directed by Martin Campbell
(United Artists, 1995)

Barring a sudden reversal of time for Sean Connery, the casting of Pierce Brosnan was about the best thing which could happen to James Bond in the 1990s.

With strong acting and stellar effects, Brosnan made an exceptional entry into the long-running action spy thriller series with GoldenEye.

Brosnan makes his his first foray into the field at the side of agent 006 Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) in an excursion against the ultimate Bond bad guy, the USSR. The opening scene is spectacular, with a death-defying bungee jump and a great bit with a motorbike and airplane to set the groundwork for the new Bond.

Flash forward nine years, and Bond is engaging in a car chase for -- well, for no particular reason at all. Of course it involves hairpin turns on a mountainside, one large truck and a convoy of bicyclists. Oh, and a psychological evaluation which makes it clear from the get-go that some things about James Bond will never change.

Neither will the caliber of the Bond girls. In GoldenEye the bad Bond girl is Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen), whose strange passions are matched by a sado-masochistic nature and immensely strong thighs. The good Bond girl is Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco), a low-level programmer at a remote Russian control center whose average day on the job turns into a very bad day indeed. Her explosive entry into the Bond mythos is a peak among high points, and she proves to be resourceful and fiery-tempered as well as beautiful and quickly seduced.

The lead actors all earn high marks for their performances, with just the right amount of scenery-chewing for a classic Bond flick. Judi Dench makes a fine, iron-spined M, who holds Bond in some disdain as "a relic of the Cold War." Samantha Bond is a competent, flirtatious Miss Moneypenny, and Desmond Llywelyn reprises his long-running role as the resourceful Q. Gottfried John is General Ourumov, one of two megalomaniacal villains, and Alan Cumming is the evil techno-geek Boris Grishenko. Joe Don Baker is gungho CIA operative Jack Wade.

The film comes with a fun tank chase, a wicked-cool train and various boats and airplanes -- most of which explode at one point or another -- and a pointed reminder that everyone in the Russian army is a lousy shot. Simonova scornfully punctures Bond's "boys with toys" mentality and, in a coup for Bond flicks, even manages to poke a few holes in the frigid Bond facade.

Perhaps it's impossible to ever exceed Connery as the ultimate Bond, but Brosnan does an admirable job of maintaining the legend. GoldenEye is easily among the best of the series; with tight scripting and modern advances in special effects and gadgetry, the future for James Bond looks bright indeed. And, if all else fails, they blow up things real good.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

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