Opens: Nov. 17, 1995 | Rated: PG-13
There is a scene in "GoldenEye," the film that is undoubtedly the resurrection of the James Bond franchise, in which Bond is in a Russian tank chasing the villain through the streets of St. Petersburg, blasting holes in buildings and running over little European police cars, that will make Bond fans involuntarily bounce up and down in their seats.
"Finally," they will say to themselves, "after a six year hiatus, an unpopular James Bond and three lousy Roger Moore movies, finally they got it right."
If Bond was to survive into the '90s, the stale formula needed a major shake-up, and "GoldenEye" is it.
Every classic Bond element is present -- fun gadgets (laser wrist watches and Parker pen grenades), beautiful girls (how about a gorgeous computer programmer who wears miniskirts in the dead of a Siberian winter?), fantastic stunts (bungie-jumping off a dam and skydiving after a pilotless airplane) -- and a few traditions are even taken to new extremes (the bad girl with the silly name is named Xenia Onatopp).
But more importantly, even though the revamped Bond includes an infusion of latter-day action movie ingredients (the film is heavy on the guns and explosions), the unsettling sensation of international intrigue and the charm and poise of James Bond are intact.
"GoldenEye" is not, as it appears in the commercials and trailers, an action movie that happens to star James Bond. It is every inch a James Bond story.
And Pierce Brosnan is every inch James Bond. He's a little uneven and may need one more film to fully settle in the role (he's signed for three more), but he has stifled the cutesy smirk and flashing eyes of Remington Steele and has instead the cold, dark stare of a man who trusts no one.
Trust comes into play a lot in "GoldenEye." The villain is the once-trusted Double-O-Six (perpetual baddie Sean Bean from "Patriot Games") who has started a terrorist army with ex-Soviet soldiers.
With the help of his henchmen 006 takes control of a Russian weapons satellite and steals a prototype stealth helicopter, both of which are used to annihilate the satellite's tracking station in Siberia so he can use it to threaten the world. Only two people survive the attack: Natalya (stunning Polish actress Izabella Scorupco), the forementioned girl in the mini who becomes the love interest, and nerdy programmer who was working with 006 (scene-stealing Alan Cumming, "Circle of Friends").
Bond is assigned to regain control of the satellite by the new "M," a woman (esteemed British actress Judi Dench), who tells Bond she considers him "a sexist, misogynist dinosaur." She's a wonderful foil for a hero who isn't used to being put in his place by the women in his life.
These little changes -- a woman superior, a little more shoot 'em up -- are just what the Bond saga needed to succeed in the '90s. But "GoldenEye" also adds elements of symbolism (a showdown scene takes place in a graveyard of dismantled Soviet statues), explores characters' motives much more deeply than in other Bond films, and sustains a genuine tension that builds feverishly to the climax.
A few problems pop up in "GoldenEye," like special effects so loud they drown out the theme music, and as always there are forgivable little continuity errors and larger leaps of faith for some stunts. But as my uncle advised me when I questioned the feasibility of my first Bond movie, "Shut up, that's just James Bond."
See "GoldenEye" early with an enthusiastic crowd and the "just James Bond" questions will be drown out by enthusiastic cheers.
This review appeared in the Daily Republic, Fairfield, CA.
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