Posted by: dougery | September 30, 2011

Better Late Than Never: GoldenEye (1995)

In honor of one of the greatest video games of all time (GoldenEye 64), I will transmogrify my GoldenEye (1995) film review into a set of 64 observations. It’s kind of long but fear not, there are tons of pictures and misguided attempts at humor. Buckle in:

01. Pierce Brosnan is by far the douchiest 007. His smile has none of Connery’s waggish charm, Moore’s earnestness or even Dalton’s feral malice.

02. Some of the original pieces from the score, which I recognized from their inclusion in the video game, work woefully in film form. There is this recurring post-industrial sludgy sound, like a stone being dropped down a storm drain and slowed way down, which in no way compliments the visual energy of the film.

03. And then there is the mandatory title sequence song, this one written by Bono and performed by Tina Turner. Yawn.

04. However, how strange is that title sequence? Besides the giant orange-brown ‘golden’ eye imagery, what the hell is with the giant Janus two-faced woman who opens her mouth like one of those snakes that eat eggs where they dislocate their jaw only to find a giant pistol protruding from her gullet? Is that supposed to be sexy? Erotic?

05. Dame Judi Dench as M. Not a whole lot of heavy-lifting acting here but a smart casting choice. Much has been made of her line describing Bond as a sexist dinosaur and rightfully so. It works all the more because Brosnan is giving her his best ‘Bitch please, I’m James fucking Bond’ face.

06. The action begins… with action. We’re introduced to this Bond while he sprints along a dam. This is a wonderfully symbolic opening. Is something going to happen to that immense structure holding everything back? Right off the top there is this instant sense that anything can happen.

07. And then the much praised skydive / bungee sequence. Fantastic. So the dam holds but we have Bond literally in suspense. Terrific.

08. Misdirection is Coming… Yes, that’s Game of Thrones star (and LotR and a helluvalot of other great things’s) Sean Bean as James’s colleague Alec Trevelyan a.k.a. 006. So much of the film’s plot revolves around this character which was another wise move. You generally want to build around your strongest actors.

09. The first time we see Brosnan as Bond, or at least his face in close up, he is still suspended, this time upside-down in a john where he’s about to murder a Russian soldier reading the Vladivostok Times or whatever right there on the toilet. Should I be reading into this? Will this film turn everything I know about James Bond on its head? Somehow I doubt it.

10. Is it just me or is colonel or general or whatever military dude Ouromov incredibly wimpy looking. For a major villain and all around evil-doer I just don’t get any chills from the guy. he almost functions more as comic relief, especially in the early going when he and all his endless extras spend time pointing their guns all in the same direction like a Rockette Girl kick-line.


11. Pretty cold-blooded of James to just leave his partner there to die. I understand that this is how an MI6 agent would operate in real life, but in the films what separates Bond from his adversaries is his loyalty to his friends. I mean, the movie just before this, Licence to Kill (1989) had a plot built around Bond avenging the death of a fellow agent who wasn’t even in MI6 but the CIA! Apparently Ned Stark is just too gruff to warrant such affection.

12. Have to admit, the motorcycle chase scene where Bond drives off a cliff after a prop plane, dives off of the motorcycle and bullets his way down, enters the plane’s cabin and pilots the damn thing out of its death plummet, however physics refutingly preposterous, is quite thrilling. From the sprint to the flyby of the exploding weapons factory, one of the finest Bond openings I can remember.

13. Having established the ‘new’ old Bond’s action oriented ruthlessness, its time to sex him up the appropriate amount. The following car chase scene on the winding roads surrounding Monte Carlo has a classic if not recycled feel.

14. At first I thought the woman ‘evaluating’ Bond just before and during the car chase, billed only as ‘Caroline,’ was the new Moneypenny. But no, just a meek desk-job type the audience can sit inside and view Bond as some ultra-brave almost comically reckless bad boy. And he’ll sleep with her because after all of those near death experiences who can think of anything but sex?

15. Xenia’s entrance is pretty good, too. Her bright red car, whipping hair and predatory good looks are the perfect foil for knee-chattering Caroline. If Bond’s car is his penis does that mean Xenia’s is a great big symbolic vagina? Brings new meaning to all of the swerving and colliding the two vehicles engage in.

16. The Tour de Whatever bicyclists the racing drivers dodge around feel like something out of a spoof movie like Airplane! The fact that they then all domino over is the rim shot to the Leno quality joke.

17. The baccarat game that follows is a nice callback to the first Bond novel Casino Royale. We must always remember its not just daring and good looks but genuine luck that keep Bond alive.

18. And yes to the sexual innuendo / pun names of old Bond girls. Onatopp? More on this later.

19. There are several different ‘kinds’ of women in this movie, none of which is an actual representation of real person, with the possible exception of Natalya Simonova, which might be most disturbing of all seeing as how the film loves to put her in life threatening situations so much. Back to my original point, a handy list. Ladies, pay attention. You can only be one of the following:

20. There is M, the militant “I ain’t no man’s inferior” commander type who is old and thus unable to be sexualized so its deemed alright to make her a bitch.

21. There is meek Caroline who might be the most offensive construct of them all, a house-wife type who just wants to live a quiet life but secretly lusts after the wild side that only a man like Bond can provide.

22. There is Xenia, the ultimate sex = death whore archetype. The woman literally orgasms as she guns down people. The effect is comedic but if you take time to think about what is actually happening your soul kind of cries a little bit.

23. There is Moneypenny, the most well-adjusted of the lot, which is why we only see her for like a second and a half. She seems to have her own life outside of MI6 and is thus superfluous.

24. And then there is Natalya, the computer programmer and ‘correct choice’ for Bond’s affections. 007 killing and overcoming Xenia along the way is part of the lesson here. Its better to pick the chaste and classy Natalya with her cardigans and stockings than the slutty Xenia with her leather and lipstick.

25. So Xenia kills an admiral with her thighs in some rough sex play and then steals some super stealth helicopter. She’s a pilot and a killer, a take charge type. In short, she is too much like Bond herself.

26. The film hammers this home with a sequence where Bond is swimming in the hotel pool. When he rises up out of the water with his hair slick back the quasi-orgasmic expression on his face is identical to Xenia’s hamming expression when offing someone. These two are the same person, the troubling part, of course, is that it is the woman who is evil for acting like this, not the man.

27. There are just as many representations of men in this move as well, and Boris, the traitor computer programmer comic relief character is Bond’s foil. You can learn a lot by how Natalya interacts with Boris. She is frustrated by his juvenile passwords and general low class. This isn’t the kind of man a good woman should fall for.

28. So the GoldenEye is a mad scientisty weapon of mass destruction. It sends an electromagnetic pulse down from a satellite that wipes out computers and files and operating systems and such. It’s basically a giant orgasm machine.

29. Which is fitting seeing as to operate the damn thing you need two people to turn it on.

30. The massacre at the Severnaya base (which is a lovely homage to the old set pieces of Bond yore) is more funny than thrilling. Natalya’s cleverness in escaping Xenia by misdirection is the only real suspenseful part.

31. This wouldn’t be a Bond film without bringing in the homespun aw shucks southern comfort of the American secret service and that is where Joe Don baker’s Jack Wade character comes in. Notice his lack of tolerance for codewords and protocol. He’s ‘Merican after all, just run in guns blazing yahoo!

32. Wade sets Bond up with a meeting with some Russian mafia guy blah blah blah. He’s a business rival of Janus (two face, I wonder which former friend is going to turn on 007? hmmm) so of course he’ll help the guy who shot him in the knee.

33. The set piece of the meeting area between Bond and *gasp* Alec is pretty cool. Very german expressionism-esque with old Soviets rendered in giant tilting statues. There’s some of this in the title sequence but it really pays off here.

34. I didn’t get that the scars on Alec’s face were from the explosion at the Arkhangelsk plant he and Bond were saboteuring earlier in the movie until way later. But of course the ole two-face needs his Batman villain visual to go along with his general traitory-ness.

35. In case you needed more reason to hate on Boromir, he is the son of a Cossack clan that collaborated with the Nazis. Yep, that’s right, Stalin was good enough for his folsk, they wanted Hitler instead.

36. Bond is subdued, its that part of the movie, and hey its Natalya again. The two are put in an ingenious death trap that only a secret agent could escape, and he does. Too bad the escape pod on the explosive-ridden stolen helicopter lands in front of a platoon of cop cars who promptly arrest Bond and accomplice.

37. Bearded hardass and Russian Defense Minister Dimitri Mishkin interrogate Bond and Good Woman Natalya, where she relates how Ouromov is a bad dude. Proving this, Ouromov barges in and pops Mishkin dead, using Bond’s signature gun to do so. What a weasel.

38. A chase through the Archives follows, which if I remember correctly was one of the most difficult boards in the video game. Amazing how much the architecture of the game mimics the actual movie footage.

39. Bond loses the Good Woman again, because she hasn’t been put in enough life threatening situations yet. Another list, poor Natalya:

40. She survives murderous Xenia’s machine gunning of everyone at Severnaya.

41. She survives the destruction of the plant from the EMP, giant tvs and antennae and all sorts of mechanical bits raining down on the poor woman.

42. She survives the helicopter bomb.

43. She survives the shootout chase through the archives.

44. She survives the forthcoming imprisonment in a nuclear train rigged to explode and so on and so on. Natalya exists so that her existence be put in peril.

45. Bond escapes the archives in a mutha-effing tank. What follows is one of the greatest action sequences in any Bond movie. 007 tear-assing around St. Petersburg in a tank. Cop cars sploding all over the place, extras flying off into the river, all the while the lumbering machine of war somehow keeps up with a maneuverable Pinto-like escape car.

46. How Bond drives the tank all the way ahead of the car and then a speeding train in time to park it in front of a tunnel miles ahead is a mystery but one best not thought about too much.

47. Natalya helps Bond locate the second GoldenEye satellite dish by sitting in front of a computer. In my head this scene plays out with Bond sitting in a recliner using his watch-laser to blast an escape hatch in the floor while Natalya does the dishes in the adjacent room.

48. Exotic locale time! After snowy Russia, the Mediterraneanity of Monte Carlo, its time for… Cuba!

49. because another of those giant radar dishes is somewhere in the jungle. Under a lake. More mad scientist evil lair stuff. Love it.

50. The change of locale offers up costume change opportunities for Natalya and Bond. This despite the ticking clock on world economic meltdown once the second GoldenEye weapon blasts all of London’s banking records into ether.

51. More Xenia action. Outfit like Rambo, the bloodthirsty sex-crazed assassin fights Bond, again preferring her thighs to any of the many many weapons at her disposal, and loses. She dies in the crotch of a tree for some reason, strung up like Christ. A crashing helicopter pulled her up there and apparently the slender tree or her lithe sex-murderer body were strong enough to not be snapped in half as the several ton ‘copter crashed.

52. Bond infiltrates this latest mega set-piece but plants the requisite explosives.

53. He’s captured again but there is like zero tension about whether he’ll escape.

54. And of course Evil needs to be thwarted by itself, too, so there’s Boris again to make sure everything gets all ruined.

55. A pen grenade that Q gave Bond in an earlier obligatory look at all these fancy ordinary objects turned into lethal killing sticks scene finally comes back into play as Boris detonates the bomb while fidgeting all gross like.

56. Bond and Alec fight on the satellite dish. Its pretty cool. Is it bad i wanted Ned Stark to win?

57. Ned falls to his death but doesn’t die until the whole damn antennae cradle topples down on top of him.

58. Natalya hijacks a helicopter(!) and scoops up Bond just in time.

59. They land in a clearing and are about to have the requisite end of a Bond movie tumble when Wade shows up all “Am I interrupting anything hyuck hyuck.”

60. Which is probably for the best seeing as there are a million marines dressed up like hay-bails all around the prostrate heroes. Embarrassing!

61. So all told this ‘modernized’ Bond film isn’t quite so modern at all. It pays its respects to the series and doesn’t do a whole lot of new things save make Bond even creepier than he previously had been.

62. Bonus fact: GoldenEye is taken from the name of Fleming’s estate where he wrote some Bond novels. Take that cushy residence. You’re now a Orgasm of Death mega-weapon.

63. And now I really want to go and buy a used Gamecube on Ebay and use a sniper rifle on some unsuspecting soldiers.

64. Bond Grade (out of 007): 004

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Responses

  1. Well done! And now that I’ve read your exhaustive description of the movie, I don’t ever need to see it. PLUS, I’ll bet your blog post is far, far better than the film 🙂

  2. 10 (6+4) observations:

    1.) This is one of the best movie reviews I’ve ever read. Seriously.
    2.) I find I can’t remember much from the movie, but I remember every single scene you describe as it was in the video game.
    3.) Was GoldenEye the first instance in human history when the videogame was better than the movie?
    4.) My favorite part of the game was driving around St. Petersburg in the tank and crushing innocent civilians. They made a satisying crunching sound.
    5.) To this day, I still think about that sometimes and wonder, “Am I a psychopath?”
    6.) I’m not a psychopath.
    7.) Great critique of the portrayal of women in the movie. Seems to sum up not only how women are portrayed in Bond movies, but in most Hollywood blockbusters: ball-busting non-sexuals, secretly slutty housewives, lusty death-dealers, and damsels in distress.
    8.) It’s ironic that Sean Bean was cast as Ned Stark, the one human who isn’t a double-crossing bastard in “Game of Thrones,” when normally Sean Bean is hired specifically to portray double-crossing bastards.
    9.) It’s never a good idea to trust Sean Bean. Even if he doesn’t betray you, he’s probably going to die before the end of the first volume.
    10.) I actually only had 9 observations.

  3. Aw shucks, Sensei. And yes, I can easily recall the sound pedestrians and soldiers make when run over by the tank. And now I want to play a N64 version of Game of Thrones. They make 8-bit simulations of everything from Twin Peaks to Saved By the Bell. I think somebody can throw together a 64 bit first person ‘sworder’ (or at least they should).

  4. Umm… Heart:

    “29. Which is fitting seeing as to operate the damn thing you need two people to turn it on.”

    Witty, apt and suggestive. This review was my cup of tea~


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