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25 Years Later: GoldenEye

21 November 20 words: Miriam Blakemore-Hoy

We might still have to wait a bit longer for the latest Bond outing, but now is the perfect time to revisit the 1995 classic GoldenEye, writes Miriam Blakemore-Hoy...

Director: Martin Campbell
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Izabella Scorupco
Running time: 130 minutes

As far as Bond films go, GoldenEye has endured pretty darn well. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it may have ended up a favourite among favourites. Not only did it spawn an extremely successful computer game in 1997 but it also went on to re-cement the Bond traditions that had taken a dark tail dive during the Dalton era.

Cut from a very classic template, the eighteenth film in the franchise checks all the boxes: high speed car race, casino flirtations, ridiculous stunts, villainous sidekicks and the usual banter with Moneypenny - but it’s also so much more. GoldenEye was Pierce Brosnan’s first outing as Bond, and unarguably his best. Yet, for the first few moments we don’t even see his face. He is merely a figure in black racing across a ludicrously high dam where he pauses, suspended for a moment before diving hundreds of feet through the air. 

All rationality is put on hold, because somehow the ridiculously unbelievable things he is doing are somehow perfectly reasonable. Epic getaway by jumping off a cliff, via a motorbike and ending up in a plane, without touching the ground…? Sure! If anyone can do it, James can. He might be back fighting the old shadowy enemy Mother Russian, but the stakes are higher. The megalomaniacal villain with the super weapon can not only target anywhere in the world, but he is using technology to do it. During the nineties, there was a rash of films that all centre on the terrible effects of the EMP, but this one deserves credit for making it slick and sexy – anyone care for a golden key card in a briefcase? 

Bond must uncover the baddie under the strict and watchful eye of Judi Dench’s new ‘M’ whose acerbic wit and sardonic demeanour are a perfect tonic to Bond’s quippy cheesiness. In fact, this film is full of strong(ish) female characters, including the cartoonishly named Xenia Onatopp (Famke Jansson), who achieves orgasmic delight by crushing her opponents between her thighs, and the sensible, highly skilled Natalya (Izabella Scorupco) who can hack computers, reload pistols and survive huge explosions.

The real genius of the film lies in the relationship between the two ‘00’ agents

But the real test of calibre for any Bond movie is the main villain and it’s important to remember 25 years later, just how unexpected and exciting the major twist is. While the film opens with Bond’s partner Agent 006, Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) being brutally shot right in front of him, it stands to reason that the last person you’d expect to be behind the dubious and shadowy Janus Syndicate is the same man, especially since Bond blew up the building he left Trevelyan lying in.

Yet here is where the real genius of the film lies – in the relationship between the two ‘00’ agents; both orphans, both trained to fight on her majesty’s secret service, but both finding themselves on opposite sides of a long war. While Trevelyan holds a grudge against Bond for accidentally blowing him up three minutes too early, you still get a sense of brotherliness, both from Trevelyan’s admission that he considered asking Bond to join his cause, to Bond’s utter dismay at his old partner’s betrayal. 

This leads to one of the most epic demises for a Bond villain, after an extremely brutal and well-choreographed fight scene. Not only does Bond deliberately drop Trevelyan hundreds of feet, stating that he is doing this for himself, not for his queen and country, but he also coolly takes off in a helicopter, as a giant satellite dish, pointy end first, smashes its way on top of Alec’s broken body. You get the sense this is one of the deaths that Bond will carry with him.

Did you know? GoldenEye was the first Bond film to be bound by a three-picture deal with BMW. The BMW Z3 was featured in the film months before the roadster’s release, and a limited edition "007 model" sold out within a day of being available to order.

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