Since that film was from MGM/UA, the same distributor that would be putting out GoldenEye in November, the trailer for GoldenEye was attached to it.

The trailer begins with text: "It's a new world with new enemies and new threats, but you can still depend on one man." A man dressed in a suit and wielding a gun walks up behind the words "ON ONE MAN" and shoots the text into pieces until the letters have been broken up to form "007". The only people in the theatre to see that screening of Species other than my mother and I were a young couple, probably in their early twenties, sitting a few rows behind us. When the number "007" appeared in the trailer, the young woman gasped in surprise. When the well-dressed man, Pierce Brosnan as Bond, stepped up to the camera and asked the audience, "You were expecting someone else?", the woman cheered. The rest of the trailer consists of quick cut action shots and Brosnan delivering the "Bond, James Bond" line, and by the end of it, the woman was audibly very excited about the film and was planning to see it opening day. Nowadays, I would love to find myself on a date with a girl who would get that vocally excited over a Bond trailer and the character's return to the big screen, but on that day I still didn't get it. What was the big deal about James Bond?

When I returned home from the theatre, my thoughts mainly concerned how stunningly attractive Species star Natasha Henstridge was, but the GoldenEye trailer and my puzzlement over the girl in the audience's excitement had taken me a couple more steps toward becoming a Bond fan.

Soon after that, an extended commercial began airing on television that advertised the sale of the entire Eon Bond series on VHS in two box sets - box one contained Dr. No through Live and Let Die, box two The Man with the Golden Gun through Licence to Kill. If you ordered the box sets, you'd get a free copy of the GoldenEye shooting script with them. The commercial spent time discussing each individual film, showing choice clips from every one of them, and it was quite enticing. These movies did look very cool. With another one coming out in just a couple months, this was the perfect time to get into the series and see what this was all about. I ordered the VHS box sets. (That is, my mother ordered them for me.)

And that was it. As soon as I got the movies on VHS and began watching them, I was hooked. I did not read the copy of the GoldenEye script that came with them before I saw the movie, but I did read every article on it that crossed my path, and I watched the TV promotional/retrospective special The World of James Bond, hosted by Elizabeth Hurley, when it aired on October 29th, 1995. Since I had recorded it, I watched it several more times after that.

I'm not sure whether or not I had viewed my way through all sixteen of the previous Eon films by GoldenEye's November 17th release date. I know Live and Let Die was in my VCR when I left for the theatre, but I think I had already watched it and just wanted to listen to the title song again before I went to the new movie. However far into the series I had gotten, I was a full-fledged Bond fan by the time GoldenEye reached the screen.

I went to see GoldenEye on opening night, although the weather did its best to keep me away. As my mother and I made our way the 30 miles to the theatre, a blizzard hit and it hit hard. At times the snowfall caused total whiteouts and my mother would have to pull the car to the side of the road and wait until she had visibility again before continuing on the way. Because of the blizzard, we were late to the theatre and took our seats in the packed, nearly sold out auditorium a few minutes after the film had begun.

GoldenEye opens with Brosnan's rendition of the traditional gun barrel shot, then segues into a sequence that's set nine years before the majority of the film, during which Bond infiltrates the Arkangel Chemical Weapons Facility in the USSR, on a mission to plant bombs on the tanks containing whatever dangerous chemicals are being developed there.

The facility is located in a mountainous region, and the entry point Bond intends to sneak in through is located below a massive dam, so to reach it he bungee jumps from the top of the dam. The stunt was performed by Wayne Michaels, who earned the world record for highest bungee jump off of a fixed structure with this jump from a height of 720 feet. The jump was performed on the Verzasca Dam in Switzerland and is replicated all the time now, as the dam has become a popular destination for bungee jumping tourists. Contestants even bungee jumped off Verzasca Dam in one episode of the TV show The Amazing Race.

Bond enters the facility through the air ducts, crawling around in them until he reaches a grate into a mens restroom. A Soviet soldier sits down on the toilet and begins reading a newspaper... sensing something odd, the soldier lowers the paper and finds Bond looking at him, hanging upside down from the grate above. That's the first good look we get at the face of Brosnan's Bond. It's not exactly on the same level of classy cool as Connery's reveal in Dr. No, but it's an amusing moment.

Bond knocks the defecating soldier out and continues on his way through the facility. In a shadowy room, a man pulls a gun on him, but after a moment of tension the man is revealed to be a fellow secret service agent here to do the job "For England", Alec Trevelyan. 006.

Everything goes smoothly until 007 and 006 reach the room full of chemical tanks, so smoothly that it worries Bond, it's been too easy. He's right to be worried. When Trevelyan uses an electronic code cracking gadget to lock the door behind them, he accidentally triggers the facility's alarm system. The moment the alarm goes off about five minutes into the movie is when I was walking into the theatre in 1995.

Bond rushes to place the bombs on the tanks, set to detonate in six minutes, while Trevelyan attempts to keep the many Soviet soldiers rushing to the room at bay. Trevelyan is eventually overpowered and captured by Colonel Arkady Grigorovich Ourumov. When Bond sees Trevelyan forced to kneel in front of Ourumov with a gun to his head, he returns to the bombs and resets the timers to three minutes.

Ourumov threatens to shoot Trevelyan if Bond doesn't surrender in ten seconds. He begins to count down, and gets as far as "Two" before Trevelyan shouts, "For England, James!" Ourumov shoots him.

Despite the fact that Trevelyan has just been shot, the movie still manages to get a laugh from audiences immediately after, as Bond proceeds to slowly make his way across the room behind a squeaky-wheeled cart loaded with small tanks of chemicals. Ourumov orders his men not to shoot, lest they "blow the gas tanks", and when a soldier with a nervous trigger finger fires a bullet into the cart, Ourumov turns and shoots him.

Bond escapes from the building, finding himself on a airplane runway that dead ends at a cliff. The geography of the facility is a bit confusing, he entered it at the bottom of the dam and exits on top of a mountain.

A small airplane is taxiing down the runway and Bond manages to jump onboard and throw the pilot out. Unfortunately, Bond falls out along with the pilot and the now-empty plane keeps heading toward the cliff. Bond commandeers a motorcycle from a soldier and chases after the plane, but he's too late. The plane drives off the edge of the cliff. That doesn't stop Bond, he drives the motorcycle off the cliff right after it. He freefalls down to the plummeting plane, boards it, and pulls it out of its nosedive, managing to take off and fly away from the Arkangel Chemical Weapons Facility just as his bombs go off and the building explodes. The plane dive is too outlandish for some fans, but I have no problem with it at all.

The explosion leads us into the title sequences, which shows us that things have changed, both in the world - the sequence includes imagery that seems to signify the crumbling of the Soviet Union as the film moves forward to present day - and also for the Bond series. The sequence is designed by Daniel Kleinman, stepping in for the series' former title designer, the late Maurice Binder. The main crew on the films had stayed the same throughout the 1980s, but this time the credits are full of people who have no previous Bond experience - director Martin Campbell, writers Michael France, Jeffrey Caine, and Bruce Feirstein, cinematographer Phil Meheux, composer Eric Serra, editor Terry Rawlings, second unit director Ian Sharp. '80s production designer Peter Lamont does return.

The biggest change is that Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli, the man who had been producer on every Eon Bond film, the man who started the companies Danjaq and Eon with Harry Saltzman to make the Bond series and in 1975 gained full control when Saltzman sold him his half of the stakes, is not credited as Producer. He gets an "Albert R. Broccoli Presents" credit at the head of the titles, but had decided, as his health was failing him, that it was time to step back and turn the series over to his successors. His stepson Michael G. Wilson had had a large role in the production of the films since Moonraker and his daughter Barbara Broccoli had been working her way up the ranks since the same, now Broccoli handed over control of Eon Productions to them. Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli are the credited producers on GoldenEye, and have said that after "Cubby" oversaw the hiring of Brosnan, the making of the film was in their hands.

Accompanying the title sequence is the title song, written by U2's Bono and The Edge and performed by Tina Turner.

Like Licence to Kill, the title GoldenEye does not come from an Ian Fleming novel or short story, but Fleming is the source of it. GoldenEye was what Fleming named his house in Jamaica, where he lived when he was writing the Bond novels. During World War II, Fleming had developed Operation Goldeneye, a plan to make sure that the UK could stay in contact with Gibraltar if Spain joined the Axis and to defend Gibraltar if Germany invaded through Spain. Fleming also said that the name was an homage to the 1941 novel Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers.

When the title sequence ends, we find Bond speeding along mountain roads near Monte Carlo in his famous vehicle from Goldfinger, the silver-grey 1964 Aston Martin DB5. His nervous passenger is Caroline (Serena Gordon), who is meant to be giving him a psychological evaluation for MI6. Bond's attention is caught by an attractive brunette in a red convertible Ferrari when she passes the DB5, kicking off a reckless, high speed just-for-fun chase down the winding roads.

Fans are split on the work of Eric Serra, who only did the music for this one Bond film. I'm split on his work myself. For years, I thought I didn't like it at all, but when re-evaluating it recently I realized that some of his tracks are more effective and memorable than I had given them credit for. Some of his work on the film is pretty good, but I still dislike the music during the DB5/Ferrari chase.

Caroline eventually convinces Bond to give up the chase, so he pulls off to the side of the road, reveals there's a bottle of chilled Bollinger in the compartment between their seats, and seduces her instead.

Bond goes to a casino in Monte Carlo that night, and by coincidence the brunette from the Ferrari is there as well. Bond joins her at the Baccarat table, where they exchange some double entendres before Bond wins some money from her. The woman leaves the table and Bond follows her to the bar, where he orders a "Vodka martini. Shaken, not stirred." The woman orders the same, then they tell each other their names - "The name's Bond. James Bond." She is Xenia Zaragevna Onatopp.

Bond and Xenia discuss Russia and how things have changed there, and the fact that Bond knows her Ferrari's license plates are counterfeit, then Xenia is joined by Admiral Chuck Farrell and leaves with him before the martinis are ever served.

From the casino parking lot, Bond has a view of the harbor as Xenia and Farrell board a speedboat to go out on the Mediterranean. With a camera that has Q Branch enhancements, Bond zooms in on faces and the boat, snapping pictures. Before returning to his car, he spots a military ship anchored in the harbor, a very impressive looking helicopter sitting on deck.

The pictures Bond took were transmitted directly to his boss M's secretary back at MI6, Miss Moneypenny, and as soon as he gets back in the Aston Martin, the pictures are printed from the CD player while Moneypenny's voice comes from the radio. She informs Bond that Xenia is an ex-Soviet fighter pilot with suspected links to the Janus crime syndicate in St. Petersburg. The speedboat is paired with the yacht Manticore, which is leased to a known Janus corporate front. M has authorized Bond to observe Xenia but make no contact.

Aboard the Manticore yacht, Xenia and Farrell have an intense session of love making that ends with Xenia wrapping her legs around Farrell's torso and squeezing him with her thighs... squeezing him so hard that he can't breathe, presumably so hard that his ribs break. So hard that it kills him. What a way to go.

Bond sneaks onto the Manticore the next day and finds Farrell's dead body, a big grin on his face. A deckhand tries to attack Bond from behind, but he catches the man's reflection in a piece of yacht equipment, perhaps a reference to him seeing the reflection of an attacker in the dancer Bonita's eye at the beginning of Goldfinger. With the use of a cloth towel, Bond makes quick work of the deckhand, then uses the towel to dab his moist face.

Xenia is attending a demonstration of the helicopter Bond spotted aboard the military ship. The helicopter is the first prototype of the Tiger, a stealth helicopter that is impervious to electronic interference, radio jamming, and electromagnetic radiation. Xenia uses her feminine charms to distract the pilots while they're on the way to the helicopter, then shoots them. She and a henchman then dress in pilot uniforms and head out to the chopper.

Bond has figured out what's going on and rushes to the military ship, but he's too late. By the time he gets on board, Xenia and her sidekick are already flying away in the Tiger. The helicopter has been stolen in broad daylight, in front of dozens of witnesses.

We're then introduced to Natalya Simonova (played by Izabella Scorupco), a pretty young woman who works a computer job at the remote, snowbound Space Weapons Control Centre in Severnaya, Russia. One of Natalya's co-workers is immature super nerd Boris Grishenko, whose motto is "I am invincible!", who drops insults like "slug head", and whose idea of fun is hacking into the systems of government agencies and locking programs up with passwords that he gives Natalya hints to in the form of riddles. "They're right in front of you and can open very large doors" = Knockers.

Boris has created a search program that seizes the phone line of whoever tries to trace him and jams their modem. Password riddle: "You sit on it, but you can't take it with you." Five letters.

When Boris goes outside for a cigarette break, he sees the Tiger helicopter arrive, piloted by Xenia Onatopp. Her passenger is a familiar face: Colonel Ourumov, who has been promoted to General since we last saw him. He is now head of Space Division and he walks into the control centre to tell the Major in charge that he's there to conduct an unscheduled test firing of "GoldenEye".

After the Major follows Ourumov's orders and hands over the GoldenEye access codes and everything needed to activate it, Xenia opens fire on everyone who works in the control centre, mowing them down with her machine gun, an act that apparently sexually excites her. The only survivor in the building is Natalya, who was in the break room getting a cup of coffee and hides when she witnesses the massacre.

Ourumov and Xenia activate GoldenEye, which is an old CCCP satellite weapon in orbit around the Earth, arm it, and set its target: Severnaya. One of Xenia's victims manages to activate an alarm before she finishes them off, but Ourumov isn't concerned. The best response time to the centre is nineteen minutes. With GoldenEye set to fire on the centre, Ourumov and Xenia make their exit with the keys and disc needed to control the satellite.

I've referred to the secret service that Bond works for as MI6 throughout this series of articles, but "MI6" wasn't commonly said in the films until the Brosnan era. Previously the organization would just be called "the British secret service" or go by the cover name Universal Exports. There are a couple references to MI6 in the very first film, Dr. No, although in one case a line of M's dialogue was dubbed to say he's the head of MI7, while actor Bernard Lee's mouth was clearly saying 6. The headquarters Bond would report to were buildings around London with Universal Exports signs out front, but this time it's out in the open where he works. The real MI6 constructed a headquarters on the Thames that opened in April of 1994, and from GoldenEye on that building is where Bond reports to.

We join Bond in the MI6 building as he enters the office of Miss Moneypenny, who is now played by an actress named Samantha Bond. 007 and Moneypenny engage in some of their customary flirtatious banter, but effort is made in the dialogue to let the audience know that this Moneypenny isn't the desperate old maid of the past, she's a stronger character now, a modern '90s woman. Moneypenny has been called in to MI6 after hours, interrupting her when she was out on a date, so she's still wearing her date clothes but assures Bond, "I don't sit at home every night praying for some international incident so I can run down here all dressed up to impress James Bond." The Moneypenny of past decades probably did.

Bond is led into the Situation Room, where he meets up with Chief of Staff Bill Tanner, a good friend of Bond's in the novels who is just making his third appearance in the film series here, played this time by Michael Kitchen. MI6 has picked up the distress signal from a "supposedly abandoned radar station" in Severnaya, a place once suspected to be the ground station for a secret space-based weapon called GoldenEye, until the Russians were found to have neither the finances nor technology to make a space-based weapon. Of course, we know that MI6's findings were wrong about that.

A large monitor on the Situation Room wall shows a live satellite picture of Severnaya, and thanks to this satellite MI6 spotted the stolen Tiger helicopter at the location. The helicopter has taken flight, but three Russian MiGs were dispatched to intercept it when the alarm went off at the "radar station".

The GoldenEye satellite detonates, blasting an electromagnetic pulse down on Severnaya, sending arcs of electricity coursing all over the control centre, causing electronic equipment and monitors to explode around a very frightened Natalya. The EMP also affects the three MiGs, blowing two of them up in mid-air and sending the third crashing into control centre, adding to the destruction. Being impervious to electronic interference, the Tiger helicopter flies through the blast area with no problem.

MI6's satellite view went to static when the GoldenEye fired, leaving the Situation Room in the dark until another satellite comes into range over Severnaya after things have gone down. Bond and Tanner are quickly able to deduce that the area was hit with an EMP. GoldenEye exists. The Janus crime syndicate may be involved with what has just happened, but Bond figures that they had to have a Russian insider on the job as well, someone who could get the GoldenEye access codes.

Bond spots something on the satellite image and zooms in. Someone moving among the wreckage. A survivor. Natalya.

The new M is present in the MI6 Situation Room, introducing audiences to Judi Dench in the role that she's held for seven films to date. Casting a female M was another reflection of the real world British security service at the time, as a woman named Stella Rimington was the head of MI5 from 1992 until 1996.

At this point, Bond and Tanner have not yet grown accustomed to their new boss, with Tanner referring to her as "the evil queen of numbers." This M goes by compiled reports and what analysts say, Bond believes that she trusts those over his instincts. Their working relationship is rocky, especially so now that her analysts have been proven wrong about the existence of GoldenEye and that the stole Tiger helicopter posed no threat. M doesn't seem to like Bond very much herself, calling him a "sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War", voicing the opinion of some critics who felt that Bond couldn't be successfully brought back to the big screen, that the chararacter couldn't work in the '90s.

We also get some exposition on the Janus syndicate during a scene between M and Bond in her office. Janus are arms dealers based in St. Petersburg, they restocked the Iraqi forces during the Gulf War. There are no photographs and no reliable descriptions of the man in charge.

The word from Moscow is that the event in Severnaya was an accident on a training exercise. M had discovered that the man most likely to have authority at Severnaya was Ourumov. Once again M has to warn Bond not to turn his job into a personal vendetta, in this case he is told not to focus on getting revenge on Ourumov for the murder of 006.

Bond's mission: "...find GoldenEye. Find who took it, what they plan to do with it, and stop it."

In St. Petersburg, Russia, Ourumov delivers his report on the Severnaya incident to Defense Minister Mishkin and the security council. Among the council members is Michael G. Wilson, making his now-traditional cameo.

Ourumov blames the detonation of GoldenEye on Siberian separtists seeking to create political unrest. Since this happened under his watch, Ourumov offers his resignation, but it's not accepted. The council doesn't want Ourumov out of his job, just his assurance that something like this won't happen again. Ourumov is tripped up when he's informed that there were two survivors at Severnaya. He only knows of one, Boris Grishenko. Mishkin tells him that the body of Natalya Fyodorovna Simonova was not found among the dead. Ourumov "will investigate immediately."

Before leaving on his mission, Bond stops by the Q Branch lab and banters with the Quartermaster while gadgets are comedically and explosively tested out around them. Some things have changed since the previous Bond film, but many elements of the formula have been kept exactly the same. Q shows Bond his new weaponry-packed car, this time a BWM, and notes that he's most proud of the Stinger missile launchers hidden behind the headlights, but we'll never get to see those put to use. What Bond will use are a leather belt that has a seventy-five foot long rappelling cord built into the buckle and a retractable pen that is actually a class four grenade. Three clicks of the button and the four second fuse is armed.

After arriving in St. Petersburg, Bond meets up with his local contact, CIA agent Jack Wade. A writer named Kevin Wade had done some work on the GoldenEye screenplay, and while he's uncredited on the film, the last name of this character is a nod to his contribution. Actors have shown up in more than one Bond film playing different characters before, like Walter Gotell playing Morzeny in From Russia with Love before going on to appear in several films (starting with The Spy Who Loved Me) as General Gogol, Maud Adams playing Octopussy after being Andrea Anders in The Man with the Golden Gun, and Charles Gray showing up as Bond's short-lived ally Henderson in You Only Live Twice and then being cast four years later as Diamonds Are Forever's Blofeld. Joe Don Baker, who Timothy Dalton had gone up against as the villainous Brad Whitaker in The Living Daylights, joins their ranks with GoldenEye, returning to the series to play Jack Wade.

Wade doesn't know much about the man behind Janus, just that he's mixed up with Russian mafia and has military and KGB connections. He's rumored to live on an old armored Soviet missile train. The best Wade can do is point Bond in the direction of Janus's competition, ex-KGB agent turned arms dealer Valentin Dimitreveych Zukovsky, a "tough mother" who walks with a limp. Bond is familiar with him. "I gave him the limp." At some point in Bond's past, he shot Zukovsky in the leg, stole his car and took his girl. Now he needs the man's help finding Janus.

Bond goes to the nightclub Zukovsky operates out of and quickly finds himself captured by the arms dealer's bodyguards. While Bond and Zukovsky sit down for a chat, Zukovsky's singer mistress is up on stage practicing her show, singing a rendition of the country song "Stand by Your Man" with a voice that Bond compares to the sound of a cat being strangled. Irina is played by a pre-fame, uncredited Minnie Driver.

After Zukovsky does some mocking of Bond, cracking his men up by saying "Shaken, but not stirred", Bond gets down to business. He needs a favor, and in return he can help Zukovsky make some money. He sets Zukovsky up to make a deal selling 200 pounds of C4 explosives to a man who will then be arrested while Zukovsky's man gets away with the loot. In exchange, Zukovsky will arrange a meeting between Bond and Janus.

Zukovsky gives more information on Janus - he's a Lienz Cossack, a member of the group that worked for the Nazis against the Russians during World War II. When the Lienz Cossacks surrendered to the British at the end of the war, the British sent them back to Stalin, who had them all executed along with their wives and children.

Bond stays at the Grand Hotel Europe while waiting for Zukovsky to get back to him about the meeting with Janus. He's taking a swim in the hotel pool when a scantily clad Xenia shows up. Bond pulls a gun on her, she comes on to him, the gun gets knocked away and they proceed to toss, hit and slam each other around in a mixture of fighting and foreplay that gets Xenia as excited as gunning down the people in Severnaya did. She gets Bond in one of her crushing leg wraps, but he manages to get free of it. Retrieving his gun, Bond points it at her again and tells her to take him to Janus.

Xenia drives Bond to a local park that's full of statues, many of them toppled, related to Russia's history, a location inspired by the Fallen Monument Park in Moscow. Once they arrive, Bond knocks Xenia out and enters the park with his gun drawn.

Bond soon comes face-to-face with the man called Janus, and to his shock the man behind the crime syndicate is Alec Trevelyan. 006, the friend Bond thought was long dead. Ourumov didn't blow his brains out after all, although there was a moment cut from the pre-title sequence that would've shown a closer shot of Trevelyan getting shot in the head. That cut was a ratings board decision, but it's easier to take the twist without that effect being in there anyway.

Trevelyan reveals to Bond the reason for his betrayal while giving the audience some of Bond's backstory from Fleming's novels. Bond and Trevelyan are both orphans, but while Bond's parents died in a climbing accident, Trevelyan's parents went out in a worse way. They were Lienz Cossacks who survived being betrayed by the British and Stalin's execution squads, but his father couldn't live with the shame and eventually killed his wife and committed suicide. Trevelyan made it through MI6's screening process despite this because they thought he was too young to remember what happened to his parents. But he does remember, and though he was working for the British government, he's always planned to take his revenge on him. Thus his choice of Janus for his criminal alias, the name of a two-faced Roman god. Trevelyan also has the face to match his alias, thanks to Bond cutting the time in half on the bombs he planted in the Arkangel facility - the right side of Trevelyan's face is covered with burn scars.

Trevelyan is played by Sean Bean, who was born in 1959. Either Bean's character is meant to be much older than he is, or Trevelyan's father didn't commit the murder-suicide until after more than fourteen years had passed since the Lienz Cossack executions.

Bond and Trevelyan's meeting ends with one of Trevelyan's men firing a tranquilizer dart into Bond's neck. Bond wakes up in the Tiger helicopter with a screaming Natalya in the second seat.

Natalya had arrived in St. Petersburg around the same time as Bond and managed to contact Boris online, arranging to meet him at a church. When she went to the church, Boris sold her out and brought Xenia along to their meeting. Now she and Bond are tied up in the Tiger with a countdown on the control panel in front of Bond informing them that the helicopter's missiles will be fired in mere seconds... and the target programmed into the missiles is the Tiger itself.

Unable to use his hands, Bond bashes his head into the controls as the missiles fire and circle back toward the chopper... At the last possible second, Bond headbutts the right control and the cockpit is ejected from the helicopter right before the missiles strike.

When the cockpit settles back to the ground, Bond and Natalya are able to get free of it. And then the Russian military arrives.

Bond and Natalya are taken back to the building that housed the council chamber earlier in the film. While they wait in an interrogation room, Natalya at first holds back what she knows, but is eventually talked into telling Bond her name and that she was a systems programmer at Severnaya. She says that the traitor Bond is looking for is a computer programmer, Boris Grishenko, but Bond knows it has to be someone higher up.
Soon, Mishkin joins them in the room and gets right to the point; sure that Bond is guilty, he asks, "by what means shall we execute you?" Bond laments that sinister interrogations are a lost art. To Mishkin it appears that all of the GoldenEye troubles have been caused by this English spy and the Severnaya programmer he was found with near the remains of the Tiger. Just what the man who has betrayed Mishkin wanted it to look like.

As the exchange between Bond and Mishkin gets heated, Natalya interrupts with the revelation that the real traitor is General Ourumov and there were two GoldenEye satellites. Ourumov detonated a satellite called Petya over Severnaya, one called Mischa is still in orbit and Ourumov still has the ability to detonate it.

Then Ourumov shows up to get himself out of trouble, which he does by snatching up Bond's Walther PPK and shooting Mishkin with it. Bond has now been framed for the murder of Mishkin, and Ourumov intends for the story to end with Bond being shot while trying to escape. Ourumov calls for the guards...

Bond didn't kill the Defense Minister, but he does mow down several misguided soldiers once he gets ahold of a guard's machine gun and blasts his way out of the building. Bond is firing in self defense, but this sequence is a bit discomfiting when you consider that the people he's killing aren't intentionally villains.

Bond escapes from the building with the use of his belt's rappelling cord, but loses Natalya along the way. She's captured by Ourumov, who loads her into a car and speeds away. So Bond gives chase, stealing the nearest vehicle... which just happens to be a tank. The film's standout action sequence commences, Bond's tank pursuing Ourumov's car through the streets and alleys of St. Petersburg, causing a whole lot of property damage. The world really has changed. The previous Bond films had been banned in Russia during the Cold War, and now GoldenEye was allowed to film in the country and show the English spy hero rolling through one of their cities in a tank.

In contrast to Bond's machine gun escape, during the tank chase the film goes out of its way to show the audience that no one gets seriously injured by any of the vehicular mayhem.

The chase ends at a rail yard, where Ourumov takes Natalya aboard Janus/Trevelyan's old armored Soviet missile train that Jack Wade told us about. Bond heads the train off by parking his tank on the tracks at the opening of a tunnel, a scene filmed at the same tunnel that was featured during the train sequence of Octopussy. Trevelyan orders the train's engineer to ram the tank at full speed, and not even Bond firing at the train deters this collision, the train just keeps coming with its engine on fire.

Crashing into the tank stops the train, allowing Bond to get on board while the villains recover from the impact. A tense standoff plays out, and Ourumov has an edge because he's got a gun to Natalya's head. Trevelyan calls Bond's situation hopeless, Bond tries to get Ourumov to turn against Trevelyan by revealing his Lienz Cossack heritage. Trevelyan convinces Ourumov to think only of the money they're about to make.

Trevelyan nods for Ourumov to kill Natalya, so Bond turns and blasts Ourumov out of the movie, giving Trevelyan and Xenia a chance to escape from the train while Bond is turned away. One-inch armor plating locks down over the doors, trapping Bond and Natalya in the train car with a bomb that Trevelyan has set to go off in "six minutes. The same six minutes you gave me." That's three minutes.

Bond goes to work trying to get them out of the train car with a gadget that we hadn't been told about before: a lazer cutter in his watch. While he cuts through the floor with the lazer, Natalya checks a computer and finds that Boris is online, backing up his files. If she uses his spiking program against him, she can trace his location. Bond solves the password riddle. "You sit on it, but you can't take it with you" = Chair. A much cleaner answer to the riddle than I would've expected from Boris.

Natalya spikes Boris and traces his phone line to Cuba as the seconds tick down. Bond cuts through the floor and pulls Natalya away from the computer, getting her outside just as the train car explodes. Bond's troubles earn him a makeout session with Natalya.

Bond brings Natalya along with him as he heads to Cuba, since she knows how to disarm the GoldenEye weapon. They fly to a Caribbean island 80 miles from Cuba, and Bond also brings his BMW on this leg of the trip. Driving around the countryside is the only action the vehicle sees, then Bond quickly trades it for a small airplane that Jack Wade flies in for him. Bond warns Wade not to push any of the buttons in the BMW.

 The film could move on directly to Bond and Natalya putting the plane to use, but instead we're shown the night that they spend together in a beachside rental cabin. Natalya tries to understand Bond, how he can do the job he does, how he can be determined to go off and kill Trevelyan, someone who used to be his friend. And how he can be so cold about it? Bond says that's what keeps him alive, Natalya says it's what keeps him alone. But he's not alone tonight.

They put the plane to use the next day, flying over the Cuban jungle to look for a satellite dish the size of a football field, which isn't supposed to exist. The dish is there, but it's well hidden. When not in use, it's at the bottom of a lake that drains away when the dish rises.

Bond and Natalya are clued in on the fact that they're in the right area when a rocket is fired at their plane from beneath the lake water. The rocket smashes through one of their wings, setting the plane on fire. They crash at the edge of the lake, and then the satellite dish rises up from the depths.

The stage is now set for Bond and Natalya to have their final confrontations with Trevelyan, Xenia, and Boris. If our heroes fail, Trevelyan intends to break into the Bank of England via computer and empty it out, transferring the money electronically seconds before the GoldenEye satellite Mischa is detonated over London. The EMP blast will not only wipe out the bank's records, but everything on every computer in the city. "Tax records, the stock market, credit ratings, land registries, criminal records." Trevelyan wants to send the United Kingdom back to the Stone Age and cause a worldwide financial meltdown. The basic idea of a man who appeared to be working for England turning against the country and threatening London with a weapon of mass destruction harkens back to Fleming's Moonraker novel.

Bond gets another psychological analysis from Trevelyan, who believes Bond drinks martinis to "silence the screams" of all the men he's killed and wonders if Bond finds "forgiveness in the arms of all those willing women" for all the dead ones he failed to protect.

Then the former friends fight to the death.

Like Dalton's two films, there was more than one original song recorded for GoldenEye, and as the end credits roll they're accompanied by "The Experience of Love", which is performed by Eric Serra but I'll forgive you if you think it sounds like Sting.

As I exited the theatre to the sounds of "The Experience of Love" and made my way back out into the snowy weather on the night of November 17, 1995, I was entirely satisfied with my first big screen Bond. GoldenEye had instantly become one of my favorite films in the series, and I was very impressed with Pierce Brosnan's portrayal of James Bond. I had chosen a great time to become a fan.

GoldenEye perfectly brought Bond into the '90s. The film took all of its challenges head-on, starting with the criticism that Bond couldn't exist in a post-Cold War world. Instead of backing away from that, the filmmakers set their story around post-Cold War Russia and proved that Bond could still work in the new era. It is a very '90s film, as evidenced by the overdose of characters doing psychological analyses of Bond's character.

While the six year gap between LTK and this film wasn't a good time for fans or Eon, it did help the general audience go from being tired of Bond films to being anxious to get another. To help win viewers over again, fresh perspectives were brought in behind the scenes - resulting in a film that looks much better than many of the ones John Glen directed in the '80s - and they widened the scope back up, delivering what feels like a much bigger adventure than the largely scaled down films of the '80s.

The villains are particularly strong and memorable, from Sean Bean's 006 being the most successful attempt to make the bad guy a villainous reflection of Bond, to Alan Cumming's severely nerdy Boris and Gottfried John's Ourumov. The standout of them all for me, as shown by the number of screen caps of her in this article, is Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp. Her character is awesome and Janssen is amazing and captivating in the role. The film wouldn't be what it is without Onatopp, her orgasmic reaction to violence, and her killer thighs.

I have criticised the series' over-reliance on formula, where at times it has felt like the movies were just assembled by checking off elements and scenes on a list, but the fact that the formula remains intact for this film despite the changes in the world around them does help prove Eon's point that Bond could still work. Though Brosnan was new and unproven in the lead, his portrayal of Bond himself is like an amalgamation of everything the audience had come to expect from the character. He can be as rough as Sean Connery, he can be as silly as Roger Moore. It went over well.

Pretty much everything about the film went over well. GoldenEye was very well received and a huge hit at the box office, unseating Moonraker as the most successful film in the series (numbers not adjusted for inflation.)

My opinion on Brosnan has slipped downhill since 1995. As time goes on, I have more and more issues with his Bond. I have previously spotted things I didn't like about his performance in later films, but before rewatching the movie for this article I thought GoldenEye was the one where he really got it right. This time, I was noticing Brosnan make very questionable acting decisions that were driving me crazy. He had odd expressions, at times when he hits his mark he seems to just be posing for the camera, he's got some strange line deliveries, and he's like Bond as a smarmy male model. My mother once said that she never liked Brosnan as Bond because he seemed "too prissy" in the role, and I can see what she means. What worked for me in 1995 does not work so well for me now.

But Brosnan does not sink GoldenEye for me. The movie doesn't rank as highly for me as it once did, but I still do think that it's a great entry in the series, and it was the perfect Bond film for the time when it came out.

I have an even deeper connection and appreciation for this film due to the fantastic video game based on it that was released for the Nintendo 64 in the summer of 1997. I spent many, many hours of my youth playing that game, and it does add a whole new level of entertainment to the film when you have gone through every location in the movie playing as Bond. My favorite map in the video game was the Arkangel Chemical Weapons Facility. I could spend hours just going around the facility, screwing up mission objectives and then finding a good location to make my stand and try to hold off the endless stream of armed guards for as long as possible. Those were good times.

GoldenEye is dedicated to the memory of visual effects artist Derek Meddings, who worked on several Bond films and supervised the very cool miniature work on display in GE.


  1. Excellent review - love your perspective on Xenia Onatopp.

  2. As all of them have been - a fine overview of the movie. One quibble - Minnie Driver wasn't pre-fame - she was already well known for Circle of Friends. It was so nice to go to a Bond movie again after 6 years. You would think I would of course been at the first show - but no. I was working on the CBS series American Gothic, and we went late on that Friday. There had been some talk of cutting me loose for the last show - but we were still deep in shooting when the 9 o'clock hour rolled around. So, for the first, only, and last time since I'd been taking myself to the Bond movies - I didn't go until the first show on Saturday. I am so known as a Bond fan that while working on Dawson's Creek when the next two came out - they actually let me leave, go see the noon show on Friday and come back to work. These days I schedule the day off months earlier. I enjoyed GoldenEye - but I would have watched anything if it had Bond, action, and the Bond theme. Oh wait - this movie actually didn't have the Bond theme - as Eric Serra convinced the producers it was passe. The only time it would have been heard was the gunbarrel. After they screened the movie, Wilson and Broccoli disagreed and went back to have the Bond theme added (by a different composer) to the tank chase. Serra's score is terrible - as bad as Michel Legrand's for Never Say Never Again - and at least Legrand has the excuse that he was legally prevented from using the Bond theme! And so much pre-release hoopla! Commercials, TV specials, games and app-like things you could get on America Online - like a puzzle game where the grenade pen falls out of the BMW (represented with some really bad animation) and you have to reconstruct its innards. I had all this stuff on my Mac computer at that time - that computer died a hard drive death in 2004, and although I'd also copied all of this stuff to 3.5 inch floppies - it seems irretrievable now.

    But this movie was a grand reintroduction to the Bond movies - at the time. Now, looking back - it's good - but not great. Brosnan's hair is risible; and they filmmakers really do go right down a virtual checklist, hitting things that must occur in a 007 movie. I like a great many of its parts - I just don't think they add up to top shelf 007. The game however - for the N64? They still haven't topped it.

  3. Fantastic review I love the James Bond series of films and I've got to say the time and effort you put in here really amazes me. Keep up the great work and check out my own 007 blog.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting! Writing this series of articles was a lot of fun. I will definitely be giving your 007 blog a look, I'm always interested in hearing more perspectives on Bond.

      - Cody