We’ve been expecting you, Mr Brosnan – 2nd time lucky

1994 was a testing time for the Bond series. After being mired in legal wrangles, a new Bond film was finally under consideration after a five year gap. A new actor was being considered in the role, without Cubby Broccoli’s guiding hand. Could Pierce Brosnan deliver the goods?

Brosnan was very close to securing the role in 1986. Timothy Dalton had been asked, but was obliged to complete filming on Brenda Starr. Brosnan seemed a perfect alternative, a smooth, urbane action man in the highly successful television show Remington Steele. All EON had to do was wait 60 days until NBC’s option ran out on producing another series. At the last minute NBC decided they had a hot property on their hands and renewed the show, locking Brosnan in for a handful of T.V. movies. He must have been gutted to see Dalton take up the mantle as EON delayed production to accomodate him.

Perhaps it was for the best. A few years on, Brosnan has a certain steeliness beneath the panache. Cubby was in poor health and the responsibility for steering Goldeneye (named after Ian Fleming’s Jamaica home, where he wrote the Bond novels), rested on step-son Michael G Wilson and daughter Barbara Broccoli. In a world where Bond had become a by-word for camp excess, how to re-invigorate the character? Screenwriter Bruce Feirstein came up with a two-sentence guide to re-introducing 007: “The world has changed. James Bond has not.”

Director Martin Campbell and Feirstein made sure Brosnan’s introduction delivered every Bond touchstone. He drives an Aston Martin DB5 in devil may care fashion through the winding mountain roads above Monte Carlo, before seducing the female operative sent to evaluate him. He enters a Casino dressed in a tuxedo and engages in a flirtatious game of Baccarat with slinky bad girl Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen). He delivers the immortal line “Bond, James Bond” in full close up. There is the obligatory scene with Q, but Moneypenny (Samantha Bond) no longer pines for James and gives as good as she gets.

The biggest difference was to make M a woman. The scene between Judy Dench and her best agent is great. She knows he regards her as “an accountant, a bean counter“, and in return she considers him “a sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the cold war.” She lets him know she’s prepared to send men out to their possible deaths, but not on a whim. If only the scriptwriter could have refrained from the achingly dull cliche of having M stop Bond as he is about to leave, and say “Come back alive.” We get it, already!

Brosnan gets two great new characters to interact with on his mission, CIA contact Jack Wade (Joe Don Baker) and ex-KGB agent, now crime boss Valentin Zukovsky (Robbie Coltrane). Meeting Wade in St. Petersburg, Bond has no time for his sloppy contact procedure and demands the correct password at gunpoint, insisting on identifying his distinctive tattoo. “Muffy?” “My ex-wife. Third.” Bond may be a “stiff-assed Brit“, but he’s deadly serious about getting the job done.

Bond and Zukovsky have a history together, Bond having once shot him in the leg. When Valentin asks why he didn’t kill him, Bond replies it was a courtesy from one professional to another. “Besides, the skill was in avoiding the rest of you.“

Sean Bean plays the main villain, Alec Trevelyan, former 006 and traitor who along with General Ourumov and Xenia hijacks the electomagnetic pulse weapon Goldeneye, to destroy the world’s stock exchange. He gets some of the best lines in his confontation with Bond in his armoured train. He declares when Bond is dead he will have a “small memorial, with only Moneypenny and a few tearful restauranteurs in attendance,” mocking his devotion to the service. Alec asks if “the vodka martini’s silence the screams of all the men you’ve killed.”

All this verbal sparring is great, but the film really delivers on the action stakes as well, and benefits from Brosnan doing as many stunts as he was allowed. At the premiere on 13 November 1995 at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, the audience roared with approval at the incredible bungee jump of the pre-credits sequence (obviously that was a stunt man!), then Brosnan’s first close up, and Bond catching an unmanned plane in a motorcycle freefall drop off a cliff. Bond’s chase in a tank after General Ourumov through the streets of St. Petersburg is a highlight. The Bond theme kicks in as he bursts through a wall and proceeds to demolish half the city. In a sly nod to the then changing face of Russia he bursts through a lorry delivering Perrier water. Pausing only to adjust his tie and check for damage after another prang, he carries on.

Campbell looked back at older Bond movies and hoped to emulate them. The confined railway carriage fight between Bond and Red Grant in From Russia With Love was a big influence on the fight between Bond and Trevelyan in the cramped access way of the satellite array in Cuba, using whatever is to hand. In a nice touch, the film reflects a moment in Goldfinger (pun intended) – like the scene where Connery espied a thug trying to get the drop on him reflected in a Bond girl’s eye, here Brosnan sees a henchman creep up on him in the reflection of a brass rail on the villain’s yacht. He grabs a towel and flicks it hard (that public school background of Bond’s coming in handy!) to disarm him before sending him tumbling down the steps. Ever dapper, he mops the sweat from his brow with it afterwards.

Brosnan’s Bond was a superb mix of the best of his predecessors. For a Brosnan cocktail, add one measure each of the following: Connery’s panther like grace; Moore’s wit; Lazenby’s grim determination; and Dalton’s ruthlessness. Brosnan’s spy is one who understands the emotional cost of his deadly trade, and lives life on the edge to compensate. Future instalments, whilst thoroughly enjoyable in their own right, couldn’t equal the impact of Goldeneye. However, throughout his tenure, Brosnan was faultless as, to paraphrase Ian Fleming, “the spy to end all spies.”

Originally posted 2012-05-01 06:07:51. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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