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GoldenEye

Reviewed By MP Bartley
Posted 08/17/04 03:25:42

"The One Where He Drives The Tank"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

The importance of 'Goldeneye' can't be overstated in terms of the Bond franchise. 'Licence To Kill' had not been a success in financial or critical terms and its brutal story and theme had alienated a lot of fans used to gadgets and quips galore. More importantly it had been six years ago, and the question was rightly asked could Bond be relevant any more? Russia was no longer an enemy, and could Bonds rampant sexism still be accepted? In a time of changing values and ideals could Bond change too? the answer was a defiant "YES".

For 'Goldeneye' to work and for Bond to be accepted by a new audience, there had to be no mistakes and everything had to be done superbly. Nothing highlights this more than the pre-credits sequence which is possibly the best ever. It features two of the series most audacious stunts (the bungee jump off the dam and the motorbike jump off the cliff into a plane) and perfectly sets up the main thrust of the plot as Bond and 006, Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) destroy a Russian arms facility, at the apparent cost of Alec's life. Unfortunately Tina Turners title song demonstrates that one thing the Brosnan films have always failed to get wrong is to get a decent song.

The plot proper starts 9 years after the pre-credits. A top secret helicopter has been stolen and used to steal the operating device for Goldeneye, a Russian device that blasts out EMP's and can render any electronic device useless. Bond is assigned to track down the thieves which leads him to Russia and an organisation headed by renegade General Ouromov (Gottfried John), sexually charged pilot Xenya Onnatopp (Famke Jaansen - she kills with her thighs. Steady boys...), and his old friend Alec.

'Goldeneye' then is an intriguing mixture of the old and the new. The old is the plot. How many times have we seen the 'laser in space' threat now? What is also old is the reliance on action and gadgets. And the action is superb and polished to a capital 'P'. There's no Bond film that has looked as good and where the action has been so slick. Everything from fist-fights to car chases to big bases blowing up is thrown in here and Martin Campbell directs it to within an inch of its life. 'Goldeneye' is a Bond film that is humming with excitement and throbbing with confidence. What slightly sours this however is the feeling that the Bond films were never going to have quite the same pedigree again. Campbell does a fine job, but there's the feeling that he doesn't understand Bond intricately like say, John Glen or Guy Hamilton. There's a faint hollow experience here that Bond films were going to be this cut and dried and pre-packaged to the nth degree from now on.

Despite this it's impossible not to be thrilled by a careering Bond film, that proves even a second-rate Bond film is better then any other.

And then there's the giddy experience of watching a whole new Bond team. It's a shame that Dalton chose not to continue as his was the most detailed portrayal of Bond. But then, you feel that they didn't want Bond to be that detailed ever again. Instead Brosnan fits snugly into the role with barely a squeak of discomfort. His assured performance is like watching a Best of... of the other Bonds. There's Connery's danger, Lazenby's heart, Moore's charm and Dalton's troubled soul all thrown by Brosnan into the mix. Indeed, perhaps the only criticism that can be aimed at Brosnan is that he's too assured and brings nothing new, if nothing wrong, to the role himself. But he's impeccable however and when you seen him smash his way through St Petersburg in a tank, only to stop and straighten his tie, who can deny he wasn't born to play Bond?

Judi Dench is a superb M and sums up the films approach to the new world Bond was living in. Instead of hiding from the changes in world politics, the producers embraced them and take a lot of fun in having potshots of Bonds antiquated characteristics. M sums this up dismissing Bond as a 'dinosaur' but Dench never lets this over-ride the feeling that despite her personal feelings M has the highest respect for Bond. Llewelyn continues his sterling work as Q having an instant chemistry with Brosnan and neatly bridging the gap between old Bond and new. Samantha Bond is adequate as the new Moneypenny although her entendre-laden conversations with Bond are quite painful.

There's no room for Leiter in this world, but Robbie Coltrane's Russian informer Zukovsky is a great replacement, full of humour and danger. Izabella Scorupco as Natalya Simonova, a Russian computer expert aiding Bond is a gorgeous and fiery presence giving spark to the film.

'Goldeneye' also has the benefit of two great villains. Jaansen's Onnatopp is another in the long line of great, stylish henchmen (or women) and has a perversely excited time in the role. Sean Bean however has possibly the best written role as a Bond villain ever. Taking swipes at the British Government's shady history and Bond's own failing, he takes a sneering delight in attacking everything Bond stands for. He's a great summation of the film's confidence in addressing all that was outdated in the Bond series. A perpetually underrated actor, Bean is a marvellous villain and it's great to see a Bond villain that's as youthful and tough as Bond himself. Their final showdown is as physical as Bond ever gets.

Just missing out on five-star status because it's slightly too well put together for its own good, 'Goldeneye' does everything required and more. It brought Bond back in general, introduced a new Bond firmly with a bang and showed all the action pretenders to the throne that the King was back after six long years. And he was going to take some dislodging.

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