"You know the name. You know the number."
Gross (US; Worldwide): $106,400,000; $350,700,000
Producer: Barbara Broccoli & Michael G. Wilson (MGM-UA)
Writer: Michael France (Screenplay by: Bruce Feirstein & Jeffrey Caine)
Director: J. Martin Campbell
Based On: Original Screenplay.
Stars: Pierce Brosnan as James Bond 007, Sean Bean (as 006 Alec Trevelyan), Izabella Scorupco (as Natalya Simonova), Famke Janssen (as Xenia Onatopp), Gottfried John (as General Ourumov), Alan Cumming (as Boris Grishenko); Co-Starring Joe Don Baker as Jack Wade and Robbie Coltrane as Valentin Zukovsky; Also Starring Desmond Llewelyn as Q, Judi Dench as M, and Samantha Bond as Miss Moneypenny.
Plot: While Bond is assigned to track suspected Janus (a Russian syndicate) agent Xenia, a French helicopter immune to electronic interference is stolen and later found at Severnya, Russia, the site of space-based-weapon Goldeneye disastrous and deadly "test." Bond is sent to find who stole the access codes to Goldeneye, and a young computer programmer named Natalya who escaped the blast implicates Boris, another programmer, and the head of the Space Division, General Ourumov, an old enemy of Bond (in 1986, he killed Bond's fellow agent 006). What Bond finds out is that Ourumov is working for Janus, and Janus isn't who he seems. CIA agent Jack Wade and one-time KGB agent Valentin Zukovsky help Bond to locate Janus, whose goal is evidently to use the weapon to destroy everything electronic in London, in effect destroying London itself.
Commentary: If this movie had sucked, it would have been all over for 007. No more movies…
But thank God, it doesn't. It took six years, but the producers found an actor to portray Bond on par with Moore (who may get better in time), and deliver a damn fine film…the best Bond film to date, in fact (a rather unpopular assertion, no doubt, but true nonetheless). This movie has everything a Bond film needs - but not too much of everything for it to feel clichéd (need I mention You Only Live Twice?). Some may not like to admit that a modern film (meaning one without Connery) could be the best, but feelings of loyalty to the 007 cannot get in the way for this critic. Everything just feels right about this film - nothing is padded, or extended, or overblown…they took their time and crafted one of the few 007 pictures that could actually compete with a real film.
Firstly, the script is one of the most professional and clever. A transitional piece moving from the cold-war-era into the modern day, it exploits the significance of the demise of nation-enemies (such as Russia) and the rise of the syndicate and terrorist bad guys that are characterizing the new world order. Except for Russia and Daylights, Bond-write-for-the-90's Bruce Feirstein crafts one of the few scripts that accurately comments on the real world. This can be a bad thing, of course, if it doesn't blend well with the Bond formula, but that is no problem here. Bond is still Bond.
The villain's plan is not so-over-the-top to be impossible but not realistic enough to be probable - the perfect mix. But the way they go about executing their plan - via the help of actual technology such as IBM computers - is a welcome first. Gone are the days of the nonsensical space-based laser-diamond-weapon-systems. And hopefully those days will never return.
006 is the perfect adversary for Bond, and elevated to the American public the stature of Sean Bean as a serious actor, something the Britons were already well aware of. Famke Jannsen starts off a pretty impressive movie career, for a Bond girl that is (she did a damn good job in X-Men, and you know it). Even unknowns such as Gottfried John (as Ourumov) and Alan Cumming (as Boris) play out their parts perfectly, making for the best collection (a quartet, if you will) of villains in one single film.
Izabella Scorupco also shows off her acting chops while simultaneously showing off other things. She really seems to take the role seriously, and whether the desire to make her more of a real world person came from within, from the writers, or both, it really does pay off. All in all, even if the plot were bad, the acting and the characters themselves would have pulled the film pull through. Even the new Moneypenny comes across pretty decent in her first outing, putting to rest those awful memories of the Timothy Dalton diabolical secretary-to-M. And speaking of M, Judi Dench is probably the only woman who could have pulled off the transition from a man to a woman without inciting riots in the theatre. Her character is rigid here, and appropriately so, but her confrontations with Bond are well written and provide for great entertainment. Her character will grow and is responsible for many of the highpoints of Brosnan's later films, as is the reappearance of Jack Wade (played by Joe Don Baker, making the lackluster memories of his Daylights' Whitaker very faint indeed) and Coltrane's Valentin, both making their first (and perhaps finest) outings here.
Despite being produced three years before the technological revolution of 1997, this film boasts amazing action sequences and stunts, a great portion of which are due to actual stunt doubles and superb miniature sets. Computers-generated action scenes are the norm now, but looking back to this film, it makes one wonder why we even needed to change. The eye-opening, stunt-riddled teaser and the tank sequence are forever etched into the minds of Bond aficionados, and most likely any regular people who happened to view this film. As for the gadgets are at an acceptable level, but aren't so futuristic that they come as being silly. Maybe they're only ten years down the road J
Now the most important aspect of the film on which to comment, is of course, Pierce Brosnan. He would have been to young to portray Bond in the mid-eighties when the producers sought him, and a disaster would have resulted. Bond most likely wouldn't be around today. Thankfully, here, he's the perfect age, has acquired the perfect acting skills for Bond, a Bond of a new era, that is. He has the seriousness of Connery, the humor of Moore, and the dangerousness Dalton, however, at this point, he can only surpass Dalton. Perhaps after his fourth film he'll move above the ranks of Connery, but most likely never Moore (remember, Roger Moore is the official bond of thejbw.com). But for his first film, Brosnan seems to have put more thought and devotion into it as compared to the first outing of any previous actor, including Moore (remember Live and Let Die? Ugh!). Brosnan is a fantastic choice as the new Bond, according to moviegoers, anyway. The first Bond film to make over 100 million, and put the producers at ease. Bond himself may be a little altered - a little more politically correct - but lines like "she enjoyed a good squeeze" remind us he's still mostly incorrect…as he should be. Many people have wanted to change Bond over the years - the way Bond is played and the way the films work - but they'll never get their wish. It's okay to have Bond develop - in fact, that's helped to keep him alive so along - but when you no longer feel like you're watching a "sexist…dinosaur" blow people to hell all the while making snide comments, then it's time to wave goodbye.
But this movie proved that Bond waving goodbye isn't going to happen anytime soon. The producers and writers may never realize that there was the perfect mix for a 007 outing, but I can't see us going back to the days of Golden Gun. Brosnan hasn't had a bad outing yet, and that's something none of the actors can boast - especially Moore!