As we cautiously approach the modern era of Eon’s Bond series we encounter previously unheard-of hardships: a five year gap between films, a new actor that was – almost – his own predecessor, a monumentally ugly villain’s lair that turned out to be the real-life home of British espionage and a major London landmark, a new M, the Secret Service being called MI6, chilling new interpretations of orthography… the list is endless. CBn’s resident notary Jacques Stewart sets out to chronicle the most inteResting examples in the 007th Minute of ‘Goldeneye’. As always opinionated.
Agree or disagree in this thread.
The 1980s. Custodian of my childhood. Bringer of the Austin Montego, Kevin the Gerbil, acid-washed jeans and absolutely nothing else. Remover of Charles Hawtrey, the Ayatollah Khomeini and tolerable Doctor Who.
Apologist for four-and-a-half duff James Bond films.
That exquisite first hour of The Living Daylights almost compensates, but has no real prospect of succeeding against James Bond XII: Underage, Undershaven, Underwater and Under a Geriatric; James Bond XIII: The Jewels ‘n’ the Clown; James Bond XIV: Aching, Baking and Earthquaking; James Bond XV: The Usual Letdown and James Bond XVI: Really Don’t Bother.
Quite a bit to put right, then.
With awards-bothering Skyfall laying waste to all that dares cross its path, be it ‘Obbitses, vampires or narrative coherence, it can be hard to recall – or recognise – GoldenEye’s achievement. Given the parlous state of Bond at the time, the films exhausted and unpopular, Mr Gardner grinding out his contractual obligation in ever more contractually-obliged ways, there was considerable doubt whether Bond films would return, could return, whether they would find an audience, whether there was any point. Whilst its supporters would claim that Licence to Kill wasn’t a disaster given that it recouped five times its budget , five times sod all is sodallsodallsodallsodallsodall (science fact). If the 1980s taught us anything – apart from never rub another man’s rhubarb – it’s that with Bond films, chuck money abite. Cheapo Bond gets noticed. You can’t make it with donkeycock, roadkill and offcuts of sickly bald Romanian orphan and not be found out. Speculate to accumulate, and spending lots on GoldenEye must have been pretty blimmin’ speculative. Change required.
Artistic merits of the decision aside, on a business basis Timothy Dalton had to go. Nobly, he went. Save for how he enunciated his Ts, he hadn’t clicked, and MGM/UA had shareholders to feed and receivers to fend off with a rickety chair and a whip. What was needed was a Bond built by a corporation to appeal to every demographic but not too strongly in any direction otherwise it could alienate, a Toyota Corolla of a James Bond, a reliable mass-market unthreatening consumer good, an item.
Gambolling off the conveyor skipped something calling itself a Pierce Brosnan. Halves of everything, Fate having associated him with Bond for many years in the PublicEye, and Luck not having exposed to the mass audience his astonishingly recondite talent beyond the challenging role of Man What Gets Fruit Thrown At Him in Mrs Doootfiah, subject to any prior demands on his time with knitting catalogue shoots, he was patently the chap. Bros-Nan, with GoldenEye as his definition, was a brilliantly populist strategy, bringing us something for everyone along with absolutely nothing for anyone looking for anything specific.
I am being unfair, aren’t I? He is, and remains, a good-looking bloke and I’m sure he’s a giggle after a few Guinnii. It’s just…
it’s just when he opens his mouth and that eccentric noise emanates, that nasal whispershout drone that sounds like it’s being phoned-in along with the rest of his performance, that any pretence of goodwill evaporates. I am content, truly, watching him running around in that hilarious little way of his (bless) and his gurnycumface is a solid bit of comedy business, but listening to him masticate dialogue like a Labrador chewing a hot potato; Christ. Still, that appealing face of his on a poster, on a toaster, on periodicals for every gender demographic – Timothy Dalton got Wolfman Weekly, s’about it – and as you can’t hear him speak when on the cover of men’s magazines, women’s magazines, magazines for dogs (the only ones who can hear what he’s saying) and office supplies catalogues, he’s the perfect Bond for blanket shock-and-awe marketing, something taking root at the time of Licence to Kill (couldn’t cope; outBatted) and a norm by 1995. A fantastic all-round vehicle for getting Bond back into the public consciousness, this Brosnan. Just ignore the irritating whine when you give it a spin. Not just a brilliant corporate device, but an ideal Bond to take home to meet your gran –might fancy her chances, especially if she likes her shoulder being gnawed. ConneryBond would indeed leap on her, but only to prise out her gold teeth; Dalt-Ton would scare her, probably eat her and lie in wait for her granddaughter to bring apples; George and little Daniel –keep them away, unless you want her killed, neither of them are terribly lucky wiv da ladies, and Uncle Roger would have a hootsome time trying on her frocks.
I accept – obviously – that all we do when watching Bond is expose ourselves to moneyraking commercial compromises rather than visionary art; it’s just that other Bond films tend to disguise it better. With GoldenEye, once over the instant delight – pride, even? – at seeing Bond again at all, you can see, feel, hear the design crunching through, so much a cold-hearted checklist that it’s good at absolutely everything (even the music, it’s a grower) but the only excel in it is the Microsoft one; the whiff of focus groups and spreadsheets – and fear – is its lingering basenote aroma. It’s just too smooth, it’s just too ideal, to be anything other than respected for what it achieved for the series’ longevity. Thanked, yes; enormously. Admired for the fact that it’s generally coherent and isn’t a total rehash despite all the demands placed upon it. Liked? That’s asking too much. This isn’t about product placement, although it is ghastly here, especially that inert BMW hairdryer skateboard thing – with five forward gears (ooh, mercy) – that Bond apparently has to drive. Those who express shock at the amount of placement throughout the series patently haven’t read On Her Majesty’s Secret Service which splays adverts in wild abandon including, brilliantly crassly, one for a film of the author’s own novel . No, not that, amusingly chilling though it is to see Mr Brosnan having cans of Perrier thrown at his lovely, lovely face; this rant concerns the exploitative nature of the enterprise.
Bond. James Bond. You know the name. You know the number. You know the drill. So we’re going to manipulate you with it. This Bond is a lickle bit of Connery brooding-stillness; but not too much, he was surly. A bit of Moorey lightness of touch and quipnology and clotheshorsemanship; but not too much, he was daft. More Lazenby than they were expecting, but that was accidental unless they sat through Taffin only to conclude that BrosNan was good. Moments of Dalton, but not too much, he was terrifying, and the only RSC the audience should think about is Replacement Sean Connery. Bit from here, bit from there, bland it together, shove it through a mincer (much mincing in GoldenEye) and sell it to the Bond-starved, they haven’t eaten for six years. Look, we’ve powerhosestripped the carcass for the bits you liked and created mechanically reconstituted Bond-like film treat.
Absent a defining characteristic, Brosnan’s is the perfect 007 for those who aren’t too bothered with James Bond and want it all pressed into one place to save time – comprising most of the audience, admittedly, and GoldenEye is popular amongst fairweather fans or those with proper lives to lead – or for persons new to it and who didn’t know what a James Bond was, a tasting menu of a little bit of everything in case you can’t decide. That bunch, the newbies coming to it with GoldenEye, often proclaim it as a benchmark. Words of one syllable now. That. Was. The. Point. You. Cret. Ins. Coldly manipulated by a dark-hearted film, the poor mindless slugheads. So programmed towards its blatant aim at luring a “new generation” that an enterprising someperson could turn it into a video-machine game thing, were we to crave indulging the wheezy, indolent, anti-social, underdeodorised and fat.
The headless, divergent nature of the rest of the Brosnan era demonstrates that the producers couldn’t decide what he was meant to be, either. Tomorrow Never Dies’ Action Stallion? The World is not Enough’s ErUmErDunno But It’s Not Good? Die Another Day’s Bloaty Cack-Walrus? Perhaps he told them but they didn’t understand. Shouldn’t have asked him to mime; they’d be none the wiser.
Getting ahead of one’s self there. Brosnan is the perfect Bond for the films he was in. Is that kinder? New Minis, the lot of them, GoldenEye especially. Better made than the originals, loads more technology, smoother and slicker, stuff from the parts bin and pointedly retro with deliberate styling references: but query whether it’s the true experience or a bloated, cynical wrenching at suggested memories, a faceless corporation plunging its hands into your past – and wallet – and squeezing, hard, whilst it misses the point even if, for a tiny teardrop of time, we were interested. Amusing how an evidently corporate Bond would be undone a few years later by an ostensibly artistic decision to reboot and recast but one has GoldenEye’s success to thank for that. It gave them the confidence (and the financial wherewithal) to risk Daniel Craig. Without GoldenEye’s success, without getting Bond back into the consciousness with four bread-and-butter vehicles, they wouldn’t have dared. Without the successful Brosnans as the foundation, this one in particular, there would have been nothing to move forward with, nothing to demonstrate how capable they really were. Casino Royale could only happen because of the Brosnan success, and also because they could afford to then drop him. As such, GoldenEye is important for its extrinsic impact, far more than for what it is.
Now just another Bond film on the shelf, three-quarters of the way along, is GoldenEye really any good? As a means to remind us of Bee Ohh Enn Dee it works tremendously well, superficially, but as a Bond film in the middle of the pack, as part of a series, it can prove a peculiar experience, standing to one side as an archly detached commentary, self-aware rather than self-confident. Insofar as it lowers itself to take part, an entertaining Greatest Hits package with some new tunes to trick you into buying it – Female M, mirthsomely crass introspective moments – but no more than cleaned-up popular classics, so much a run-through of the archetypical playlist that if “they” had cast a Wayans person and called it “Bond Movie” instead, little difference. With a cast drawn from TV and sitcom favourites and a ludicrously accented leading mannequin, teetering so closely to spoof, contained within its little bubble it smart-Trevelyans itself into a corner, leaving its immediate successors floundering for purpose. Everything they had to say was said in GoldenEye; there was nowhere left for BrosBond to go, convincingly. Such mild deconstruction of the character as there is, is over by the end of this film. Once released, saved the series it may have but it totally undermines any artistic point that the remaining Brosnan films could serve, and they have problems enough. Admittedly, the producers may not have been confident that there would have been further films in which to indulge in layerpeeling, hence GoldenEye’s self-contained nature and completeness of “conclusion” about James Bond. The other three tread water as best they can; not waving but drowning. Unlike the Craigs, constructing a character, when GoldenEye starts with the leading part being James Bond already, there’s little to pick apart. Peeling back the layers is fine, if there’s anything that’s been built up underneath waiting to be uncovered. There wasn’t.
Still, the manner in which Bond did return proved itself such an instant blast of The Good Old Days, brazenly hitting the buttons that anyone out to produce A Bond Film solely from listening to a third party’s woozily drunken fireside recollection of them, would gleefully punch: wacky airborne stunts, good-looking and charismatic leading man, dinner jacket, Aston Martin, double-entendre and flirtation, casinos and high living, wicked witches, toe-curling pantomime dialogue, absurd escapes, amusing destruction of public property, villain with a poorly-thought-through plot that’s immaterial to the entertainment value, underwater secret base, Q, M, Moneypenny, gadgets, martinis, gunplay, snoggage, saving the world from whatever it was the villain was up to and everyone goes home happy and is glad it returned. For those who state that this was a (cautious) reboot, I can’t agree; seen as an endpoint, it turns from being a straightjacket undermining what comes next, into a joyous encapsulation of all that has gone before, the end of v1.0. You could skip straight from this to Casino Royale and lose damn all. I appreciate that makes the next three films redundant and Die Another Day in particular a colossal waste of everyone’s time. Absence of particular waste matter, presence of particular consulting detective.
Prior to the 007th minute, we’ve had a stiff-backed gunbarrel, a dire warning of the raw emotive power of the lead performance to which we should have paid greater heed. The bungy-jump is a terrific, wonderful stunt, although when the camera rises behind the chap, one can see a perfectly serviceable set of steps. One assumes that it’s yet another of the “time passing” comments that Bond leaps from a dam and out of a mild spring straight down onto what is subsequently revealed as an icy winter mountaintop with a lickle miniature factory on it. Strange seasons, stranger geography.
Strange entrance: bouffant supersonic twerp upside down in a loo cubicle, wrapping his teeth round some meaty dialogue whilst stared at by a naked-from-the-waist-down middle aged man. One wonders quite what one is to make of all this; additionally unclear how long Bond’s been there… watching. Listening. Snorting the Whiff. Urr. And then three extraordinary seconds, the camp sashay down the stairs. What is this? Can’t act, definitely can’t sing, can mince a little? It’s very unbutch. Fab. For one reason or another it’s my favouritest bit of GoldenEye; the rest is practically unwatchable in a single sit, takes forever to get going after this top-drawer pre-credits. James hooks up with his boyfriend, they troll along to blowzergaztanks and trade banter about ale (James Bond film?) and determine that half of everything – that would be every thing – is luck and the other half fate, “everything” including my ‘fridge, some badgers and a pebble; this seems an odd and unproveable theorem.
Then things get right mammary and no mistake.
0.06.00 – 0.07.00 GoldenEye
So young Alec is kneeling in front of a man who threatens to shoot off in his face whilst watched by some very portly soldiers. What is this place? I want to visit.
Right, well, Sean Bean. Hmm. The jealous younger brother angle is more diverting than the tiresome “mentor gone bad” stuff that it could otherwise have been, although given the mild ticking off Britain/England/Wherever gets about the massacre of the Lienz Cossacks one has to wonder how old Trevelyan is meant to be. That background seems to chime for a more mature face than “surprise villain” Sean Bean, such a very well-kept surprise right up to the point his name appears second in the opening credits. Still don’t get how he survives being shot, other than he does and even that’s not the most distracting part of the character. No-one in “England” has ever spoken with an accent like that. Ever. Get Messrs Bean and Brosnan in the same scene – and they all-too-frequently are – and it’s like eavesdropping on the Swedish Chef and, well, Mr Bean reciting Finnegans Wake from drunken memory whilst Fritzled in a cellar half a mile off. It’s very distracting and another reason not to take this tosh seriously.
OK, so Bond reduces the countdown time to three minutes from (oho!) 0.06. Is this some mad passionate suicide pact? I Can’t Live, If Living Is Without You / I Can’t Hear, A Bloody Word That You Say? For whatever reason this seems to be a motivating factor in Trevelyan’s miffed attitude towards Bond later on, although it’s not readily apparent how the gas tanks blowing up a bit early caused the man’s scarring, or only scarring to his face and not, say, incinerated him, nor quite what he would have done with the extra three minutes had he had the benefit of them; boiled a nice chucky-egg? Yum.
Colonel Ourumov actually seems quite nice. Is it just me? Very appealing gloves, too. Shame his death goes almost unrecognised, almost as incidental as that fat masked S+M bloke in the Battyman film last year. The sort of things my children make me watch, eh?
For England; so bugger Wales? I thought he wanted to save them. Perhaps that’s why, y’never know with Hollywood types and their “proclivities”. Since when was it the English Secret Service, then? The ultimate threat to “England” and its Land Registry is probably the most badly-conceived dastardly scheme: nick cash from the Bank of England then destroy the British economy, hmm? OK, so whatever currency you put the money in, it’s likely to suffer a bit from that, no? No? Appreciating that Bonds have had a habit, 1977 onwards, of overplaying Britain’s significance, whilst GoldenEye generally adheres to such silliness, insofar as Britain’s position is actually significant to the plot it underestimates it very weirdly.
Yeah, just shoot him. His knowledge of the Act of Union is all over the place although the long, lingering glances earlier on, by the meat rack, between oooooh-six and oooooh-seven suggest that the chances of another act of union were otherwise pretty high. Colonel Ourumov does not approve of such things, any more than he approves of blowing gas tanks. Which is probably a very filthy euphemism. Do hope so.
Bros-Nan looks upset. That’s his upset face, everyone. Apparently. Lick the acting. Not the screen.
Multiple (two) choice quiz, everyone. As Bond amusingly tensely wheels the trolley along, is that monstrous squealing noise a ) the sound of a billion fat spinsters screeching in pleasure at the lovely man and his smashing hair and the thought he’d look twice at them or b ) the sound Pierce Eardrum makes when he’s humming? It’s probably b ). a ) is a bit unlikely, the tangible homosexual undercurrent of GoldenEye aside: women in this film are either harridans, psychopaths, workdrones or a subspecie of macaque. It’s progress, albeit in reverse.
I told you Colonel Ourumov was nice: he’s smiling, and now his face is moving about in all sorts of weird shapes. Perhaps a gas tank has gone off, or he’s finally succumbed to the pent-up atmosphere and is giving Bond some of the old come-hither.
Oh no! That supporting artiste is about to shoot his load! So much dynamic tension. Just on the money shot, we hit
And then he motorcycles off of a mountain and nothing happens for an hour. There’s a cool bit with a tank, and stuff occurs. Then a tone-deaf man sings us a song and he marries Meryl Streep, or something.
Come to think of it, there was once a point behind these pieces, wasn’t there – how far is the 007th minute of each Bond film representative of a series norm (and, by accident, how often does something rather magnificent happen right at the point that 007 is on the clocknodger?). Given that GoldenEye is an explicit exercise in tickling norms, it might show itself as disappearing up its own backside in self-reverential smugness. Bit like these articles.
Still, onward my lovelies:
Dr No: Brits a-perilled! Send for the besuited gambly anachronism. GoldenEye gives us plenty, fair wraps itself in the flag although it can’t identify which nation’s. There are photocopier salesman-level suits, big hair and a regrettable pullover / cravat affair. Lots of well-dressed carnage, Rambeau Brummell doing some simply super murdering without any tangible effect on his psyche despite people telling him it should. And there’s gambling. It’s carrrds. Well, yay.
From Russia with Love: parallel villainy. Yep, that’s here too, the most direct parallel there could be without going the full DoubleShot. 006 seems physically competent and there’s a brutal fight at the end, but all it comes down to is just some fighting; seems a missed opportunity not to have a former blond and probably homosexual memorial-walled betrayed agent as a more devious and cerebral villain using his computer genius to tear SIS apart and – oh, I get it now.
Goldfinger: saucy brassy. Well, ish; GoldenEye is a chaste film, given its ostensible agenda to “explore” whether James Bond is relevant (conclusion: he is. Well, thanks for that devastating non-exposition) so having him knob everything in sight wasn’t “appropriate” (whereas murdering down a platoon of Russian soldiers, all of whom had mothers and childhoods, is). Whassface who plays Natalya is comely, despite spending most of the film in a cardy or combats, although the shrieking gibbon in the world’s least necessary car chase is hopeless and you do wonder whether CravatBoy is taking advantage of the educationally subnormal, promising that Jim’ll fix it. There is an exception.
Thunderball: ramp it off the scale now and again. OK, so the woman’s name is… Onatopp? Saints preserve us. Still, she is smashing fun, all licky-facey, lippy-bitey, thighy-squeezey, cigary-smokey nourishment of the eminently watchable, even if the character is barely one cackle away from the reprehensibly abject Fatima Blush . Fine, she’s the vulcanized ghost of Fiona Volpe, but everything perks up massively when Ms Janssen appears. Everything. When she goes, film becomes explodey-basey and timey-passy. Shamey-whamey.
You Only Live Twice: amidst nonsense, reflective moments. GoldenEye’s shovelled that on, hasn’t it? Not deftly folded into the Bond norms, given that he spends more time in the first hour dodging stinging inexpert psychobabble than he does bullets. Everyone has a go, even Mr Llewelyn’s Q-cards. You half want Bond to stop the film, tell everyone to mind their own chuffing business and let him blow stuff up. Which in the second hour, this theme exhausted by repetition and then casually abandoned, he does. And what has he learned from this lesson? Stuff all; he’s James Bond at the start of the film and James Bond at the end of the film. All that chatter filling time in the (slow) first hour amounts to little, other than the producers pre-empting the criticism that would come with the return of an irrelevant series. This creates a problem. Is there anything we really learn about James Bond other than – and this can’t really have been the intention – his bullish imperviousness to cheap criticism? Unlike the three Craig films, GoldenEye’s weakness is refusal to allow the audience the intelligence to work ideas out for themselves. No subtext, just broad text, nailgunned into the collective face, making the lack of convincingly argued payoff equally palpable. Unless all this is deft comment by the producers about the longevity of the series, churning out its umpteenth run-through whilst pretending to pay heed to those who carp, taking their money off them in the meantime. You still watched it. Something quietly manipulative –bloody clever – about that.
OHMSS: wink all over the audience; they’ll lap it up. Little else explains the dialogue given to Moneypenny and M, there to mallet home a point we all knew and – this is odd – seek to distance the audience from Bond, practically the only time this has been done since Connery knifing a man right up the mangroves, presumably to make Bond’s roaring back into favour by the end of the film far more airpunchy and embracing and not just inevitable and Medding-modelly. Also, patently, to make a Bond film for people who wouldn’t be caught dead watching A Bond Film. The Dench is not addressing Bond in her rant; she’s aiming right at the fan audience, chiding them for their fondness for such a rotter, and also mocking those who would have described Bond in the same way. Go James, prove the ratty witch wrong, even if she has got pretty good legs. A sneering joke literally at the audience’s expense, again so strongly is it punched into the film that it’s questionable where it leaves M going forwards, except drink. The female M is a decent enough conceit while it lasts; presumably calling her Rimington would have been just too rude, or too highly reminiscent of the name of Mr Brosnan’s little telly show, Scarecrow and Mrs King or whatever.
Diamonds are Forever: seek solace in old standards when in a time of crisis. Right, so, that’s GoldenEye, yeah? You come up with a better example, then.
Live and Let Die: …but don’t be afraid to nudge new angles now and again. There’s M, but he’s now a lady. There’s Q, but he’s now abandoned acting. There’s Moneypenny, but she’s gone and got the vote. There’s an Aston Martin, but it does nothing. For those of us who like acting, Judi Dench. For those who like screeching, Alan Cumming. For those who like shampoo, Pierce Brosnan.
The Man with the Golden Gun: impressive, warped villainy. Even though his scheme is rubbish and he just becomes yet another badhat in a base – GoldenEye living up to the Bond norm of too much plot but not enough story – Trevelyan is a good idea even if it tails off very quickly into clobbering and sneering and nothing very new. Nice idea to have that personal connection between him and Bond, reasonably well-mirrored in the Natalya/Boris relationship, although the flirting between 00s 6 and 7 is more likely to result in rumpage-pumpage. Shame he drifts into snarly and boring as there was capacity for sympathy for the chap; sod that, here comes a fight. Xenia’s delightful, Boris less so and poor old Ourumov gets forgotten about completely which is a shame as his face was just mad.
The Spy who Loved Me: spectacle. Certainly (although it does feel made-for-home-video enjoyment given an abundance of indoors chattery) but there’s ambition on show with the magnificent opening stunts, nice stuff around Monte Carlo and the clever use of St Petersburg and Watford so that it’s hard to tell which is the run-down grothole that merits a tank driving through it, and which is St Petersburg. Some of the modelwork may not withstand being fitting memorial to Mr Meddings and it’s a bit hard to work out how the Cuba base actually fits together but on the whole it looks posh and expensive and a massive improvement on the previous go, overdose of filters notwithstanding.
Moonraker: not sure what conclusion I came to with Moonraker’s 007th minute, given that it was a run through a title sequence; for that matter, so was For Your Eyes Only. Insofar as they told us anything about the nature of the titles, GoldenEye hammers great chunks out of them with a massive hammer. The titles are great, funny, weird, cheeky, actually have something to say and still stack up eighteen years later. The song may as well be called “Bond Song Generic” although one suspects it’s a piss-take given its shoving-in of the title without disclosure of a meaning. Never quite grasped who this GoldenEye is of whom Annie Mae churdles – patently addressing the name as if it were a person. Nor am I totally reconciled to who has been watching whom as a child; one reading leads to very dark waters indeed, unexplored in the Bond series since 1981. Still, that four minutes or so, following a cracking opening sequence, could it be any more BOND? And then we get an hour of Total Freud, which is cockerny rhyming slang for dangleberry. Not halleberry. Not at all.
Octopussy: dodgy special effects can undermine one’s ambition. On the whole, GoldenEye doesn’t distract too much from what it struggles to say by showing us something a bit off, and new effects tricks have evidently been embraced. Not totally sold, though, on the freefalling after the ‘plane, which is a shame as the shot with the bike spinning off the edge of the mountain is a cracker. The plughole gurgling at the end is another curiosity but by then the film’s gone down the drain too so it appropriately puts the pathetic in fallacy.
A View to a Kill: look, kids, we’re down wiv ya, yeah, we’re modern-shaped persons, not some…um… relic of the Cold War. We’re going to say the words Sexual Harassment, Internet and CNN. We’re modern – look! Bungy-jumping! – and… er… carrrds. Will this do?
The Living Daylights: don’t be afraid to manhandle your leading man around a bit. Nope, not even going near that one.
Licence to Kill: sometimes it can veer into making Bond look inadvertently ridiculous. Strikes me that the first half of GoldenEye is an exercise in advertently ridiculing Bond which presumably the second half is meant to rescue. Does it? Does it really? Hmm. Introducing a new Bond by blaring out that he’s probably past it is an interesting tactic because there’s a danger everyone’s still going to agree if you haven’t disproved it by the end in any remotely convincing manner. It also gives the new incumbent a bit of a limited shelf-life, which is a bit of a bonus I guess.
GoldenEye: we’ll have a gay old time. Lot of silliness at the time of Casino Royale’s release about young Mr Craig underdressed in some swimmers and looking utterly butterly, being so engarbed to appeal to gentlemen of the enthusiastic persuasion. Whilst that may be so, the 007th minute of GoldenEye (which one assumes is polari for a particular orifice) is blatantly screaming, puts the anus in Janus and cannot be shown in schools lest it be deemed to promote the use of handguns.
A summary of much that has gone before, if you’ve been starved of Bond for six years, it works as a reintroduction, it was designed as that. An event, a mutual appreciation between film-makers and audience. If the most you’ve done is removed the previous one from the DVDolater (and understandably smashed it, enraged) and sat your puckered hide down in front of this, you might feel cheated that so little of it seems original, left wondering why you bothered losing about thirty hours of your life on the previous sixteen when it could all have been done in the span of this film’s two. Don’t worry about that too much: it’s not as if you were actually going to achieve anything meaningful in that time wasted, is it?
Tremendously appealing product, audience and shareholders both satisfied. Hellishly manipulative though and the waking from the dream does generate a nagging suspicion that however good a time it was you’d had, something went wrong and you feel a mite fiddled-with. Used. Still, that can be fun every so often, as long as you take proper precautions, like not telling the wife.
As a Bond film, it’s arguably brilliant, one of the very best as and when it’s not engaging in self-hatred and it would have been a disaster had it not been as it was calculatedly bolted together to be a Good James Bond Film. Markedly less successful are its attempts to be a Good Any Other Sort Of Film, Like A Proper One With Acting And Characters And Sustained Themes. The cressy garnish flourishes of penny-dreadful psychoanalysis that spasmodically try to elevate GoldenEye just don’t work, as they cannot possibly change Bond in any way: he just sails through, as flatline a cipher of an invulnerable tailor’s dummy as he ever was. If the idea was that the World may have changed but James Bond hasn’t then that’s reassuring and fun for a one-off, but sustaining any subsequent interest in Bond as a character rather than a blitz of suits, watches, catchphrases, explosions, cars and guns (OK, you write a better synopsis of Tomorrow Never Dies), was hobbled. It’s not a case of having nowhere to go after Die Another Day; there was nowhere left after GoldenEye. Though not without their frailties, the three Craigs have attempted to be Proper Films first and James Bond films incidentally, lobbing juicy stuff at us about terrorism being no match for the violence of betrayal (ooh), revenge not being cool and violent but actually grimy, unsatisfying and sour (vair Fleming) and, er, whatever Skyfall thinks it’s up to (Help the Aged?), whereas GoldenEye proves that simply stapling a few ostensible deeper moments onto the usual windy balloon is ultimately risible.
As an event in 1995, though, throwing the jaded crowd a Madeleine every five minutes, feeding off their benevolence to the rather tatty majesty of the Bond series, guzzling on their goodwill, wisely – at the time -choosing to be seen to be competing only with its own forebears and our indulgence of them, by crikey it worked. The emotions surrounding, and the consequences of, GoldenEye are stronger and more meaningful than the film itself. We’re still here. Series saved, luck and fate combining quite nicely thank you very much.
Job done. Bit too well.
James Bond will return in the 007th minute of GoldenEye. Jacques Stewart watched you from the shadows as a child. The magistrate’s not that impressed.