Goldeneye

on November 17, 1995 by Ray Greene
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   James Bond is back and, if he isn't better than ever, he's certainly better than he has been recently. "GoldenEye" shows the keepers of the 007 flame at last coming to terms with the fact that action movies have evolved considerably since the Bond formula became set in stone by the 1964 title "Goldfinger"--in many ways, "GoldenEye" is the most visually spectacular Bond film ever. But, despite some very intriguing lip service paid to the end of the Cold War, and such post-feminist flourishes as a scotch-swilling female M as the head of the British secret service, "GoldenEye" remains an at times clever variation on some familiar themes. It's an approach that should delight millions of moviegoing Bond fans, but it also highlights some missed opportunities.
   Chief among these stems from the placing of Bond in post-Soviet Russia for much of the action. In a storyline that borrows heavily from Carol Reed's brilliant Cold War political thriller "The Third Man," Bond finds himself pitted against an old ally who has turned renegade and become a master criminal in the Russian underworld. Their confrontation in a junkyard filled with scrapped statues of Soviet strongmen like Lenin and Stalin is a bold and stunning visual choice: here are two Cold Warriors, stranded in a decomposing metaphor for their own obsolescence in a world of change.
   But Bond being Bond, it's virtually impossible for him to reflect on the ambiguities inherent in his career as a ruthless warrior for the capitalist cause, because to do so would also be to question the legitimacy of a film franchise that has racked up more than $1 billion in worldwide grosses. It's debatable whether the Bond fan-base would sit still for anything resembling a drama of ideas, but one thing is certain: Unlike "The Third Man," an action film like "GoldenEye" is kept too busy by the prerequisites of blowing things up every seven minutes to pause for contemplation.
   It's a tribute to the smarts of producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli (and of their screenwriters, Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein, and story man Michael France) that intriguing political elements are marbled throughout "GoldenEye," but ideology is still what it has always been in the Bond films--a device for moving along a brisk plot. In this case, that brisk plot involves the disruption of global financial markets by a leftover space-based Soviet weapons system, and it embroils Bond with a handful of franchise cliches (beautiful women, high-speed chases and a sprawling sci-fi command center that, like the one in "You Only Live Twice," is hidden under a false lakebed). There is at least one truly memorable villain: a gorgeous, over-the-top female sadist (played with obvious relish by supermodel Famke Janssen) who literally loves men to death.
   As Bond, Pierce Brosnan proves himself a worthy successor to the house Sean Connery built. A fine actor with an appropriate lightness of touch, Brosnan ranks somewhere between the more virile Timothy Dalton and the jokey Roger Moore on the 007 scale. He's no Connery, but that's an unreasonable standard of measurement. Whether he's kissing the requisite babeage or punching out villains, you can say this of Brosnan: He looks good in the suit. And, given the reinvigorating impact "GoldenEye" should have in the marketplace, he probably will, for many years to come. Starring Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean and Famke Janssen. Directed by Martin Campbell. Written by Jeffrey Caine and Bruce Feirstein. Produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. A UA release. Action. Rated PG-13 for a number of sequences of action/violence and some sexuality. Running time: 130 min
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