If you’ve read my initial post in this blog, you know that I am somewhat biased when it comes to Pierce Brosnan as James Bond. But I have to say, after having watched Goldeneye, my preference for Brosnan’s interpretation of the character may be more than a simple case of teenage nostalgia. I am prepared for the possibility that my current appreciation of Brosnan’s 007 may be negated in viewing his next films, but that’s why I wanted to blog about my reaction to Goldeneye. I’ve read in numerous places that Brosnan’s Bond films after Goldeneye are mired in bad writing and hard-to-swallow plot points, which negatively affect his ratings in competition for “best Bond.” So, I thought, what if we rated him only on Goldeneye, then what would everyone think?
I personally think Brosnan did amazing work as Bond in Goldeneye. I liked him even more than Lazenby, who has been my favorite so far, which many of you probably read about here. Brosnan is obviously super attractive. He exuded charm and charisma on par with Connery, was suave and sophisticated to a fault, and was quick with the wit without being overly campy. The script was somewhat heavy-handed with its exploration of how Bond maintains his humanity while dealing with the often inhuman demands of his job, but Brosnan’s Bond was 100% more believable than Dalton in all dimensions of 007--cold-blooded killer, brooding government agent, flirtatious lover, etc. If Dalton is praised as being dark and brooding and therefore closest to Fleming’s literary Bond, Brosnan should be even more highly praised because he is able to bring in that darkness from the books while also capturing the Hollywood version of Bond who has been previously established as colorful and cliché. The film itself is more direct with its violence -- there are a lot more shoot-em-up scenes and straight up killing than any extended banter or hand-to-hand combat between enemies -- but Brosnan successfully brings levity to an otherwise straightforward action film.
Other aspects of Goldeneye made it an important and surprising viewing for this Bond franchise novice. I never expected to see Dame Judi Dench in the role of M -- I was under the impression that she didn’t take the part until the Daniel Craig era. It was a welcome surprise, and she plays the awesomely sassy role with gusto. The same can be said for the new Moneypenney. Telling Bond that he someday has to “make good on [his] innuendo” was one of the best lines in a film so far. This was a very positive film for the ladies, with Natalya being a Bond girl I could unquestionably root for. I also liked that her interactions with Bond seemed believable and that she often called the shots, not just Bond. I imagine it has something to do with the era, being in the 1990s with a couple decades of real female empowerment and sexual liberation to draw from, the writers finally wrote scenes of Bond interacting with women that seemed comfortable and realistic relative to my own experience. This was also the first film in the franchise where my understanding of Bond films as sexy and steamy actually played out on screen -- we finally got to see some real sex scenes. Granted they were scenes in which the female villain, who is sexually aroused by violence, is getting pleasure while strangling (or attempting to strangle) her partner with her legs, but still, graphic and explicit relative to what we’ve seen in previous films.
Some final, arbitrary thoughts about Goldeneye: The music was so different in this film it almost didn’t feel like a Bond score. The Bond theme was not recognizably employed until 90 minutes in. We see at least two recognizable British actors -- Alan Cumming and Minnie Driver -- playing the supporting roles of Russian characters with less than stellar Russian accents. Couldn’t they have found Russian actors (or at least Eastern European, as is the actress who played Natalya) to play those parts? I felt thrilling tension in the final scene on the ladder above the antennae dish -- kudos to the crew that pulled that off and made me cover my eyes from fear and suspense.