‘GoldenEye’ was released 20 years ago this week. After a 6-year hiatus – the longest gap in Bond history – 007 was back with a bang, and Pierce Brosnan’s debut effort is still rightly considered one of the best Bond movies of all time.
Here are 8 reasons why ‘GoldenEye’ stood the test of time.
‘GoldenEye’ was originally conceived as a vehicle for Timothy Dalton who still had one film left to go in a three-movie deal. However, after the production was delayed numerous times Dalton turned the film down paving way for Brosnan to assume the lead.
It’s easy to dismiss Brosnan’s later, cartoonish efforts but he was the perfect man to play the slick new 90s James Bond in ‘GoldenEye’.
As well as a new actor for Bond, the whole franchise was given a refresh to keep him relevant in the post-Cold War era. As a nod to MI6’s Stella Rimington, we got a new female M, quick to call Bond a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur” and a “relic of the Cold War”, and we even see 007 working with the Russians to track down the Goldeneye weapon, albeit briefly.
The casting of ‘GoldenEye’ is superb from top to bottom. Sean Bean is the perfect foil for Brosnan as lead villain Alec Trevelyan, Judi Dench and Samanatha Bond made memorable Bond debuts as M and Moneypenny, and the Bond girls Izabella Scorupco and Famke Janssen ably went toe-to-toe (and cheek-to-cheek) with 007. Let’s not forget Robbie Coltrane, Alan Cumming, and Joe Don Baker who all made the most of their limited screen time.
Introducing a new James Bond on screen is a tricky job, but ‘GoldenEye’ nails it with style to spare. Brosnan’s secret agent bungee jumps off the top of an impossibly high dam, clad in all black, in an eerily silent sequence that echoes Roger Moore’s freefall from the top of a mountain in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’. There’s no Union Jack parachute here though, that’s much too crass for the cool new 007.
Following Bond’s death-defying leap, the opening continues at a phenomenal pace, culminating in Bond riding a motorcycle off a cliff, leaping off it, and somehow commandeering a plane just in the nick of time. And this was before the credits even rolled. A 6-minute tank chase sequence in St Petersburg is the film’s action centerpiece though, which to my mind, was never bettered in Brosnan’s era.
A Great Villain
Legend has it that Sean Bean actually auditioned to play Bond himself, but we think he’s much better suited as Alec Trevelyan aka 006. Bond’s friend-turned-foe plans to electronically rob the Bank of England (how delightfully 90s!) before erasing its financial records, bankrupting the UK in the process. He has a facial scar, a penchant for scathing putdowns, and an epic lair - what more could you want from a Bond villain?
Two years after ‘GoldenEye’ tore up the box office records for the franchise, 007 conquered a whole new medium – the Nintendo 64. The tie in game developed by Rare was superb fun, particularly on 4-players split screen, and it’s still recognised as one of the best movie to game adaptations ever made.
We had a near escape on this one. Ace of Base originally recorded a theme song for ‘GoldenEye’ (listen here) but their record label pulled it over fears that if the film flopped, it would reflect badly on the Swedish pop group. The final theme song, written by Bono and The Edge and performed by Tina Turner, is still one of the best Bond songs to date. Ace of Base eventually released their version as ‘The Juvenile’ if you want a taste of what could have been.
Image credits: EON Productions/Nintendo/Rex Features